Fog City Boy on the Cotswold Way
Chipping Campden to Bath
San Francisco, December 1, 2019
On 5th September, the Fog City Boy and his Consort (his wife, Ginna Dean) departed San Francisco, arriving in London on 6th September. We had a lovely time visiting friends there and after several days were escorted by one of those friends to Chipping Campden – the traditional starting point of the Cotswold Way.
The Fog City Boy had determined to walk the 102 miles to Bath and, at the end of the day, walked most of that distance. The Consort had other ideas and pursued her interests in the Arts and Crafts movement, fabrics, flowers, and museums, reuniting with the Fog City Boy each evening along the Cotswold Way.
The Cotswolds are an area in south central and southwest England, principally in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, comprising the Cotswold Hills, a range of rolling hills that rise from the meadows of the upper Thames to an escarpment known as the Cotswold Edge, above the Severn Valley and Evesham Vale. The area is defined by the bedrock Jurassic limestone that creates a type of grassland habitat rare in the UK and that is quarried for the golden-colored Cotswold stone. It contains unique features derived from the use of this mineral; the predominantly rural landscape contains stone-built villages, historical towns, and stately homes and gardens.
The Cotswold Way is one of 15 National Trails in England and Wales. Here’s a description of the National Trails from http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk:
“National Trails are long distance walking, cycling and horse riding routes through the best landscapes in England and Wales. In Scotland the equivalent trails are called Scotland’s Great Trails. There are 15 National Trails. Walkers can enjoy them all, cyclists and horse riders can enjoy the Pennine Bridleway and the South Downs Way, as well as sections of the other Trails. In total, England and Wales have around 2,500 miles (4,000 Km) of National Trail. The England Coast Path will be the newest (and longest) National Trail when it is complete in 2020. The first few sections are now open and more will be opening over the next few months.”
10 September 2019 – At Chipping Campden
We explored this charming town, admiring homes, businesses, and the handsome town church, all built of Cotswold stone.
Flowers added a welcoming touch as we wandered. These were placed adjacent to early alms housing now repurposed.
Our lodging was at the Noel Hotel.
We had a pleasant dinner and a good night’s sleep. The next morning we had the first of the famed “full English breakfasts” to be enjoyed along the Way.
11 September 2019 – Chipping Campden to Stanton
The Way’s official starting point is at a small square adjacent to the foot of Market Hall in the center of town.
Shortly after leaving Chipping Campden, the Way ascends Dover’s Hill which offers magnificent views of the nearby countryside.
Continuing from that high point, the town of Broadway is a charming Cotswold town.
Old houses built of Cotswold stone prove to be durable. This one awaits restoration.
The Way leads past Broadway Tower built in 1799 atop Broadway Hill. It was built as a folly for Lady Coventry by her husband, the 6th Earl of Coventry. It was an observation structure during World War II.
Red deer graze nearby.
Sheep are more common in that part of the world, needless to say. They grazed contentedly as the Fog City Boy passed by.
The Cotswold Way is well waymarked. All the National Trails use the acorn as their identifying symbol, just as the Great Trails in Scotland embrace the thistle, and the Caminos long ago adopted the scallop shell or concha. It also should be noted that those who traverse the Camino de Santiago are referred to as pilgrims or peregrinos. Those who traverse the National Trails and other public paths are referred to simply as ramblers!
At Stanton, the local folks told me of a fire just the night before. The garage was destroyed, but the nearby home was spared.
We stayed at a small B&B, the New Forge House, in nearby Toddington. The proprietor collected me at the cross in the center of town. Ginna arrived separately by bus.
12 September 2019 – Stanton to Cleve Hill
The next morning, the proprietor returned me to Stanton and I continued along the Cotswold Way. Stanton is a charming village, but not a stranger to the challenges of modern life.
The Way continues along an avenue of trees adjacent to pastureland. A thatched barn appears to be in current use.
A little further along in Stanway, the Way passes a war memorial. The bronze is of St. George slaying the Dragon.
Lovely flora accompany the rambler along the paths.
The Way ascends to Cleeve Common which is available to local shepherds for several months each year. It was a windy afternoon when I reached Cleve Hill, the highest point on the Cotswold way. Sheep grazed placidly on the common.
We stayed at the Cleeve Hill House Hotel, with a dramatic views from both sides of our lodging.
13 September 2019 – Cleeve Hill to Birdlip
The Consort was keen on exploring The Wilson Art Gallery and Museum in Cheltenham which has permanent and special exhibitions of furniture together with silver, textiles, ceramics, and paintings from the Arts and Crafts Movement. Here, an 18th century waistcoat. . .
Cheltenham is not on the Cotswold Way, but both the Consort and the Fog City Boy determined to board a local bus calling across the road from our hotel and alight in central Cheltenham.
Cheltenham is renowned for its Georgian architecture.
We explored for a time and the Fog City Boy continued on through Cheltenham and its residential outskirts to rejoin the Way at Leckhampton Hill.
The Way skirts or passes through several nature preserves. It was a lovely afternoon.
In Birdlip, we stayed at the Royal George Hotel.
14 September 2019 – A detour to Gloucester – and on to King’s Stanley
We were not far from Gloucester and decided to explore that very modern city. We went by taxi to the center of town. It was Saturday, the weather was good, and the town was busy with tourists and locals taking advantage. We visited the Gloucester Cathedral, parts of which have been filmed as part of the Harry Potter series, and a Sherlock Holmes episode.
We discovered a Portuguese tapas restaurant that was a welcome break from English pub food. The decorations were whimsical and amusing.
Unfortunately, they didn’t have pulpo that day.
Later that afternoon, we again traveled by taxi, this time to King’s Stanley. We had a reservation at The Grey Cottage, a B&B operated by Mrs. Rosemary Reeves, a delightful lady with many engaging stories to tell.
Upon our arrival, she seated us in her solarium and brought us tea and cake.
She directed us to an excellent Italian restaurant for dinner that night, and provided an extraordinary breakfast the next morning.
She is rightfully proud to have been honored by the Queen for her contributions to the tourism industry in Britain. She confided that, before traveling to Buckingham Palace to receive her award, she was careful to practice her curtsy.
September 15, 2019 – King’s Stanley to Wotton-under-Edge
Before departing The Grey Cottage, we enjoyed walking her meticulously manicured garden which sports the stump of a California redwood tree planted long ago. She had engaged a skilled woodcarver to craft a concha backed bench to the delight of her many guests, the Fog City Boy and Consort included.
The Way continues through varied terrain and countryside.
There is a very steep climb at Cam-Uley and an extended walk along the escarpment. But, wonderful views await the rambler.
The Way continues through plowed fields . . .
. . . eventually reaching North Nimbly. The buildings are no longer made of Cotswold stone.
The town is home to the Tyndale monument, erected in 1866 to the memory of Sir William Tyndale, who, in defiance of the authorities, translated the New Testament into English. He was burned at the stake for heresy in 1536.
A bit farther along on Nimbly Knoll is a circle of trees commemorating, variously, the victory at Waterloo, and later the jubilee of Queen Victoria.
The Way descends into Wotton-under-Edge. “Edge” refers to the Cotswold escarpment.
We stayed the night at the Swan Hotel.
September 16, 2019 – Wotton-under-Edge to Tormarton.
Leaving Wotton-under-Edge, the Cotswold Way passes a centuries old building (at least part of the walls date that old. The sign reads: “Ancient Ram Inn. 10th Century. Not licensed. Wotton’s oldest house. Haunt of Highwaymen.”
I missed a waymark but traversed a charming public pathway and in time reconnected with the Way. On the way out of town, the folk were proud of and quite protective of local wildlife.
Further along, a gentleman was training his horse.
A small square in Hillesley.
A monument in memory of General Lord Somerset stands near Hawkesbury Upton. It was erected in 1846 to honor Lord Robert Edward Somerset (19 December 1776 – 1 September 1842) was a British soldier who fought during the Peninsular War (one of the Napoleonic wars) and the War of the Seventh Coalition (another Napoleonic war).
The Way continues to Tormarton, a very tiny village counting just 350 souls. The village is the host of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene which dates from the 12th century.
Our lodging was a very comfortable and modern Best Western property.
September 17, 2019 – Tormarton to Bath
The last stage of the Cotswold Way was longer than all the others – 16.5 miles. So an early start was necessary. Again, more lovely scenery at Cold Ashton.
At Lansdown, the rambler ascends and climbs over a stone style to inspect the scene of the 1643 Battle of Lansdown between forces of the Parliamentarians and those of the Royalists. It was a bloody but indecisive battle with many casualties on both sides.
The Way skirts the walls of a Roman Camp and crosses through it en route to Bath.
The Way enters Bath through Royal Victoria Park and passing the Royal Crescent.
The Cotswold Way ends (or begins) at the Roman Baths and the Bath Abbey.
The Fog City Boy had completed his rambles along the Cotswold Way.
We spent two nights at the small and charming Kennard Hotel a 12 minute walk from the Roman Baths. To reach or return from the Baths, we crossed the Pulteney Bridge which crosses the River Avon. Shops and some housing are built on both sides of the Bridge.
The next day, we bought a cute little dress at one of those shops for our then 26 month old granddaughter.
We took a free walking tour of Bath and visited the baths themselves. The tour was conducted by a member of the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides.
Shortly after gathering our group of about 30 ramblers, he inquired where everyone was from. Of course quite a few of us were from The States. In a genial way, he editorialized: “If you won’t mention Brexit, I won’t mention Donald Trump!” He was most knowledgeable and the tour was well worth the time spent.
The next day, the Consort and the Fog City Boy made their ways, respectively, to the intercity bus station and to the railway station. The Consort was headed to Heathrow for onward travel and the Fog City Boy to Kemble and the Thames Path.
And with that, more to follow.
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