Cotswold Way

Day 4 – 7th May – Charlton Kings to Painswick – 19 miles

The early breakfast and having settled up the night before meant that we were on course to start at 8am from the hotel. The Trailblazer Guide says 17 miles; National Trail says 18.9 miles plus our 0.8 mile from the hotel. We found it very difficult to find consistent mileages for each stage; every organisation seems to have their own view. We don’t carry GPS but did use our iPhone health app which did seem to be reliable and gave a middle ground. Either way it was going to be uncomfortable but if it was going to be easy, where’s the challenge?

We said our good-byes to Basil, I mean Guy, managing to avoid too many repeats of his stories and set off, bang on 8am and made the restart of the path just after 8.15am. There had been a heavy dew and the grass was wet as we made our way to the first climb. Our first problem of the day was route finding and we had only covered a couple of hundred yards. The route in to Lineover Wood is not clear and we spent a few minutes wondering what to do. On deciding the best policy was to follow our noses, we started climbing and fortunately subtle landmarks confirmed we were indeed on the right path. It would appear that several other people go straight on into the wood on a new well maintained path and then finding they are wrong, make their way back using an alternative route to the path at the top of the climb. The way markers were generally quite good but increasingly they were left open to interpretation which was not helpful.


Path at the top of Lineover Wood

The going was tough but eventually we made it to the top puffing as we went. Even at that time in the morning it was approaching 20 degrees, and we knew it, but the next part was downhill to Seven Springs and partly in woodland, so a respite from the sun. We needed to stop and so found a suitable verge and plonked ourselves down next to the lane out of Seven Springs. While there we saw a couple coming up the lane and as they got closer we realised that we had seen them at Paddington station and they had also been on our train. They clocked us at the same time so we passed the time of day, but they didn’t seem to want to stop as they had only started from Seven Springs and wanted to get going. It appeared that they had done a completely different route and had sent a pack forward in a taxi so we weren’t really sure what their plans were. They were nicknamed John and Mary.

After a sharp pull onto Charlton Kings Common, the path flattened out and gave easy walking with good views to Cheltenham. We soon arrived at Leckhampton Hill and after deciding we didn’t have the time or inclination to find the Devil’s Chimney set off downhill where we spied John and Mary in the distance.


View from Charlton Kings Common

We closed the gap by the time we got to the lane and walked with them for about the next mile or so. They were a bit slower than us and I was a little frustrated that on the road and good tracks we were passing along we needed to go faster to achieve our goal. They mentioned that they stopped every 2 hours and normally at a tea room. As a potential cafe was nearby at Ullenwood I hoped they would stop. However, Rachel had enjoyed the chat with them as we walked along, but then she is the more sociable one out of us. They didn’t stop so we said we would crack on and left them to their amble. The heat was building and we passed other walkers who had stopped in the shade to rest. About another mile on we decided to stop ourselves, the distance to Crickley Hill being just that bit too far. The Trailblazer guide says that there is no café here but there is and was very popular. We had decided to stop either there or the Air Balloon pub but having pulled up short we decided to give the café a miss and aim for the pub for the next stop. But first we sat at the side of the path, on the outskirts of Crickley Hill and refuelled. Some of the walkers overtook us again but some didn’t and we didn’t see them again so we can only imagine they were taking a more relaxed approach.

We had been sitting in the sun which was very warm but we were soon entering some woodland which gave us some respite. It was very busy on Crickley Hill with all the day trippers, and why not, it was a glorious day – if you weren’t walking! We skirted the hill top and began our descent to the busy road where the Air Balloon is situated. We managed to find a table out of the sun and purchased lashings of hop juice and a bowl of chips. As it was so hot and a long day, I had been determined to have something non-alcoholic but at the bar the words just didn’t come out right. So with great determination I had to force the liquid down, which went all the way down to my legs where it sat for the next couple of miles. John and Mary passed us while we were in the pub but we didn’t see them again, perhaps they got stuck in a tea room somewhere.


Crickley Hill

We set off once more on the undulating path to The Peak before dropping down to Birdlip. It was on this day that we realised just how much woodland walking there was and this was to set the pattern for the next few days. The path through the woods undulated unremittingly as we embarked on our last 7 odd miles of the day. We had made good progress and it was only early afternoon. We were hot, very hot but we still had enough water and the end was in sight. The very steep and long undulations in the wood sapped our energy but every step was a step closer to our goal.


Woods near Birdlip

We had decided to stop before we got to Coopers Hill but couldn’t find anywhere suitable until a stone wall appeared and we decided it would make an ideal seat. Even in the shade of the wood the temperature was rising so we decided to move on to Coopers Hill where we saw a deer at the base, perhaps he was looking for the cheese that they roll down each year. It is insanely steep and we could certainly appreciate how so many people get injured in the race. We skirted round and then up to the top to look down the precipice.


Deer on Coopers Hill


Looking up Coopers Hill


View from Coopers Hill

After this interlude we carried on through the woods (yet more huge undulations) before ultimately coming out at Cranham Corner. Another stop was in order and so we found a fallen tree to sit on and had our last food of the day, the larder was bare. It was pretty precarious on the log and so we didn’t stay long just long enough to air our feet just one last time. We climbed slightly up to Painswick Beacon before the gentle descent into Painswick. The last couple of miles we had done at speed but as we entered the town we slowed significantly.

Our B&B was directly on the route and on the near side of town, so was ideal. We found it without issue and were welcomed in. We had survived but were knackered. Our bodies had held up well. We were tired and we ached everywhere and our feet were sore but no blisters. It had been a mental challenge and we had to dig deep and get our heads round what we had to accomplish, especially when out in the hot sun. We each had a dribble of water left so that meant 2.5 litres and a pint of beer consumed over the day. Our strategy of little and often rest stops, eating something each time and taking our socks and boots off saved the day and is a well proven tactic of ours. Even with multiple stops we were in Painswick by 4pm, not bad really and we were rightly chuffed.

We had a chance to properly unwind before going for our evening meal which was just down the road. We both decided that we were due a full change of clothing so other than the odd bit of washing; everything went in to our dirty bag ready for a proper wash when we got home. The room was nicely cool but this didn’t help my socks dry so I ended up hanging then off my pack the next day to get them fully dry. We went to the pub and also the local convenience store to stock up for lunch the next day, before returning for an early night. We didn’t sleep particularly well as Rachel had restless legs and kept moving about – perhaps the adrenaline was still pumping.


Just a small one, at The Royal Oak Painswick


Troy House Painswick


Troy House Painswick

Accommodation – Troy House (B&B)

Denise is a good host and being a Geordie is very friendly.

The room is in a separate building, the other side of the garden and has been created to a very high standard. Everything is how you would want it, high quality furnishings, a good welcome tray and bathroom cosmetics. There was also a fridge with various items we could purchase with an honesty box. The room was a little cool but after our day we didn’t care. She did ask whether we wanted the heating on but we declined. We were asked in the evening what cooked breakfast we wanted and what time, so everything was ready when we turned up. There was also a banana each for us to take away which was a nice touch.

Score – 10/10

Evening meal – The Royal Oak

In Painswick you have a choice of 2 pubs. Both are owned by the same people and the menus are very similar. We decided on The Royal Oak as it was more of a pub than a bistro pub. We sat outside in a fully enclosed yard/courtyard behind the pub which was a little unkempt but there were about 20 locals in there having a good time, which was a good sign. We managed to get one of the last tables and ordered our meals. We found the menu rather limited and rather bistroey and a tad expensive for the surroundings but the food and service was very good.

Score – 8/10

 

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