COTSWOLDS: DAYS 2-5
RJ Furth (September 2014)
I had planned on writing every day of our walk in the Cotswolds, but after 6-7 hours of walking I had little enthusiasm for pounding the keyboard. I was certainly capable of writing; I chose to get horizontal and read (as well as take a quick nap) instead. Days 2-4 can be summed up as marvelous. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, being blessed with cool mornings, mild afternoons, soothing cloud cover and no rain. (I write this as we prepare to leave for the fifth and final day of walking, a misty, moist morning.) The trails were varied yet all were well kept. Rather than follow a single trail, such as the 100 mile long Cotswold Way, we chose a circular route–beginning and ending at Moreton-in-March–that including bits of the Cotswold Way, Windrush Way, Wardens Way, Monarch’s Way, Winchcombe Way and Heart of England Way. We met people who were walking the entire Cotswold Way, but we would happily recommend our route.
The Cotswolds are dotted with quaint little villages, some with a single pub and no other conveniences. Besides the occasional sandwich shop, we dined often at pubs, both lunch and dinner. Yes, there is the usual bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes), meat pies and chips, and fish and chips, but modern pubs also offer duck, wonderful local seafood, local lamb, and a variety of local ales and bitters. We ate well, though after nearly sixty miles of walking we put on no weight. The views of green pastures filled with sheep, horses and cows, as well as the sights of distant villages with their ancient stone manors and churches never lost their charm. We often went hours without seeing another person, but when we did meet others we were always greeted warmly, either by locals who cheerfully asked where we had been and where we were headed or by fellow walkers, most of whom were in their fifties or sixties. (There may be young walkers during the summer.)
Today was the first and only day when we dealt with rain, a heavy downpour that lasted less than half an hour. According to the newspaper, it was the driest first half of September in fifty years. We were certainly fortunate, though we were prepared for rain. Our accommodations were elegant, something that did not exist when I walked Offa’s Dyke on the Welsh border. That walk in four days of driving rain was bare bones, with the occasional rough room over a pub and mediocre food. Offa’s Dyke was also a more challenging walk that, I must admit, is part of my past. I no longer want to merely survive; I wish to enjoy the exercise and marvel at the natural beauty. The past five days were not easy, with lots of up and down, yet four of us, all in our sixties, averaged about 12 miles a day at a moderate pace. If you’re looking for a memorable experience, one that offers the reward of a sense of achievement and a brush with history, you couldn’t do much better than the Cotswolds.