Cotswold Way part 4, Air Balloon roundabout to Westrip, 19 miles (29km)

Gone off pist with this one a little bit… I skipped the Crickley Hill country park section because I had already walked it so many times and fancied something new AND I didn’t want to have to cross the very busy junction by the Air Balloon pub. If it had been a weekend it might have been ok, but I had to do this walk on a Friday to take advantage of the only forecasted dry day for a while. Had had enough rain last week, thank you very much! (What is going on with this weather? I mean enough already with the rain and the low temperatures…).

The Cotswold trail begins just after the pub, the road dips down towards the valley and it follow the contour of the Cotswold hills.

The view was fabulous even with the poor visibility, it’s a shame that you’re surrounded by busy roads (even if you don’t see them) because the traffic noise is very loud and intrusive. The low clouds and the grey light made it feel like Autumn rather than spring, but I was in a very good mood… excited to walk on a totally new path for me.

It looks so remote, right? And yet, there was a busy road only a few hundred meters above me.

At the bottom right of the field in the photo above, there’s a gate (the first many, many gates) and from then on and for the majority of today you’ll be walking in woodland, and it’s very serene. Soft paths through tall trees, seas of bluebells and wood anemones and wild garlic. Birds chirping, the odd walker or two. Very calm. (Also lots of mud after all the rain we’ve had recently, and slugs… lots of slugs…).

The trail runs up and down and sits below the village of Birdlip, it crosses a road and carries on peacefully…

I have to say the signage on this stretch wasn’t as good… it was ok, but I could have done with more of them! There were a few times when I started doubting the direction I was going and was ready to go back and double check… so keep an eye out!

Witcombe Wood is a great place to walk – I’ll be back with Murphy for sure – and there’s also the Witcombe Roman Villa to explore. (Excavations have unearthed sections of a bath house, and mosaics depicting fish and seascapes).

After a small road section you arrive at the famous Cooper’s Hill, the site for the bonkers cheese rolling race. Have you seen the documentary on Netflix about it? It’s really good! , Cooper’s Hill was, in 500bc part of an Iron Age encampment, and you can see why, the view across the valley are quite something – or they would have been on a clear day…

It doesn’t look steep in the photo… but trust me, it’s virtually a vertical drop when you stand on the top (which you do, because the path climbs around it and proceed at the back of it).

Back in the woods and out of the woods and than back in again… it was muddy and I was glad Father Christmas had gifted me a pair of gaiters. Very useful items if you, like me, walk kicking up mad.

On your way to Painswick you enter Buckholt Wood – another gorgeous place to check out with the dog soon. The leaves on the beeches are a beautiful, vibrant pale green at this time of the year, which contrast beautifully with their dark, wet trunks.

At the end of the woods, you cross the A46 and continue on another stretch, called Pope Wood, and eventually arrive at Painswick Beacon, where the vista opens up. You’re walking along/across/through the Painswick Golf Club so mind your head! Beautiful views from the top of the beacon if you fancy a de-tour. The guide hilariously calls it a peak… ahem 287m? It is hardly a peak… but we take what we’re given, right? It is also called Castle Godwyn because in 1052 was used as a temporary camp by Earl Godwyn. It was very cloudy on Friday, so I didn’t bother. I used to come here a lot many, many years ago, to sit in the sun with a book on the weekends… brought back memories. (Mainly of my ancient metallic-pea-green Volvo, my first car that barely made it up here…)

The cute coffee wagon thingy at the end of the park sells very nice pecan and coffee cake. Utterly delicious.

After the cake break I walked into Painswick and here I had to wing it keeping my fingers crossed I was heading in the right direction… because a) the signs disappeared and b) I had left home without a map. Yes, rookie mistake. I had the phone with me… but wasn’t too much help because the only other ‘Cotswold Way recorded walk’ I could find… didn’t seem to follow the actual marked trail so I wasn’t too confident in following it. ANYWAY, I knew vaguely I had to go South.. so at some point I luckily stumbled upon the signs again and all was good.

Painswick is gorgeous. It calls itself queen of the Cotswold and is a town that grew rich from the wool trade, if you like old houses this is your place for a stroll. The church is found on the Doomsday book but it is now famous for the 99 yew trees in the churchyard. Legend goes that when a 100th tree is planted it dies. Also, The Falcon Bowling Club lays claim to being Britain’s oldest bowling green in the world having celebrated its 455th birthday in 2019.

Opposite the lichgate the path continues uphill, through houses and then wide open fields…

…where a sign tells you’ve walked half the trail – a welcome sight…

… and giant cows block the way to the gate you need to enter – not so nice, mildly scary… (very scary actually, cows up close are rather large animals).

After crossing another road, around Edge, the signs vanished… truly vanished… so I wondered a little, crossed another road on the other side of Rudge Hill and tracked through unchartered woodland to find a welcome faded Cotswold Trail sign at the bottom of a steep descent…

… pretty acorn sign…. where are youuuuu??

Back on track in Stockend Wood, gorgeous woodland that led to majestic views of the Severn Valley.

Unfurling ferns. Isn’t ‘unfurling’ a lovely word?

By now the sun made a very welcome surprise appearance… such a difference! There was an interesting stone on a bend of the track that commemorates the raising of the siege of Gloucester on Sept, 5th, 1643 by the troops of Charles I.

Haresfield Beacon, on the top of Ring Hill gives you a magnificent bird’s eye view of the Vale of Gloucester, the River Severn and the Forest of Dean … so much space and air and distance… big lungfuls were inhaled and stored.

This is a wonderful place to come for a stroll too. I’m so glad I found it. As it is ‘Standish Wood’ next along the way. Well kept, carpeted with bluebells, wide paths… really enjoyable.

By this point my phone was running on fumes and I knew I had to keep some juice to call my lift to pick me up… so I took only a couple of more photos of the Stroud Valley towards King’s Stanley, the place I’ll walk to next time.

I finished tired, but happy. These long walks are quite addictive.

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