First day walking: Cheltenham to Winchcombe 

Gentle rolling English hills are not so gentle when you’re climbing up, up and up again. As I left the town behind and entered my first field I was excited. There were sheep. I was in a field with sheep (so I’m not a country girl).

 At this point I already hit 10k Fitbit steps as it took nearly an hour walk through town to reach the official walk start. Then there were amazing views of the racetrack and nice locals walking their dogs.

 It’s a jumping course and the countryside is gorgeous. I couldn’t stop taking photos. The cloud cover did have me worried but I’m equipped with rain jacket and pants. Just hope I don’t have to wear them!

 But, back to the sheep. At this point the trail climbs. And it’s not a well-defined trail but rather very detailed directions I received from the tour company have me heading in the right direction. Instructions such as “climb the hill keeping the woods on your left until you reach a gate.”  Sometimes the path has been worn by other boots and way markers periodically point you in the right direction.

There are numerous walking companies for the Cotswolds and I’m using Cotswold Walks. I contacted several companies and chose them for their prompt emailed response, great reviews and overall customer service. The detailed walking booklet arrived in the States timely and contained great information and as I soon discovered – very detailed walking directions and maps. Lodging was arranged for me and my luggage is transferred daily. All I take is a day pack.

 I’ll admit. I was panting like a bellows through a field with cows and wondering when I would get the chance to walk simply flat land or heaven forbid descend. In the picture above I started way way down there. Way off to the left in the distance. Way over there.

After more fields, climbing and sheep I reached my favorite section of the day – Cleeve Common.  It’s a softly rolling vast field dotted with sheep and other walkers in the distance.

 It was also the first time my directions had me turning a 45 degree angle and simply walking across the field to a group of distant trees. Oh yeah, and sheep are messy. They poop. A lot. But are cute.

 From Cleeve Common I finally got my chance to descend!  The walk took me past abandoned farm buildings and old stone field walls. The land soon became arable farmland.  I wonder how long these farm walls have divided the fields.

 I also had joined the more common public walkways with more markers and signposts.  Definitely a bit easier to follow.

 This led me to Belas Knap, a 5000 year old Neolithic Long Barrow. It was also a great place to rest out of the wind and enjoy a snack.  Okay so I took shelter against the ceremonial wall behind which numerous skeletons were found. I don’t think they’d mind but just in case I did sprinkle some spring water on the ground.     From here it was back to crossing fields in “head diagonally across the field” fashion with the town of Winchcombe and its church tower serving as a beacon.

I was now only about 4 km to my destination so took a break in a field where go figure, I discovered I had data coverage on my phone. No service in Bath but a cow filled field had coverage.

I was still hours from B&B check in time but Sudeley Castle is on my way so I detoured for a bit of castle exploration. Below is Sudeley in the distance taken from my little break and zoomed in a bit.

 Old ruins of the tithing barn.

   Ruins of the banquet hall from Richard III time.

  The castle itself is in great condition and has been lovingly kept by the family who purchased it in the late 19th century. It’s still a private family home. I very much enjoyed my time there. But really looked forward to getting off my feet.

I soon found myself at 1 Silk Lane, a lovely bed and breakfast. My room is bright, clean and larger than last night.   The hostess also provided a very warm welcome and made me feel at home.

 After a fantastic hot bath with thoughtfully supplied muscle relief herbal bubble bath I again ventured out this time in search of food and drink.

A castle employee recommended Old Corner Cupbord Inn, a 300 or so year old cozy pub. It was a bit further than I really wanted to walk on my sore legs but off I went. It also gave me the chance to see more of the town.

Adorable cottages.  

Old church with time-worn gravestones.

And finally dinner.

Shockingly this is the weekday early bird special size. Only 7 pounds it’s a HUGE piece of deliciously fried cod, chips, smashed peas and salad. The fish is fantastic but believe it or not the salad was my favorite item! Delicious and seriously huge!  Yes. There was wine. The bartender even took pity on me and poured an extra-large glass. I love this place!

Yet again I’m reminded how people outside of London actually talk! Dog walkers chatted as they passed. Other walkers shared greetings. Pub patrons and employees welcomed newcomers with a smile and a story. People engage. Phones are put down and conversations happens. I’m just glad I have several more days yet to experience.

 

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