Cotswold Round 2009

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 3 - Maugersbury to Rodmarton

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Day 2 - Tuesday 9th June - GPS 20.1 miles

Maugersbury to Rendcomb (B&B)

I awoke quite early thinking that the sun was shining but then realised that I had fallen asleep with the light on and it was still only 2.00, so I went back to sleep again and got up in time for breakfast, which I had ordered for 8.00. Three Americans joined me at the table and some New Zealanders came in later. One of the Americans commented that the breakfast was a work of art as it had been laid out so nicely on the plate. I didn’t go for everything on offer, missing out the black pudding, fried bread and hash browns, but there was more than enough with all the rest.

I needed a few things for lunch as I had forgotten to look for things last night in Stow, so I made a detour back through there on my way, leaving the B&B at 08.45 and leaving Stow at 09.15. The weather was still dull and overcast and the walk down beside the busy main road from Stow didn’t inspire me, but it wasn’t too long before I rejoined the route and turned off onto a minor road, which was more tranquil.

Because of my lack of training, I was expecting to have aching muscles in my legs this morning, but the only aches I had were beside my shinbones rather than in my thigh and calf muscles. I can only assume that this was because the walking had not involved a lot of steep climbing so there was not so much strain on these muscles. I was still a bit sore on my shoulders and round by my hipbones where the straps of my rucksack had been rubbing but otherwise I was OK. The things that I had worried about were my heels, as I had had problems with them on previous walks when wearing my new boots, but my feet were not suffering any problems at all.

After leaving the main road, the route followed a minor road to Hyde Mill with its pond and resident swans. Then ensued a very flat walk through numerous large fields where several ways all took the same path: the Macmillan Way that I was following, the Gloucestershire Way, the Monarch’s Way and the Heart of England Way. As if these weren’t enough, the Warden’s Way joined a little further along. This wasn’t because it was a particularly attractive route, as it wasn’t, but presumably it was the best way to get from A to B in this area. However, although the area was rather flat and uninteresting, there were some buttercup meadows to brighten things up.

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Hyde Mill near Stow-on-the-Wold
Hyde Mill
River Eye near Old Mill, Lower Sloughter
River Eye, Lower Sloughter
Water Wheel at Old Mill, Lower Sloughter
Old Mill, Lower Sloughter

By now the sun had started to break through a little and it was surprising how much a few rays of sunshine could improve an otherwise rather uninteresting walk. The route was generally very well waymarked, but towards Lower Slaughter, I lost my way after continuing along a track that turned out to be a farm track leading nowhere. There were houses in the distance, so I headed in that general direction but couldn’t find the route again so, after walking all the way round a field trying to find a way out, I finally managed to get onto the road into Lower Slaughter. This just tends to illustrate how vulnerable one can be without a detailed map in these circumstances. The trouble with this sort of terrain is that the only landmarks are field boundaries, gates, hedges, fences, walls and stiles, none of which are easily distinguishable from ones in any other field. Following the route description in the guidebook, it is difficult to work out just which field and gate were the last ones to be passed through – was that the fifth or the sixth field since the road? With no grid references and very little detail on the guidebook maps, once lost it is very difficult to get back onto the route without backtracking to the last waymarked point.

Lower Slaughter is one of those very picturesque Cotswold villages with a stream running alongside the road with little stone bridges crossing it at various points. It is very similar to, but smaller than Bourton-on-the-Water, which is not far away and very popular with tourists. To add to the scene, the sun was shining more now, making everything look at its best. After looking around the village and up by the water mill, I picked up the way again and headed out on a minor road up the hill. As I entered a field at the top of the hill, I stopped for a rest in the lovely warm sunshine – so much better than yesterday’s chilly overcast conditions.

By the time I had caught up writing things in my diary, the time had crept on and it was nearly twelve o’clock. I didn’t have quite as far to walk today, but I still had 13 miles to go, so needed to press on a bit. The landscape was now back to the typical Cotswold scenery with wide open views of gently rolling hills. A section of road walking brought me into Cold Aston and from there a bridleway called Bagup Lane led to Turkdean. Along there I found an embankment by the side of the track and decided it would be a good place to stop for lunch, though the weather had now clouded over and it was a little cool again. A few people passed by whilst I was there – a couple of chaps out walking and a girl riding her horse back and forth along the lane, but otherwise it was very peaceful.

I set off again at 13.45 with ten miles still to go. A little further along I met a horsewoman coming towards me trying to pacify her horse and keep it under control. As she reached me she said “He’s only a baby and he’s not seen anything like you before!” This made me wonder just what sort of sight I was. Although he was only a baby, he must have encountered a number of human beings in his short life. Was I so different from them? Was I like some sort of alien? I admit that my pasty legs, which were getting their first airing of the year, might be enough to put people off, but I didn’t think they looked bad enough to freak out a horse.

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Looking back down Bangup Lane near Turkdean
Bangup Lane near Turkdean

The landscape was now starting to change a little from gently rolling wolds to rather more steep sided ones. This made the scenery more interesting, but also meant that there were steeper ups and downs to negotiate at times, though much of the way was still rather flat and there were some long stretches of track or road that seemed to go on forever. I pressed on a bit before having another stop, as I wanted to leave just a few miles to do on the last leg of the day’s walk, so I kept going as far as the Roman Villa at Chedworth. This is owned by the National Trust and, being a member meant that I could go in for free. Even though I only wanted to have a quick look around for ten minutes or so, it didn’t matter whereas, if I had had to pay several pounds for admission, it wouldn’t have been worth it. In the circumstances, it was worth a visit, as there were some well-preserved parts of the bathhouses and other buildings with mosaic floors and some with under-floor heating.

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Dining Room of Chedworth Roman Villa with under-floor heating
Dining Room
Chedworth Roman Villa
Chedworth Roman Villa - a National Trust property
Chedworth Roman Villa
Chedworth Church looking across garden pond of nearby house
Chedworth Church

From the villa there was a steep climb up through the woods followed by a long stretch of straight, level walking before dropping down and then up again into Rendcomb, where I was staying for the night. One thing I found with the guidebook was that, although most of the route description is very good, there are times when it can be a little misleading. It said ‘At Setts Farm House keep on track through double wooden gates, then through two single gates and stay on this with open views ahead.’ What it didn’t say was there was quite a long walk between the wooden gates and the single gates, whereas it sounded as if they should be quite close together. When I didn’t see any gates I started to get worried that I had taken the wrong track, which wasn’t helped by the fact that I couldn’t see any sign of the restored World War I airfield that it said should be visible ahead. Most of the time the guidebook gives a good indication of the distance between the various landmarks, but there are a number of instances like this where it does not. I did eventually come to another waymark, which showed that I was on the right route, but this was quite a way further on, so I walked for quite a way wondering whether I was going further and further off track. I never did see the airfield even though I looked all over for it.

I was quite surprised to find that my B&B was a very grand looking country house owned by an elderly couple. It had a very imposing galleried hallway hung with family portraits, and my bedroom was quite palatial with a large en-suite bathroom with bath rather than just a shower so that, once again, I was able to relax my weary limbs with a hot soak.

My GPS showed that I had done just over 20 miles, whereas I had calculated it to be 16.7 miles, though I had taken a detour into Stow as well as making one or two errors of navigation, which added a bit extra. I had also wandered around the Roman Villa. Despite this, I didn’t feel as tired as I did yesterday, which showed that my system was getting used to the walking.

There is nowhere to eat in Rendcomb, so I was given the use of a car - an old F registered Ford Fiesta - to go for an evening meal. The couple were keen for me to go to the Bathurst Arms at North Cerney, as they have a flat that they were renting to a chef who had just started working there and they wanted to know what the food was like. I went there and had a pint, sitting outside in a brief spell of warm sunshine following a rather overcast afternoon. When I went to look at the menu, however, I decided it was a bit expensive, so went on into Cirencester, where I found a pub serving very reasonably priced meals with Tuesday pie specials at only £4.25. It was not exactly a gastronomic delight, but it filled me up, which was the main thing after a long day’s walking.

It worried me a little that I might not remember my way back, as I had no map and I had taken a few turnings on the way. Fortunately, though, I managed to recognise the way and got back without any problems, then watched TV for a while before going to bed.

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Day 3 - Wednesday 10th June - GPS 14.2 miles

Rendcomb to Rodmarton

I had arranged for breakfast at 8.30, as I didn’t have a very long day’s walk today. I was quite surprised when Mrs Goddard said that the house was built only about twenty years ago, as it looked like it was much older than that. It had been built for them by a local stonemason using stone from a barn that was being demolished, and they were fortunate enough to get such a good building plot overlooking the valley with unspoilt views. My first impression on seeing the house was that I wouldn’t like the heating bills in winter, but being of fairly modern construction, it would have had a much better level of insulation than I envisaged.

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View from Landage House, Rendcomb
View from B&B
Landage House, Rendcomb
Landage House, Rendcomb

The weather looked quite reasonable as I started out at 9.40, but there were showers forecast for later. I set off along the valley to join the road a little way along, which then had a long, steady climb up to the village of Woodmancote. Coming out of the village, the guidebook said to take the sunken bridleway, but this was overgrown with nettles, some of them up to the height of my head. Wearing shorts, it was going to be a painful experience getting through, so I stopped to put on my overtrousers to give me some protection and made my way through. After about ten yards, I was through the worst of the tangle and then about fifty yards later the bridleway rejoined the road, so I could have avoided all the hassle of putting on and taking off my overtrousers had I realised. Fortunately, I was not in a hurry, so it didn’t bother me much and I stopped for a short rest sitting on a wall by the roadside in quite a pleasant spot. The bright start had now given way to cloudier conditions with a few spots of rain, but it was still quite mild compared with the last couple of days. I was still suffering from aches beside my shinbones, particularly when going downhill, so I tended to reduce my walking pace, which made things easier. The aching tended to wear off after a few miles but kept coming and going throughout the day, depending on the terrain.

Coming out of Woodmancote, the spots of rain turned to a steady drizzle but not enough to need waterproofs, and it was not long before it turned brighter and the rain eased off. Crossing the A417 dual carriageway involved a few backward and forward manoeuvres by road and farm track before I was able to reach a path across fields leading to a sunken track into the hamlet of Duntisbourne Rouse with its ford across Dunt Stream. The guidebook recommended a visit to the little church up the hill just off the route, so I took a look. It was in a lovely setting on the hillside and the sun just started to shine, so I took advantage of an inviting looking seat at the top of the churchyard to stop for an early lunch break at 12.00, as I was unlikely to find a better spot.

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Sunken Lane towards Duntisbourne Rouse
Sunken Lane to
Duntisbourne Rouse
Entering Village of Duntisbourne Rouse
Duntisbourne Rouse
Duntisbourne Rouse Church
Duntisbourne Rouse Church

After a while, it started to cloud over again, but I had managed to catch some lovely weather for my little break in that beautiful, tranquil spot. I was just thinking of setting off again when the peace was disturbed by the sound of a strimmer and soon a chap came into the churchyard to clear the grass around the gravestones. I chatted to him for a while and he suggested that I go into the church, as it was not locked, and I could also go up into the bell tower. The church was quite tiny, with a very narrow spiral staircase leading up the small tower where the bells appeared to be in working order and the timbers in reasonable condition, apart from a bit of woodworm. It wouldn’t have been easy to do any work up there, as there was so little space to move.

I made my way onwards towards Pinbury Park where, once again, I encountered a bull in a field of cows. I passed through without any problem, but I could see that the bull had his eye on me all the way. The park had a deep valley running down to a pond near the park house, giving some fine views. From there, the route led through buttercup meadows bordered by high trees, though the buttercups were not as prolific as those I encountered yesterday.

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Pond in Pinbury Park
Pinbury Park
Llamas near Sapperton
Llamas near Sapperton

After the village of Sapperton there ensued a lot of road walking and, just as I turned off the road into a field, I stopped for a rest and a drink. Before long, spots of rain started to fall so, thinking that it would only be a brief shower, I held my fleece up over my head to provide some shelter. However, the rain was rather heavier and lasted longer than I had anticipated, but I didn’t feel inclined to start unpacking and putting on my waterproofs in the rain, so continued to shelter as best as I could until it eased off. By this time, my fleece was quite wet and the rest of me hadn’t escaped all of the rain either, but it wasn’t too bad.

The Thames and Severn Canal Tunnel was not far away and I was soon walking through woods above the tunnel with evidence of the excavations in the form of spoil heaps, now mostly overgrown, and fenced-off ventilation shafts going deep down below. The route eventually emerged from the woods near the Tunnel House Inn by the southern entrance to the tunnel. The tunnel is blocked by rockfall in places, but boat trips run from either end for about a thousand metres in winter when the water level is generally higher.

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East Portal of Thames and Severn Canal Tunnel
Portal of CanalTunnel
Tunnel House Inn near Thames and Severn Canal
Tunnel House Inn

The Tunnel House Inn was closed when I went past, but was the place to which I should be getting a lift from my B&B this evening. My B&B at Rodmarton was a little way off-route, so I had decided, rather than taking the nearest route to the village, to continue along the route past the village and enter it from the opposite end to avoid bypassing part of the route. As I was making my way there, the sky turned very dark and large spots of rain started to fall. This was not going to be just a shower, so I stopped to put on my waterproofs before it got any worse. Sure enough, the rain became quite heavy with rumbles of thunder in the distance. This made the ground very wet with large puddles along some of the footpaths. One lane was particularly bad with deep ruts full of water and overhanging branches dripping on me from above. A roe deer came out onto the lane in front of me, but apart from that, there was nothing of much interest along this part of the route, so I wouldn’t have missed anything by taking the more direct route and I would have avoided what had become something of an obstacle course in the wet. I was quite glad when I eventually emerged onto the road and was able to have an easier walk for the rest of the way into Rodmarton, especially as the rain had eased off by this time.

At my B&B, I was pleased to find that they had a nice, warm boiler room where I could dry things out. After having a pot of tea and phoning home, I had a nice hot bath, not that my muscles needed it so much after a much easier day. With such good drying facilities, it was an ideal opportunity to wash out a few of my dirty things that had been accumulating. By the time I had done this, the landlady had returned home, her husband having greeted me when I arrived. She gave me a lift back to the Tunnel House Inn, which was now open. It was a very nice pub, frequented a lot by students from the nearby agricultural college. Recession or not, students always seem to have enough money for drinking, though most of them come from well-to-do families of farmers and landowners, who perhaps have not been affected quite so much by the recession.

Whereas in other areas, many places are offering special deals to attract customers in, there was no evidence of that around this area. A pint of bitter cost £3.05 and the cheapest main course bar meal was £9.50. I had sausage and mash with onion gravy at £9.95, which was very tasty but not very filling. When Mr Fitzgerald came to pick me up at 21.00, as arranged, he asked me if I had met any royalty. Apparently this is one of the favourite watering holes of the two princes, being only a few miles from Highgrove House, home of their father the Prince of Wales. They weren’t there tonight, but perhaps it explains the popularity of the place with the local girls.

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