Thursday, 12 March 2015

Walking the Winchcombe Way

This was one that had been on the waiting list for a while. With spring in the air (just), Neil and I met on a Friday afternoon at a farm just outside Winchcombe where we were permitted to camp. The Way comprise two loops like a figure of eight with Winchcombe in the middle so tents could be left in situ. We pitched in a rather rough paddock, overlooked by a couple of nearby sheep.

We headed into the village and had a meal and drink at The Corner Cupboard to catch up generally and plan the walking the next day. Next morning, were were off at 8 o'clock, joining the nearby Gloucestershire Way which we followed for a while before continuing south east into Guiting Wood and then heading north to Temple Guiting, past the pub at Ford (where we didn't go in), through Cutsdean and Taddington and on to Snowshill where we had a bite to eat and a pint of Donningtons at The Snowshill Arms. Then on through Buckland, Laverton and on to Stanton and Stanway, both beautiful Cotswold villages. Between these two, we encountered some horrendous mud.

Through Wood Stanway and Hailes we arrived back in Winchcombe, about twenty miles covered. Neil had to head back home unexpectedly so packed up and left.

Next morning, I set off early to start the second loop of the Way, leaving Winchcombe westwards following the Gloucestershire Way/Wychavon Way, the route of which is shared by the Winchcombe Way for a while. I was a bit short of food to see me through the day so hoped to find somewhere open. There was nothing obvious at Gretton, the village shop at Alderton was closed on Sundays, as was the tearoom at Dumbleton. Nevertheless, the walking was good, although not very strenuous. I encountered a dilapidated stile at one point where it was easier to go under it rather than over.

At Dumbleton, my eye was caught, passing by the church, by the grave of Patrick Leigh Fermor who had lived here and spent his later life here.

Still no sign of food but after a muddy trudge across some fields, the Way took me literally through the garden of the Hobnails Inn at Little Washbourne. It being Sunday, the choice of food was a bag of crisps or full carvery. It's tough, backpacking.

Skirting the village of Prescott (famous for the nearby Prescott Hill Climb) about which I know next to nothing but I read quite a bit about it some years ago in one of the three volumes of autobiography of L T C Rolt, who lived in the nearby hamlet of Stanley Pontlarge, he being known for a book, Narrow Boat, about his life on the canals in the 1940s and subsequently being one of the founders of the Inland Waterways Association, amongst other things. From Prescott, there was a stiff climb of about three quarters of a mile up to Nottingham Hill. Here, the hitherto reasonable weather then deteriorated and I was hit by strong winds and heavy rain. At the B4632 crossing, instead of doing a loop of Cleeve Common, I took the easy road walk of a couple of miles into Winchcombe and so back to base, by which time the weather had, of course, improved.

It was a good weekend though and there are plenty of options for return trips to the Winchcombe area.

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