Cotswold Way

Thoughts on the walk

The people we met were great, without exception which was really good as we have met some right characters on previous walks. The availability of overnight stops and the ability to purchase provisions is very good; we never had to buy several days’ worth of food as we had on some walks. The scenery in certain areas is chocolate box quality and we loved some of the villages, my favourite being Stanton.

With any walk, so much of the enjoyment depends on the weather and very few walkers enjoy walking in the rain. However, we found that the heat is just as bad in its own way. We have all had the odd hot day during a walk but we had wall to wall sunshine and very high temperatures for the whole walk. As the mileages crept up so our stamina drained. Ascents became literally a plod, as if we were climbing Kilimanjaro with little oxygen, ‘Pole Pole’ (slowly, slowly) as the locals in Africa would say. Some hours we were struggling to average just 2 miles an hour, our bodies just couldn’t take it. Our legs held up well and weren’t a problem, it was just the heat taking all our breath away as soon as we got to an incline. Other people took the option, part way through the walk, to have their bags taxied onwards which would have made a huge difference.

There are quite a few opportunities to stop for drinks or food on route which is unusual for a LDP so we took the opportunity when we needed to; there is a limit to how many litres of water you can sensibly carry.

Overall we felt this walk was a bit of a strange one. We thought it would be very similar to the South Downs Way, in that predominantly it would be a ridge walk with occasional ascents and descents, albeit steep. In practice it was nothing like it. There is a huge amount of woodland walking, which if you like that sort of thing then great. Consequently, views can be few and far between and a sense of general direction can be difficult to comprehend, and this (for us) at a time when the leaves were only just coming out. It was very pretty with all the wild garlic, bluebells and woodland flowers but after a few days it can get a bit monotonous.

The terrain is far hillier than we expected, which also caught other people out. It was the steepness and the unrelenting undulations, especially through the woods, that took us by surprise. When I mean undulations, we are talking very steep sections that went straight up and then straight back down again before repeating the process many, many times a day. I can’t remember any walk we have ever done throughout the UK, across the highlands and the lakes that have been that tough.

One major gripe is the way the trail has been designed from a route point of view. It seemed that the authorities had decided to take the route to almost every piece of high ground in the area and each and every point of interest, whether warranted or not. The constant unnecessary loops, alternative routes (why) and cut backs on yourself were frustrating, any logical straightening of the route was ignored. It was these things that were talked about the most and no one we spoke to about it thought it was a well-planned route. In fact more than one person/group were cutting out parts of the walk as they found it irrelevant or not logical.

So would we do it again? No, been there done that. I would revisit all our previous walks for one reason or another, even the Dales Way which was a washout. It might well have been the hot weather that clouded our judgement but even if the conditions were perfect for walking, the negatives would still be there as detailed above. I feel that it is more a collection of day walks that have been cobbled together to create a LDP rather than (as Wainwright did for the C2C) draw a line and say how can I logically get from A to B in the most sensible way.

It was good to see another part of the country and I don’t regret doing the walk. We didn’t get any blisters which was absolutely amazing bearing in mind most days we could wring our socks out. It was good to be outside and breathing fresh air day after day and to be doing another LDP after a 4 year gap. It hasn’t put me off doing another walk but I think we will probably head north next time and get back to the hills and moors we both love.

 

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