Cotswold Way part 5, Westrip to Wotton-Under-Edge, 16.6 miles (26.8 km)

I was lying in bed on Saturday morning listening out for the rain. It is fair to say, without sounding overtly dramatic that the weather lately has been absolutely abysmal, right? My body feels out of kilt with the world… I mean, normally by now the heating is off – last year the AGA was off too by now – the winter clothes have been put away and the toes might have already shown up their pale stubbiness.

Not this year. It’s still cold and wet. WET! Good lord the rain we’ve been having… biblical and relentless and everywhere is muddy and messy and I’m still washing the dog after every walk… so really my body feels there’s something not quite right and it’s messing with my mind.

Perhaps it’s why, lying in bed surrounded by my sleeping family, (not in the same bed!!), I was really tempted to fluff up my pillow, turn over and go back to sleep. But I didn’t, because with the wisdom bestowed on my by 50 (soon to be 51) years on earth I knew that once I got going I’d be grateful. Also I had a dog on my chest licking my face wanting to go out so sleep wasn’t an option anyway.

I got up, grateful for the foresight I had had the night before to get the clothes ready, I let both the dogs out, made myself a coffee and a packed lunch and slipped out of the house before I changed my mind. Go me.

One thing kept me going: the thought on not being fit enough to finish the 50km charity walk at the end of June.  I'm raising money for the fabulous charity I am me, the positive mental health app for young people.    You can donate by clicking here, if you so wish.

I began today’s walk in the exact spot I finished last week, nobody likes a cheater… in a tiny lane in Westrip.

Cow parsley, wet grass and ominous skies were the theme of the first part of the walk. But the air was fresh and fragrant, my pack was light… and I had ahead of me a whole day of walking in new places. I love a good new path!

Also mud, lots of mud and gates, many gates. I counted over 40 (gates/squeeze stiles/kissing gates/gates that require an engineering degree to be opened… by the end of the day.

The path took me to Stonehouse via fields, and emerged at the back of Wycliffe School onto the main road. I always find it more difficult to follow the signs in an urban setting… but I have to say that this stretch was really well signposted. You just need to trust yourself to carry on till you see another one… even when they’re a little bit too far apart for comfort. Trust the signs, was a kind of mantra.

Crossing a big road and I arrived at the lovely Stroudwater Canal… This short canal (8 miles when it opened in 1779) used to linked Stroud to the River Severn, at one point was part of a network of canals that connected Bristol to London, how about that?

At this point you have to make a choice of taking a little extension loop and walk along the canal for a while or carry on straight. Both of them are signposted as ‘Cotswold Trail’ but given the uncertainty of the weather I decided to take the shortest option. I did walk down to the water level and had a look… very very pretty. Tempting… but one for another day. There’s something quite romantic about walking along a canal, don’t you think? It feels… leisurely and calm and old fashioned in a good way.

But back to following the CW signs… I crossed the busy A419 and walked pass the now disused Stanley Mill (some interesting interior photos here). It was a cloth mill and was built in 1811 and at its peak it employed almost 1000 workers. Unusually it has a metal frame with bricks floors and ceilings which cleverly makes it fire proof. It was at first powered by five water wheels (imagine that!) and subsequently by steam power. There are plans for regenerating the area and I’m very pleased. It would be a shame for these historical buildings to disappear forever.

Shortly after the mill, on the opposite site of the road I entered a field and walked through through a variety of settings all the way to Middleyard.

Clouds and mud were my only companions…

In Middleyard the path starts climbing up and then carries on for quite a while following the contour of the hills. Very pleasant. Also, note to self, it’s worth looking back at the view… I always forget to do that and I’m sure if were to do this walk in the opposite direction if would appear to me like a new trail altogether..

… rolling hills…
… and woodland paths…
… and glimpsed panoramas…

Emerging from the woods I found myself in Coaley Park. It’s a large picnic area with beautiful views of the Severn Vale and a neolithic long barrow from 2800BC.

… Then on through more beautiful (and muddy) woodland… the path was downhill for a looooong time… but you know what that means…right?

… trying not to think about the unavoidable and impending uphill that was surely waiting for me at some point, I concentrated on the ferns. Don’t you just love an unfurling fern?

… and then… the hill of doom!

It wasn’t a hill, actually, but the steep slope of of Cam Long Down. The Cam was created by the Devil who unloaded a wheelbarrow full of stones. He’d originally intended to dam the river Servern to punish Gloucestershire for having too many churches. A cobbler he met on the way told him it was sooo far away he’d worn out many shoes on the way so the devil gave up and offloaded his cargo forming the Cam Land Down. True story.

The view was beautiful and … frankly quite a little scary… the clouds were coming my way at frightening speed!

I guessed right… all hell broke loose shortly after… wind/lashings of rain/hail… you name it.

Thanks to Mr GoreTex, I stayed dry and carried on regardless…(and it’s actually quite exhilarating to be out in the elements)…

Shortly after I arrived in Dursley which once was one of the main Cotswold towns for wool and cloth. Walking through the town you go by the home of the Danish Mikael Pederson an inventor of many things among which the ‘Pederson Bike‘. Check it out, quite the contraption!

After crossing the town centre I began walking the steep slopes of Stinchcombe Hill all the way to the top plateau by the clubhouse of Dursley Golf Club. Here I had another choice… walk around the edge of Stinchcombe Hill and have a look at the amazing view OR… carry on straight (ie shortcut) to North Nibley.

I went straight.

Obviously.

North Nibley seemed like a friendly place…

… this water fountain is free to use for CW (Cotswold Way) walkers…

… what was not friendly was the super steep climb to The Tyndale Monument at the top of Nibley Knoll. The rather extraordinary monument is 34metres tall and was erected in 1866 in honour of William Tyndale, (who first translated the Bible into English)…. the plaque suggests he was born in North Nibley but… there’s no much evidence for this apparently. Interesting tower though.

From here, the trail to Wotton was really pleasant through woods and fields

The delightful group of trees above is the Jubilee Clump, named after Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 when they were planted. Following the path down the hill I finally arrived in Wotton-under-Edge…

… I didn’t look quite so jaunty!

End of the walk, and what a gorgeous, varied walk it was too!

I’m about 30 miles from Bath and the end of the trail and I can’t wait…

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