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Just a meandering soul sharing my backyard. Visit my Flickr page too! www.flickr.com/photos/meanderingwa/

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Like Here Only Different , Cotswold Way (better late than never)

(Originally written in early September and just now realized I never posted it)

I took a short vacation to England last week and have finally caught up with my daily life to tell you about it. Once again it was a great journey. I love England and was thrilled to be able to spend time out in the country-side. I regret that my vacation was not longer, largely because I spent a fair amount of time simply going from here to there, rather than staying in London the whole time. There is, however, a lot to be enjoyed by simply looking out the window of a train.

The one non-stop flight from Seattle leaves in the evening, so after a full day of work an overnight flight leaves you a bit weary. This time I immediately took the train north-west to the town of Morton in Marsh. The trains in England are wonderful and efficient. With so may companies covering the different regions of the country and operating so smoothly and efficiently it is a snap to get to most anywhere quickly and easily.

I had planned on taking the bus from the train to the village of Chipping Campden. I armed myself with timetables of two different bus companies that operate in the area. When I arrived at Morton, it was drizzling and dreary, much in keeping with my brain. I saw the one taxi zoom away from the station and knew I had no choice but to walk over to the High Street and wait 30 minutes in the rain for the bus. I was glad I checked with a local shop keeper since of the two bus stops in town I had, at first, selected the wrong one. She got me pointed in the right direction.
Note to self, duffel bag suitcase is not completely waterproof.

In the end, I am happy I took the bus. We covered the 5 miles (as the crow flies) to Chipping Campden in 45 minutes. The bus circled and convoluted around the area calling on different small areas and crossroads. It was a nice introduction to the area I would be in. There was a trio of folks who I chatted with and they pointed out some local areas of interest through the steamy windows.

I stayed at the Eight Bells Inn. The old timber and stone building originated in the 14th century and was rebuilt in the late 17th century to house the bells that were hung in St James tower. The bells tolled hourly and it was a quiet and gentle background in the peaceful surroundings. My room was cozy and comfortable and there is nothing more welcome at the end of such a long "day" of about 35 hours length.

No I don't sleep on planes.

After a traditional breakfast I set out on my walk. The Cotswold Way is one of 15 national trails in England and was officially launched in 2007. The tradition of "rambling" in England is an old one. Thanks to the "right to pass" laws, private property is often cross-able. There is a responsibility and understanding that you pass quietly and without disruption. Gates and fences are left as they are found. You will share the way with whatever animals (and their offerings) might be in the field. Cotswold Way starts in Chipping Campden and ends in Bath ( or the reverse), a distance of about 105 miles. You can hike in one direction. There are Sherpa services that will transport your bag from one BB/ hotel / inn along the way to the next. Some people hike with backpack. That is certainly a tempting prospect for a future vacation.

My original plan was to hike 13 miles to the village of Stanway where there was a historic Jacobean house and garden. There was a bus service that called in the crossroad but through my research I found that the bus did not call into the area except at two times a day, which would have made the trip stunningly long. I consulted with the bus company and I could have ventured out to a highway to catch the bus, but I felt there was just to many possible things to go wrong to make this work.

I opted to hike out and back from Chipping to Broadway. The round trip would be 13 miles and I knew it would be a much more reasonable way to tackle the trip. I am glad for this choice. It was still drizzling and dripping. I brought my rain poncho, a military surplus item that dates the 60's. It is no longer entirely waterproof but was suitable for this trip. I have a book which has amazingly detailed maps but the way is marked with frequent signs and pointers. Most of the way you can simply see the footpath made by those who went before you.

One starts by walking through the village. It is a different way of life and even at 9am, milk bottles were outside many doors. Up a gravel road between farm buildings and out onto a hillside called Dover's Hill.

Have you heard of Shin Kicking? The competitive (?!) activity of shin kicking? Here is where it originated. http://www.olimpickgames.co.uk/

The views away from the hilltop were obscured by mist and fog but no matter. There were sheep seen and heard everywhere. This is wool country and it is less than what it used to be. Back in the day many fields had artificial banks built across them. These long banks created more surface area in the field to graze more animals. Now sheep are still seen and heard everywhere. It would have been a wonder to see it at its prime.

The soil is quite stony and it is easy to see why stone is the major building material here. I have never seen a cultivated field with such stone. Golden Cotswold Stone is the signature for this area. Today, some of the well tilled fields were mucky with it.

The highlight of this stretch of the Cotswold Way is Broadway Hill. Broadway Tower was built in 1799 by the Earl of Coventry as a folly for his Lady. It was a popular retreat and party spot notably by the artist William Morris. I was thrilled with the appearance of the tower from the mist and it certainly lent a feeling of magic. www.en.wikipedia/wiki/Folly

This is a typical appearance of the trail, across grassy fields through walls. You cannot go wrong. The tower is a bonus.

From the tower high above the town of Broadway you could have fantastic views. Picturesque does not begin to describe. I was sorry so many of the wildflowers were past and with the rains bug action was almost nil.

Fruits of the Lords and Ladies plant.

There was wall repair to notice and marvel at. It will be impossible to tell the difference, with time, between old and new, the style and technique remains unchanged.

On the High Street of town there were plenty of houses to appreciate and shops to peek into. I stepped into a pub for a bowl of courgette (zucchini) soup then headed back to Chipping.

The way back I walked at a brisker pace. The winds had picked up and the drizzle was a bit more organized. Crossing stiles with a poncho flapping about was a bit of a challenge.

The map and the clear cut track showed that one was to cross a plowed field diagonally. Going out I went around the edge of the field but returning, I cut across it, as the track and map showed.

It was a gummy golden Cotswold mucky mess! Thank goodness there was a lot of wet grass along the return and I worked hard at getting all the gumbo mud off my shoes. By the time I reached Dover's Hill, the hard weather pretty much stopped and arriving back into town I spent time going in and out of some of the shops.

I was completely thrilled after my walk. The round trip took 6 1/2 hours, pretty much as I thought it would. The track was simple compared to the footing and altitude gains I am use to here. In my room there was a small portable heater and I fired it up and made a desperate attempt to dry everything. It dawned on me that I had to pack up and return to London the next day and muddy pants and shoes were going to be a challenge. I got most of the nylon goods dried but the Thorlo socks and shoes were problematic. I figured I would simply wrap them up and confine them to an outer pouch of my duffel suitcase.

48 hours later I opted for a plastic laundry bag wrap as the Cotswold soil and damp had fermented to a delightful brew.

Dinner at the Inn was a treat. I opted for a seafood salad, craving and needing a lot of vegetable after my jet lag brain clock disruption. The Eight Bells serves up great food and the most amazing bread, a sprouted barley, I have ever had. With a virtuous seafood salad I sprang for a lovely dessert; a classic Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce and Vanilla Ice cream. I also had a 1/2 pint of "Old Rosey" scrumpy cider. A wicked unfiltered hard cider with a Alcohol content of 7%+

Old Rosey came from the yellow tap. I think an Angel Choir went
"AHHHHHHH" when it was drawn. A beam from High Above accounts for the yellow glow, I am sure.

It was pure bliss. Every soft, silken, flavorful luscious, sumptuous, decadent mouthful.

Here is a recipe I found! I am sure you will want to take a stab at this. Not sure where you will find an appropriate cider to pair with.

Aren't I nice??? Believe me, you need to try this.


  1. Oh my! I went to England in the mid-80's and the Cotswolds were absolutely my favorite part of the journey. Of all the trips that I ever took, that was my favorite. Your trip sounds wonderful, and I would have loved to have joined you on your walk. Though, you might have had to carry me the last bit. I'm glad that you had such a good time, in such a wonderful place.

  2. I finally got to this post (busy with hubby and puppy Samson this week) and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. As always, gorgeous pictures and a wonderful narrative. Did you mention when you slept? I lived in England in the 1960s, in and around London and never made it to Cotswold. Thank you for sharing this adventure, Inger

  3. Oh Inger I am sorry you missed out on this part of England. Of course I long to return and yet know there are equally wonderful National Trails in the Yorkshire Dalls, the Highlands the Lakes Distric and even along the Cornwall coast.

    How does one choose.

  4. Really enjoyed this post, Marti. We lived in the UK for nearly 10 years and still have a daughter there. Your post bring back a lot of memories.