Cotswold Way, part 2 – Stanway to Cleeve Hill – 13 miles (21km)

Another sunny day, another section of the Cotswold Way. Another gorgeous walk.

This time the husband came too and we managed to get the eldest offspring to get out of bed 1/2 a day earlier than normal to drop us off in the exact spot I had finished the walk last time… that lovely bench under the giant yew tree.

Stanway Hall on the left, bench on the right…
… say hi to Mr Wonderings…

Once again the trail is beautifully signposted and it was a pleasure to walk along all the diverse paths (one word of caution… only follows the yellow arrow signs that say ‘Cotswold Way’, sometimes you’ll find some that don’t mention it and they relate to other paths, only follow the ones that do). The trail began heading towards Wood Stanway, a small hamlet right at the bottom of the Cotswold escarpment, then climbed sharply up behind it and continued along the top of the Cotswold skyline. It was windy, and a tad chilly, but the views made up for that.

… the viewlookiung back across the Valley of Evesham, it doesn’t look as steep as it was!

At the top of the Cotswold escarpment, you can just about see the remaining signs of Beckbury Camp an Iron Age hill for on your left (1000/2000 BC). ( Find a really good aerial photo here.), while at the bottom right hand corner stands a group of beeches called Cromwell Clump, so called because it is said that Thomas Cromwell stood here watching the dismantling of Hailes Abbey in the valley below. There’s also a strange stone monument/column… – you can’t miss it – of which nothing is known… very mysterious…

The path descends right and after crossing a few sloping fields, it runs along the Abbey’s woods (on your right). It’s bluebells season and and they were glorious.

Hailes Abbey look absolutely worth a proper visit (if you’re into ruins, that is). Be aware that at the moment you need to book your tickets online to enter, and we hadn’t, so we had to make do with a peak over the fence at the back. The Abbey was founded in 1234 by the Earl of Cornwall, brother of Richard III who gave it to the Cistercian Order; interestingly were required to live away from people and so the whole village population had to move a few miles away. It became a very important pilgrimage site and was even mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The shrine containing the Holy Blood was destroyed by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the abbey fell into ruins. (The Holy Blood would turn out to be a mixture of honey and saffron…). Not much remains of the abbey but the museum holds interesting finds.

The small Norman church (later rebuilt) opposite the abbey holds some precious medieval paintings and has had a very complicated story with the abbey (surprise surprise it had to do with money!), and you can read all about it here.

A mile or so later – and after deciphering some interesting signs – we arrived in the beautiful early medieval market town of Winchcombe where I said goodbye to the husband and proceeded towards the final destination of the day: Cleeve Common. Fun fact about Winchcombe: the Church of St Peter is famous for its many gargoyles, one of which is said to be the model for Lewis Carroll’s character of the Mad Hatter.

First I had to re-climb to the top of the escarpment – not a steep climb… just a long one…

… all the way up to Bela’s Knap Long Barrow, a beautiful neolithical burial site excavated between 1863 and 65, and where the remains of 31 people were found.

Cross a few fields and then begin a very sharp descent through beautiful woodland with a gently bubbling brook on your left…

You’re out in the valley again and in front of you on the other side of rolling fields with cows and sheep grazing is the tallest point of the Cotswold, Cleeve Common.

… Postlip Hall…

Postlip Hall‘s Jacobean frontage was built in 1614, but inside it holds a grade one listed medieval Hall House… various parts and buildings were added through the ages around a courtyard. It is now a co-housing community of 8 dwellings and the beautiful Tithe Barn can be hired for weddings.

Keep walking, you’re almost there!

13 miles after you left Stanway, you reach Cleeve Hill, follow the track gently uphill left (anticlockwise) and you arrive at Cleeve Hill Golf Club where you lift home hopefully is waiting for you. Mine wasn’t…

This second sector of the Cotswold Way had some interesting climbs, but nothing that couldn’t be done slowly and steady. I’m not a particularly fast walker and even counting the first 6 miles done with a husband that constantly stopped for photos, I managed the whole thing in 4 1/2 hours. (In all fairness he does take good ones…)

Once again it was beautiful.

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