Monday, 20 August 2007

A Thursday of Longwalkness

Thursday, 16 August 2007

On Thursday we did a really fantastic walk – “Cotswold Challenge” (ID 2576), also from the Country Walking website, is (as you might guess) classed as “challenging” though I am not sure it really was, other than being a bit longer than the “moderate” ones we’ve already done. It is listed as 18.5km/11½ miles - though I must say that I am having some trouble understanding why km have one type of half and miles have another, but hey.

It all felt terribly enterprising and grown-up: we parked in Broadway then took the bus through to Blockley to start the walk, which unusually is not circular. This made it feel, in some difficult-to-define way, like a proper expedition.

Before leaving Broadway, however, we had a bit of spare time (the bus only runs a couple of times a day and we didn’t know how easy or hard it would be to park so on this occasion perhaps even my paranoid timing was justified). We spent this – I use the word advisedly – in a lovely, lovely outdoor shop called Landmark which is the sort of place in which I could seriously jeopardize the investment future of my lottery winnings, basically because I want one of everything they sell, possibly plus a spare. And some batteries. And a lanyard. And a carrying case. And a book about it … you get the picture.

Anyway anyway, what we were after was (initially) another rucksack as the blue one from New Zealand was overfull and too heavy and is ageing badly now. This was quite easily accomplished and we got a quite nice Lowe Alpine 20-litre day bag thing “without technical features” (tsk!) which does the job nicely. Next – and this is the exciting bit – Deb replaced her walking boots which were Karrimore fabric ones. She has had them for yonks and they have given sterling service but had reached a state of collapse. She bought some Brasher ones, also fabric, which seem very nice and in which she perhaps rashly decided to do the whole long walk. Oh and finally we bought a mapcase to compensate for my dimness in not having brought one with us. It was such a relief to put the OS map and the walk leaflet in this that I cannot understand how we did the first four walks without one. It’s one of those so-obvious-it-hurts moments – the right place for the map is round your neck in a waterproof pouch, not flapping in the rain. Tsk and tsk again.

With this exciting shopping trip done, we had just a short wait till the bus was due but I was able to get a truly delicious coffee from a nice place nearby. Broadway is so pretty that it’s really extremely nice to just sit in the main street and admire it. We were due to board the bus just outside the Lygon Arms Hotel, a very beautiful and impressive building which I’d like to see from the inside one day. While we were still in Broadway the weather was initially lovely and sunny but after a while started deteriorating slowly. Indeed it then got bored with that and started deteriorating quickly, just to demonstrate its versatility.

The bus ride was very nice, featuring an excitingly steep curvy bit at Fish Hill on the A424 a mile or two out of Broadway. This being the date it was, a girl in the seat in front of us was sitting opening and closing a brown envelope and looking repeatedly at her AS or A-level results. We felt for her, poor thing: hope they were good.

The bus got us safely to the gorgeous village of Blockley and off we went. The walk out of Blockley was on a long street flanked by some exceptionally pretty houses, with the road eventually giving up and becoming a very nice bridleway up through woods. The weather was pretty atrocious as we left Blockley but, in the Words Of Python, we were "getting used to it by now"; indeed it continued on-and-off horrible for about two-thirds of the walk before finally settling on sunny.

The woods were followed by a footpath with a short climb then a long descent across fields into a really nice, lush meadow low down by a stream with a cottage nearby. The climb out of this valley was superb - open and grassy - and led us to a nice spot for lunch, accompanied by a monster downpour. This was followed by two long stretches, a fast upland bit with good views then an interesting mixed pasture along the side of a long wood. This latter bit was an SSI because, I think, of its unusual vegetation. Oh, and it had interesting-looking cattle, solid black with a white middle. Crossing over the wood and coming down the fields we found a spot for another break and were there overtaken by three horseriders, which interested Daisy though not in a bad way.

From there it was just a short walk along quiet roads and down into Snowshill, yet another very pretty village. After this there should have been a fair bit more road but we cheated a little and used parallel tracks in a wood, never more than 20m from the official line. The road was quiet and would've certainly not been horrible, but this was nicer. I was a bit nervous about being yelled at by the forces of landownership but we hadn't passed any signs and it was actually very peaceful in there, and the track quite encouragingly neglected. I should add that all the roads on this walk had much less traffic than those on the Adlestrop one - especially that walk's last big chunk which seemed to be trying out as an understudy for the M40 - and in any case the total distance on road was much smaller. Going back onto the road for the last quarter mile after the wood was no great hardship.

After this the footpath left the road and nipped across a corner of the Broadway Tower Country Park to join National Trust land. It was getting late and the country park was closed, which meant you couldn't go up the tower, but you could - and we did - sit at its base and admire pretty much the same view but without the thrill of paying for it. It is quite, quite superb there. The tower itself is rather good (an attractive Georgian building with interesting artistic connections) and is positioned right on the edge of the high bit - the wold l guess - with the most staggering view down to Broadway in the valley and across to various other hilly bits.

The walk down was quick and very painless - it is clearly a greatly-used track and has very smart new stiles with special doggie-gates and stuff. In a very few minutes we were back down in the middle of Broadway, outside the very fine Broadway Hotel, enjoying a pint.

I'm terribly pleased with how well this walk went. The distance maybe isn't that heroic but it's more than we usually do and most things continued to work as intended. Deb's seemingly rash decision to walk in her new boots was vindicated as she had little trouble, and certainly less than I did in my rather well-established boots bought in Alnwick some years ago. The walk itself was a good, interesting and well-balanced one in which we really appreciated the author's thoughtfulness.

Some other more-or-less-random features of this walk:

  • Excellent view of a huge dog fox
  • Lots of frogs
  • Sheep with its head stuck in a fence, rescued by your blogologist. I am not sure what it was shouting as it ran away but it didn't sound a whole lot like "thanks mate".
  • Herd of deer next to the Broadway Tower
  • Plenty of rabbits and a hare or two

We celebrated today being another good walk with our second dinner at the Hollow Bottom. This too was excellent and also entertaining as a nice young man at a neighbouring table had a rather soulful-looking Jack Russell on his lap most of the time. This dog made (big) eyes at Daisy quite a lot, only occasionally pushing his luck a little. The pub was quite a lot less sweary and noisy than on our last visit, and the food was still delicious, and the beer just perfectly beeroidal, so actually it was a pretty acceptable end to a pretty acceptable day, thank you very much indeed.

I could get used to this, but (deep sigh) it is perhaps wiser not to.


  1. The Power of Guiting

  2. A Wednesday walk

  3. Strawberry Yoghurt - Daylesford Creamery organic yoghurt with strawberry compote

  4. A Thursday of Longwalkness

  5. Incidental moments of deliciousness

  6. Friday (mostly) in Oxford: a sort of Missed-the-Gig-a-Blog™

  7. A Cotswolds Saturday, another concert, and the road homeward

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