Day 30 Friday 30 August Stroud to Gloucester

Miles walked: today 19.8 cumulative 456.6

I had to take a detour to Stroud to find accomodation yesterday so I had a couple of miles to walk back down the canal to the Cotswold Way. The Cotswold Canal Trust are currently rebuilding the lock near the pub. They are hoping to restore the whole length of the canal from Stroud to the river Servern. The towpath was a popular route for people cycling or walking to work. At first it passed through an industrial estate, including a factory that makes billiard cloth. Then it became mainly tree lined with either old large houses or new apartments overlooking the canal. It runs parallel to the river Frome.

I rejoined the Cotswold Way at Stonehouse. This climbs through a vineyard. I think this is part of the Woodchester Valley Vineyard. I have not had wine from this winery, but there are some excellent English wines to be had, well worth trying out.

I tasted one grape. It was not ripe so tasted very bitter, apparently due to the high seed content. When ripe grapes used for winemaking tend to be small with thick skins but very sweet, the sugars make for a much more pleasant wine and, after fermentation, turn into the esters that give the wine its flavour and, of course, the alcohol.

The walk continued through the lovely Standish wood to Haresfield Beacon. This is another area where there are a lot of prehistoric mounds, barrows etc. I saw this in Scottsquar wood which I was sure was old but I can find no reference to the stone and I assume it is a more recent boundary mark

My views from the Beacon:

My plan was always to carry as little food as necessary. I had assumed I would pick up lunch in Stroud and I didn’t pass a shop on the way out. Happily, as I crossed the main road south of Edge I came upon the Edgemoor Inn. After a pint and a delicious crispy duck salad I was ready to continue. I walked through the village of Painswick

I chatted to a woman about the walk. She was waiting for her bus with her daughter, who was about 3 or 4. She was running around, standing and jumping off the hand rest of the bench by the bus stop asking why I had a big rucksack, why my walking poles had an apparent sharp end. A normal, bright pre-school child. “She was born at 24 weeks, spent most of her first year in hospital and we are going for a check up” said her mum. A tribute to neonatal ICU.

I climbed up through woodland to Painswick beacon, a view of Gloucester with the Malvern Hills, my next target, in the background.

There was a cyclist on top of the Beacon. He is also thinking of doing Lejog, but by bicycle. He has a friend in the RAF who has done lejog in about 22 minutes – in a Phantom jet!

I now parted company with the Cotswold Way. I really enjoyed this part of the walk. Even when it was hazy, the views were magnificent. The woodland was almost all deciduous and beautiful to walk in. There were historic and prehistoric sites, picturesque villages and nice pubs. Navigation was easy, the way marking was excellent and I mainly used the map to identify places of interest.

I was back on normal footpaths. The route to Gloucester was along the Wysis way that links Offas Dyke path with the Thames path. However waymarking was poor. This is not necessarily too bad as I can use my compass. However, particularly at field edges, the paths were overgrown. At the end of a long day I was tired and didn’t relish the idea of being stung by nettles and pricked by brambles.

My plan was to climb Robins Wood hill to get a view of Gloucester before entering the city. I crossed the motorway and set off up the minor road to the footpath. There was a small wedding party having photographs taken on the common. I avoided being photographed and found the path which was actually signposted.

The path passed between houses and a fence but was heavily overgrown. The only way I was going to be able to make progress was with a pair of secateurs. “Oh bother” I thought (or words with a similar meaning). I returned to the road and set off into town.

Now, if I wanted to walk from the outskirts of a city to the centre I could have stayed at home. Gloucester is a typical city. Posh suburbs, not so nice as you approach the centre (sorry, Gloucester) and then a re-vitalalised centre with a pedestrianised shopping area. It was tedious walking.

When I got to the centre Google maps took me to the hotel. I was a bit concerned about the quality of the New County hotel. It gets mixed reviews on Tripadvisor and was only £31. I am happy to report it was fine. If you are looking somewhere cheap to saty with no frills I can recommend it (but beware, I can sleep on anything after 20 miles!). There was an excellent Indian restaurant a few yards away. The restaurant is one of the newer type who cook traditional Indian dishes as opposed to the Anglicised North Indian/Pakistani dishes usually on offer. After a good feed, two pints of Kingfisher and a good sleep, I was ready for the Malverns.

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