Day 33 Monday 2 September Great Malvern to Worcester

Miles walked: today 13 cumulative 500.5

When I left Bath I wished I had planned to keep walking to Edale. However, since then my left thigh has been troubling me, becoming more painful after about 8 miles and waking me at night; so I was quite happy that this was my last day for a couple of weeks.

I stopped for a coffee before I left Malvern and got chatting to a man in the coffee shop. I grumbled about virtual paths and brambles and he suggested walking down the Teme valley where the paths were well defined. This meant walking a bit further than I had planned but I took his advice and it was a good walk.

I left Malvern on a footpath through woodland and common land (pretty) and then through an industrial estate (not so pretty). I passed the Morgan factory.

Just outside Great Malven is the Beauchamp Community. This is a church and almshouses built by the Beauchamp family in 1864. It was originally built for the poor of the parish but is now open to Anglicans from anywhere in the country.

The buildings contain frescoes of historic significance but are only opened to the public for attendance at church services or on specific open days.

I then followed roads and paths down to the Teme valley. On the way I passed the Normal chapel of St John at Branford

Apparently it is lit by candlelight. It was locked so I was unable to go in. Before I descended into the valley there was a good view back to Great Malvern.

I then followed the river Teme the rest of the way to where it drains into the Severn.

The river passes under the A road at the site of a medieval bridge and the Battle of Worcester. This was the final battle of the Civil War when Charles II was defeated by Cromwell’s New Model Army (Elvis Costello knew his history) and Charles began his flight to the continent.

The old bridge still crosses the river at Powick and there is a memorial to the many Scots who died at the battle

Between here and the Severn there are information boards describing the battle. At the time there was no river crossing here. The Parliamentarians built a crossing by mooring boats to each other along one bank and letting one end of the row float downstream until it hit the other bank thus forming a floating bridge, the only time the tactic has been used in the UK.

I then followed the Severn upriver to Worcester. As I approached the weir I had a good view of the cathedral

As I walked through Worcester to the station I completed the 500th mile of the journey. It is now time to put my feet up for a couple of weeks. The next stage is a short one: from Worcester to Edale.

Day 32 Sunday 1 September Playley Green to Great Malvern

Miles walked: today 14.4 cumulative 487.5

Whenever I have driven down the M5 I have noticed the Malvern Hills. You see them to the west, the Worcester turn off. I have always thought it would be nice to go walking in them but never have until today. What a treat I have missed! This was one of the most memorable days on the Walk.

My route took me almost the whole length of the Malvern ridge, from Chase End Hill in the south to North Hill in the, er, north. It involved about 3475 feet of ascent with slightly less descent and I traversed about 10 hills. If you want to do it in a day you can, but you would need to organise your own transport, or investigate public transport, to and from either end of the walk. Alternatively several shorter circular walks are possible

The beauty of the walk is that the Malvern are an isolated group of hills so you can see from Dunkery Beacon in the South to the Shropshire hills and Cannock Chase (my next target) in the north; and from the Cotswolds in the East to the Welsh mountains in the West. Some have suggested that maybe this is where Langland got the inspiration for Piers Plowman; where he stood to look down on all humanity. You certainly feel like you are doing that.

My left hamstrings keep going into spasm and waking me up. The pub in Playley Green is isolated so when I woke up in the night I went outside and looked at the stars. It was slightly cloudy but I could clearly recognise a few constellations and the Milky Way.

I was meant to retrace my steps through the maize field but I thought the better of it and set off down the lanes to cross the M50. I then took a path over the curiously named Eggs Tump to reach Chase End Hill.

Chase End Hill looking towards Midsummer Hill

I then descended steeply to Hollybush losing most of the height I had gained. I climbed Midsummer hill and met a group of walkers doing a circular route, we saw each other on and off all day

Please note loss of fat since Lands End. There were good views southwards over the Vale of Leadon as well as northwards along the ridge

The path then descended steeply to the not delightfully named “The Gullet” before climbing another group of four hills ending at the Herefordshire Beacon or British Camp.

This series of fortifications dates from the late Bronze Age although the top “layer” is the remains of a Norman motte. Legend says that Caractacus made his last defence against the Romans here but it is more likely that this took place in Shropshire. It is thought that up to 4 000 people lived here and on Midsummer Hill. Again great views both back and forward along the ridge

There was then a steep descent to the pass at Wyche (where there was a craft shop called Wychecraft, I love puns). The path then ascends to the most northernmost range of the Malvern hills, Worcestershire Beacon.

At the bottom there was a sign informing me that Malvern spring water is unusual in that there are no minerals dissolved in it. The Beacon was one of the points used for the signalling beacons set up to warn of invasion by the Spanish Armada. The views are amazing, it is claimed you can see 13 counties from the top.

Great Malvern

There was one more ascent to the top of North Hill before a long descent into Great Malvern and a well deserved glass of:

Day 31 Saturday 31 August Gloucester to Playley Green

Miles walked: today 16.5 cumulative 473.1

I started the day by visiting Gloucester docks and then going to see a Severn Bore

The docks were enlarged and became important in Victorian times as a place where goods could be transferred from sea going vessels (sailing up the Severn estuary and the ship canal) to barges that could sail along the canals to the industrial towns of the Midlands. Later, cargo was transferred at Gloucester to the railway. The docks were used commercially until the 1960s since when they have been used for pleasure craft. The Onedin Line was partly filmed here.

The warehouses remain in use and there is a maritime museum as well as shopping and cafes and bars.

An old lightship, renamed Sula lies in the dock. It used to serve off the Humber coast. It is currently being refurbished as a B and B. Apparently the foghorn has been restored so there will be no excuse for missing breakfast.

Near the docks are the ruins of St Oswald’s Priory. There has been a priory here since the 900s but it fell into disuse when the main cathedral was built. There are only a few stones now although there is still a nice medieval barn.

The Severn divides near Gloucester to form Alney island which is a nature reserve. My next detour was to the southern tip of the island where the waters merge to form Lower Parting which is meant to be a good place to watch a Severn Bore. This is a large surge wave that spreads up the Severn. The phenomenon requires the shape and depth of the estuary to narrow uniformly forming a funnel that transmits the wave. Nearer the coast the wave can be surfed for a considerable distance.

Remember, I am several miles from the estuary here and the wave is travelling upstream. The first thing you hear is the roar of the water. Until I saw the wave come round the bend, I thought the noise was a train on the nearby railway.

I set off, following the Severn upstream. For the next hour or so the river appeared to flow upstream and the current was strong enough to carry large branches. It was a bizarre experience to be following the river upstream but in the same direction as the flow of water.

It started to rain as I approached Ashleworth. I stopped in the really nice but quirky Boat Inn which lies on the river bank. Small rooms and the ale comes straight from the barrel.

Looks more like someone’s front room rather than a public room in a pub.

I set off up the road passing an old tithe barn

Ashleworth was a pretty was the annual fete and children were being given rides in a pony carriage. There were the usual stalls and bouncy castle. The sun had come out now as well

Village green, Ashleworth

I set off across fields towards Playley Green. This is where it is really useful to have a 1:25000 map as they show field boundaries which makes navigating easier. Drinking at lunchtime doesn’t help either and I wandered nonchalantly along not looking at the compass or map. Consequently I lost the path and veered too far west ending up at the rather nice stately home of Foscombe.

As I came over the hill to enter the Vale of Leadon I had a good view of the Malvern ridge

After stopping for a cup of tea in Staunton I continued across fields to the Chartist village of Lowbands. The Chartists were an early Socialist movement active in the 1840s. At the time only landowners could vote and MPs didn’t get a salary so only the rich could afford to sit in the House of Commons. The constituencies could be really small and parochial (called rotten boroughs). The Chartists campaigned for a vote for all men (!) over the age of 21, a secret ballot, equal sized electoral districts amongst other issues. Some male householders were allowed to vote after 1884 but working men did not get the vote until after the First World War. At this time female householders over the age of 30 could vote but universal franchise for women was not acheived until 1928.

I set off on my final path of the day but this ended as a virtual path, blocked by 8 feet high maize plants. There was even a footpath sign pointing into the maize. This time I was sure I was on course so I headed across the field between the plants. I felt like an extra in a war movie set in the Far East. It seemed to go on and on but I eventually I arrived at the Rose and Crown, a delightful pub near Playley green, with a very friendly landlord and landlady.

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.

Day 29 Thursday 29 August North Nibley to Stroud

Miles walked: today 15.6 cumulative 436.8

I haven’t had good WiFi reception for the last few days so I made some notes and then this, and the subsequent day’s logs were typed after I got home.

The previous day’s rain and the recent oppressive humidity had gone. It was also slightly cooler and walking conditions were ideal.

The way ahead lay up Stinchcombe Hill. This is the best example of the vagaries of the Cotswold Way. On the map, the hill has the outline of a hand. You approach the hill from the “wrist”, the two hills on the picture representing the two bony “bumps”on the back of the wrist.

Once up on the first summit it is only about 200 yards to the path down to Dursley. However the Way turns the other way to wind round each finger in turn, about two and a half miles. With the haze of the last few days gone and good walking conditions I took the long route and I was well rewarded.

From the top I had a good view back to Nibley Knoll and the Tyndall monument

The south-westerly point on the top is the true summit. There is a viewfinder on top which says it is 180 miles to Land’s End as the crow flies. I have taken a tortuous route. I could see westwards as far as Dunkery Beacon, across the Bristol Channel to South Wales, North Westerly to the Brecon Beacons and ahead to my next target, the Malvern Hills.

The hill was donated to the public by Sir Stanley Tubbs who was a Baronet and local MP for Stroud in the mid 1920s.

I spent a lot of time admiring the views. If you walk the Cotswold Way it is well worth planning this day so you have time to do the long round. If you are not a walker you can park near the top and find somewhere to picnic, but avoid the 13th fairway; there is a golf course on top.

The path then descended steeply through woodland to the small town of Dursley. This is a pretty market town, formerly important in the wool and cloth trade. It has a nice pedestrianised area where I stopped for coffee. I met two Americans over from Colorado to walk the Cotswold Way and we saw each other periodically for the rest of the day. There is a 18 century market hall

After Dursley, the Way climbs up to Cam Long Down and then it was an afternoon of short, steep ascents and descents through farmland and woodland with great views to the west and southwest. There was a nice view of Dursley nestling in the valley

This is a typical view from the escarpment. The fields are separated by either trees or bushes.

I passed a number of prehistoric barrows and tumuli. Hetty Peglers Tump (named after an old owner of the field) lies next to Coaley Wood. There is a low entrance and you can explore inside it with a torch. A Neolithic chambered tomb has been excavated at Nympsfield and the remains of more than 20 individuals recovered. The entrance is wide and was probably used for ceremonies as well as access to the chamber.

There were good views of the Frome valley from Pen Hill. I then left the Way and crossed Selsley Common to follow the restored Stroudwater Navigation to the Clothiers Arms in Stroud.

Day 28 Wednesday 28 August Tormarton to North Nibley

Miles walked: today 16 cumulative 421.2

On leaving Tormarton I saw silly numberplate of the day

Maybe the driver’s love of Spanish red wine led to the damage to the rear bumper?

The day started with a walk across Doddington Park. The sweeping parkland was impressive and there were occasional views through trees to the house. From reading some old newspaper articles, I learnt that it was bought by James Dyson in 2005 (when it cost a cool £20 million) and he lived here until at least 2016.

The path continued to Old Sodbury, one of several typical Cotswold villages that I walked through today. The church in Old Sodbury dates back to late Norman times.

Within the church are two effigies of knights dating from the late 13th century, one wooden and the other stone

The walk continues through Old Sodbury hill fort, dating from the late Bronze Age. It’s ramparts are more or less intact. There is an impressive volume of land in the fort, now used for grazing

There is another old church in Little Sodbury, the church dates from the 19th century but was built with stone from the older Tyndall chapel and there is a memorial plaque to WilliamTyndale in the churchyard.

According to the William Tyndall web site, he was a polyglot who was the first to translate and print the New Testament in English. He held views considered heretical by both the Catholic Church and Henry VIII and was burned at the stake in 1536.

The walk continued with views towards Horton Court. It was humid and hazy. I could see the Bristol Channel and Severn bridges from high ground. I stopped in the Fox Inn in Hawkesbury Upton and was seduced by curry and beer for lunch. Bad move. It was delicious but made walking difficult, sleep on a sofa would have been preferable!

I passed the Somerset monument, Lord Somerset was a general at Waterloo

I am not sure why it is built here. There are steps up to the balcony but it is in poor repair and closed to the public.

It began to rain. The Cotswold Way sticks to the escarpment meaning it meanders it’s way through Gloucestershire. Various Lejoggers have commented on this, suggesting that it was designed by Committee or that it measured 80 miles in length so they had to put in some detours to get it to be over 100. My own view is they walked it during a pub crawl so the drunker they were the more it zig-zags from side to side. In any case, the route to Wooton-Under-Edge takes a long loop to the East. In view of the inclement weather, I didn’t think it worth the extra distance so I got my wet weather kit on (which meant despite it being breathable, I got wet with sweat rather than rain) and set off down the road.

At Wooton, I rejoined the Way and climbed Nibley Knoll, better than walking down a B road. At the top there is an impressive monument to Tyndall, where you can climb to a balcony. I didn’t. Instead I headed off downhill to my B and B in North Nibley

Day 27 Tuesday 27 August Bath to Tormarton

Miles walked:today 18 cumulative 405.2

I had one final look at Bath by getting to the start of the Cotswold Way via the Circus and the Royal Crescent

The lawn in front of the houses is owned by the residents. When we went there on Sunday a number of picnics were in progress. One of the houses has been restored to its Georgian state and is open to the public. Well worth a look round.

I walked past a beer shop. The owner is obviously celebrating England’s cricket success. All the fielders have England names on their backs.

I tore myself away from Bath and headed up the Cotswold Way. As I left the Avon valley it was obvious to me how small the historic centre is compared to the whole city which has expanded westwards along both sides of the valley.

I passed through what used to be the village of Weston which is now really a suburb of Bath. This photo was taken from the trig point on Weston Hill. Unusually, the path continues to climb after the trig point which is not at the summit of the hill.

The path more or less follows the Western escarpment of the Cotswolds. Views were limited by the haze. The day was hot and humid. I could see several areas of rain showers, fortunately they missed me.

The path crosses Bath racecourse to reach the Iron Age (or earlier) hill fort at North Stoke. On the South side the banks and a ditch are well preservedAfter the fort the path runs alongside a golf course. Half way along there is a rather macabre sculpture in an adjacent field. The scultor is David Morse who specialises in using scrap metal for his pieces.The path then crosses and recrosses the county border before deciding to settle in Gloucestershire. Hoorah! My 4th county. The Cotswolds make for grand walking. There should be good views to the West but it was hazy today and the forecast for tomorrow is not good.

The path then crosses and recrosses the county border before deciding to settle in Gloucestershire. Hoorah! My 4th county. The Cotswolds make for grand walking. There should be good views to the West but it was hazy today and the forecast for tomorrow is not good.

I then crossed the site of the Battle of Lansdown Hill (1643). This was an attempt by the Royalists to take Bath. Placards along the path tell the tale of the battle and bring it into perspective with the terrain. You can see the difficulty for the Royalists as they had to attack uphill. The wall used as a line of defence by the Parliamentarians is still present. As the forces advanced and retreated skirmishes took place over several miles of this hilly countryside. Historians feel the result was inconclusive because although the Royalists dislodged the Parliamentarians they did so at such a high cost (800-1000 killed or wounded) that they had to withdraw. Ironically the commanders of the two armies were friends before they found themselves on opposite sides.

nearby there is a monument to Sir Bevil Grenville who was killed in the fighting

I continued northwards along the escarpment. The Way passes through the parkland of the 17th Century Dryham Park. There is a country house and church here, now owned by the National Trust. My timing was perfect! I stopped for a cup of tea and a slice of NT tea lady cake.

The next milestone was reached when I crossed the M4. Like my psychological feeling that the M5 marks the boundary between Southwest and Southern England I believe the M4 is the boundary between the South and the Midlands. I completed the 400th mile about the same time. I could have chosen a shorter route, but, as I said earlier, I intend to meander to visit parts of the country I want to walk through. For the technically minded I am using the app “walkmeter” to measure my waking distance. This is a GPS system and the maps it draws correspond to the OS maps so I think it is accurate.