Sunday, 23 August 2009

A Cotswold weekend

With a good weather forecast and no-one else at home, I thought I'd go off for a couple of days. I left work at lunchtime and, with a light pack, headed from home into the southern tip of Warwickshire, joining the Donnington Way at Little Compton. This is a 62 mile trail linking the pubs belonging to the Donnington brewery. I won't have time for all of it (or to call at all the fifteen pubs) but I'll have a decent walk, probably returning home on Sunday evening. From Little Compton, the route passed through Barton-on-the-Heath and then west towards and alongside the Fire Service College at Moreton-in-Marsh. At Moreton, I called in at the Black Bear for an excellent pint of Donningtons BB. From there, I prepared an evening meal in a field and then continued towards Blockley. Near Batsford, I startled a herd of about 150 deer. Light was fading so I looked for somewhere to spend the night in Park Plantation. This was on Monarch's Way. I was surprised to find a couple already pitched here. It really is easy to wild camp in the south of Éngland if you leave it late. Knowing it was unlikely to rain, I packed no tent or tarp, just a sleeping bag and bivy bag. I rolled these out close to the edge of the wood and was asleep pretty quickly. I slept reasonably well; to save weight, I'd brought a closed cell foam mat but the Thermarest would have been more comfortable.

Blockley early morning

Setting off at 6.10am, I continued along Monarch’s Way through Blockley, the main part of which is Cotswold at its beautiful best, money, and lots of it, evident from the size and quality of the old cottages and houses, all lovingly maintained. The route then went through Broad Campden and then Chipping Campden. From here I went up to Dover’s Hill on the Cotswold Way with far reaching views from the escarpment, the northernmost edge of the Cotswolds. I brewed some coffee here whilst enjoying the vista.

I continued along The Mile Drive on the Cotswold Way down to the café at Broadway Tower, meeting again my friend Kim, who I’d last seen on my LEJOG when she kindly allowed me to camp there. Fortified with a pot of tea and a generous slice of chocolate fudge cake, I made my way down through Snowshill (which featured in the film Bridget Jones’ Diary)

and then down through the hamlet of Taddington, then Cutsdean, Ford and Temple Guiting. Harvesting was going on everywhere. At Kineton, I took a path south-west and joined the Wardens’ Way into Guiting Power, through Naunton where, just south a bit, I followed the Windrush Way almost into Bourton-on-the-Water. Light was fading so I found myself a soft spot of grassy ground beside a hedge and spent a peaceful night.

Up at 5.45am, I was on my way shortly after and it was surprising how many people were about in Bourton, even at that time. From here, field paths and quiet lanes took me the three miles or so to Sherbourne where I headed eastwards through water meadows to the village of Windrush. Crossing the River Dikler here, I followed footpaths and bridleways northwards through Great Rissington, Little Rissington and then Wyck Rissington where I joined the Oxfordshire Way. Passing through Gawcombe and then Bledington and Kingham, I was home at 5pm having walked a total of 57 miles.

This was my first outing using just a bivy bag, an Alpkit Hunka, an excellent piece of kit which until now I've only used to make sure my down bag remains dry under the tarp. Having no tarp this time meant that I was able to move off much more quickly in the mornings, as it often has to be dried either from rain or condensation. Also, the walking day was structured differently. I tended to be away earlier, I would stop in the evening between 6-7pm and prepare a meal and I would then walk another couple of hours until it started to get dark and then find somewhere unobtrusive to spend the night. However, with a bivy, even though it's red, it's not nearly as conspicuous as a tent or tarp. Definitely an experience to be repeated and could add an extra to a tarping trip as, particularly when rain isn't expected, I wouldn't necessarily need to put the tarp up.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Fairport's Cropredy Convention

Just arrived - 1.15pm. It's going to be a long day but should be good. Plenty of food opportunities and excellent music.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Walking plans

I'm beginning to look ahead a bit and schedule in some backpacking trips. First up - I find I have the weekend after next to my self (to which I can probably add a day). I have a choice of some rather good walks that would take three days or so. There's the Donnington Way (61 miles), the Cotswold Ring (55 miles) and the North Cotswold Diamond (60 miles).

Next April, I'm hoping to latch on to a friend's already planned walk from Banbury to Bath, 86 miles along the Macmillan Way Cross Cotswold Pathway. I'm also planning a coast to coast walk some time next year. This is the North of England Way from Ravenglass to Scarborough - I think it's 206 miles.

Before then I'm off down to Devon at the end of this month with a Backpackers Club walk from Ivybridge to Okehampton, south to north over Dartmoor, three nights wild camping.