Cotswold Way

Day 3 – 6th May – Winchcombe to Charlton Kings – 11 miles

At breakfast we met another Dutch walker who had occupied the other room. His name was Robert and had done the same distance as us the day before and he too had found it tough going. We forgot to ask him how far he was going but we would see him later.

We left soon after 9 o’clock as there seemed little pressure to charge off as the mileage was slightly lower than the day before. We skirted round Sudeley Castle and across the fields before realising that we had a steep climb ahead of us. Again it was already very warm and once we had reached the top we knew it would be a long day physically. We reached Belas Knap and although only about 2 miles since the start we needed a break so stopped to regroup. While there, a couple of walkers appeared, that we nicknamed ‘Sophie and Adam’. We exchanged pleasantries and off they went – we would meet up with them later on the walk.


Lane to Belas Knap


Winchcombe


Belas Knap

We soon set off again and thankfully the next part was flat before entering some woods and going steeply downhill before climbing again to Postlip Hall Farm. The terrain continued upwards all the way to Cleeve Hill but just as we got to the outskirts of the hill we met our Dutch group who were taking a breather. We chatted and had a bit of banter before telling them that there was a pub that welcomed walkers at the golf course. We left them to it as it was our intention to visit the pub for a food stop. Soon after leaving them we looked over our shoulder and sure enough they were putting packs on and following us – amazing what the thought of a cold pint can do! We made it to the pub and got some beer and surreptitiously ate some of our supplies. A few minutes later the group found us at the pub and set about ordering some beers too.


Woods


Footbridge near Postlip Hall Farm


Postlip Hall


Cleeve Hill golf club

The next part took us up and over Cleeve Hill. The signage here wasn’t too good, nor was the guide book as accurate as it had been but we managed to pick up the right path. As you would expect the views over Cheltenham and the surrounding areas were magnificent but a heat haze was building which in fact happened each day by around midday. We continued on to Prestbury Hill Reserve before throwing in the towel once more for another stop as our feet were feeling sore and we were flagging due to the heat.


Cheltenham race course


View back to Cleeve Hill

The route then took us along chalk paths and then some road walking before taking us into the wood high up above Dowdeswell reservoir. The descent to the A40 was steep and my knees started to complain but the wood did help keep the worst of the heat at bay. At the bottom we stopped again for one final time before our walk to our lodgings. We were only about half a mile from our hotel but we just needed that final rest to get us there. The road walk was a jolt to the senses as it is one of the main roads in to Cheltenham and very busy, however, there is a pavement all the way so it is at least safe.

We arrived at our hotel and were met by the general manager who showed us to our room, which was a welcome oasis on what had been a tough day. We had another walk into Charlton Kings for our evening meal so we took the opportunity to unwind and relax before setting off again. We again did some washing and set up our washing line of boot laces and made use of the towel rail that came on for a couple of hours. Our room had a view of the road we had just walked up and just as we were preparing to leave for the pub we saw the Dutch group walking slowly up the road. It is amazing what a shower and change of clothing can do and so as we set off we felt we had a bit more of a spring in our step. As we walked out of the hotel we spotted a lonely figure walking up the road and then realised it was Robert from our Winchcombe B&B. He recognised us and stopped for a chat. He too had found it a tough day and he still had 45 minutes of extra walking to do as his digs were in central Cheltenham. We offered to buy him an ice cream from a little convenience store just up the road to help him on his way but he declined saying he was trying to lose a few pounds. He too was going to Painswick the next day but had decided to get a taxi to another point and re-join the path further on, fearing the 19 miles would be too much. We bid him bon voyage and set off for the pub; we didn’t see him again.

We managed to find the pub which originally was going to be our second choice. Our first choice was the Merryfellow, which we passed on the way. The website, reviews and menus seemed to fit the bill but as we passed it we realised what a close shave we had had. It was a bit of a dive with loud music blaring out of loud speakers in the garden, what the neighbours thought I would hate to think. There is a little story of how we arrived at going to The Royal Charlton instead. When we arrived, Guy, the general manager of our hotel, asked whether we had booked a table for a meal. He said the Cheltenham festival was on and everywhere was booked. He had just managed to get the last table at The Royal for another guest but would phone them and try to see if they could fit us in somehow. After a lot of flannel and banter on the phone he told us he had managed to get us in after all. As we had planned to go to the Merryfellow we were a bit miffed that he had booked us into another pub. But, we were tired and just wanted our room so we went with it. Once in the room we called the Merryfellow and found they didn’t do food on Sundays despite their website saying so and I previously calling a few days previously and being told they did. So having walked past the Merryfellows and seeing what it was really like we were grateful of Guy’s intervention. As it turned out there were plenty of tables available at The Royal so I think it was Guy putting on a bit of a show to earn some brownie points.

As we approached the pub entrance who should we see but the Dutch group. Again we stopped for a chat and banter. They had consumed quite a bit of liquid refreshment and showed no signs of slowing up. After we had eaten we went back to them and made our recommendations on the food as they had decided to eat as well. They were only going to Birdlip the next day so that was the last we saw of them, which was a shame as they were good company

We returned to the hotel and we were more than ready for bed – did I mention it had been a hard day? But the next day was the big one 19-20 miles in forecasted 27 degree heat. I was worried, very worried, we had only done about 11 miles today, and sleep was difficult to come by.

Accommodation – The Charlton Kings Hotel

The room was large and had everything we needed. Facing the road it was noisy and with it being so hot we had to leave the windows open. However, due to not sleeping due to the noise I had to get up and close them during the night. Breakfast was very good, and Rachel says that Guy makes excellent scrambled egg and smoked salmon with the extra magic ingredient of cream! Guy was also prepared to open up at 7.15am to allow us to get on our way early. Normally on weekends and bank holidays it is 8am so we were grateful to him for that. I was unsure about the hotel to start with but grew to accept its little quirks. It feels more of a guest house than a hotel and could do with a little investment in certain areas, especially reception.

Guy, what do we say about Guy? He is a character for sure. He has only been with the hotel for about 6 weeks and tries to make a good impression and tries very hard to do everything he can for the guests. He is a bit over the top in the oft repeated life stories and how he was almost running the hotel single handed due to him giving his deputy the weekend off (because that is the caring sort of person he is!) and of course managing to get the last table in Cheltenham for us. But, he is not Basil Fawlty, he just goes over the top a bit and we came to like him, a lot.

Score – 8/10

Evening meal – The Royal Charlton Kings

As mentioned above this wasn’t our original first choice but it was exceptional and so glad we went there. All the staff members were very pleasant and personable; they were really very good and couldn’t be faulted. The menu had a good choice and the steak pies that we had were extremely well made, large and tasted excellent. Yes a little pricey but not too bad and well worth it.

Score – 10/10

 

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