June 5, 2013
Today dawned cloudy, which was a good thing in a way because the sun had been rather hot for the last couple of days. After a full English breakfast without sausages(!) we packed up and were on our way. Rather than climbing back up to Leckhampton Hill, we were following an alternate route (provided by our host Chris) which would have us joining the Cotswold Way after it had partially descended from the escarpment. This suited all of us quite well.
Once again Christine had headed out early, so the rest of us started along Church Street. When we came to the place where we were to turn off, we couldn’t see Christine at all. So Neil showed us on our map the route we needed to take and went off looking for her. The alternate route went pleasantly along a lane through farms, climbing gently upwards. First we pass a field of sheep where there was a large white bird which turned out to be a white peacock. Next we went through some white iron gates which used to be the entrance to one of Cheltenham’s 19th-century spas. And finally we climbed up through some horse fields to join the Way as it turned towards Crickley Hill.
From here we walked along a shaded tree-line path through a plantation, and when we reached the Iron Age fort at Crickley Hill we had a good view to the west. However because the skies were still overcast we couldn’t see as far as the Welsh mountains. Down below was Gloucester, with the cathedral in the middle and a “Dry Ski Run” on a hill just beyond it.
The trail followed the escarpment to Birdlip Hill and then once again we were walking along forest tracks with the forest floor carpeted with wild garlic. This was a very pleasant way to cover the miles. After leaving the wood we had to cross the A417 where it met the A436 at a roundabout. This required crossing two lanes of traffic coming round a blind corner into the roundabout, and eventually we managed it. This was probably the most dangerous place on the Way.
After the road junction we turned into another wood. This was the messiest part of the walk so far because a part of the wood was being harvested, making the track very muddy in places. Our next climb was up to Cooper’s Hill. It is on this hill on the May bank holiday weekend that a cheese-rolling competition is held. They roll a wheel of cheese town the hill and people chase after it, trying to catch it. The climb up the hill is very steep and when we looked down where the competition takes place we agreed that those people must be crazy. We decided to have our lunch at the top of the hill, and when the other groups who we had been meeting all the time for the last few days arrived they looked at us as if we had taken the best lunch spot.
Once again our route went through a series of beech woods, and now our waymarks informed us that we were on the Gustav Holst Way. We decided not to walk to the aggressive rhythms of “Mars” from The Planets, opting for something more lyrical like “Jupiter”. (The part about three minutes into the movement, not the part at the beginning which would have us bounding along like kangaroos!) Soon we reached something completely different—the Painswick Golf Course. The golfers at the ninth hole waited for us to pass before teeing off.
At the top of the course was Painswick Beacon, which was originally an Iron Age fort and had been modified by quarrying and then by having strange golf holes built on it. We climbed the steps to the trig point to look at the views, which were very good because now the sky was blue and the sun shone brightly. Descending, we passed a limestone quarry where they were actively excavating and the rest of the golf course, and then we were in the outskirts of Painswick. We followed the Gloucester Road down into the town until we reached St. Anne’s B&B, where we would spend the night.
It was now almost 3:30 pm, which was a nice time to arrive. We were served tea and a toasted crumpet, then shown to our room. It was a very nice room with an irregular floor (only to be expected in a house which dates back to at least the 17th century) and the shower worked very well. After settling in, we headed out to explore the village. Painswick is quite small and compact so it didn’t take long to walk around it. At St. Mary’s church we looked at the 99 yew trees, which had been there for quite a long time. Legend has it that if a 100th tree is planted, it dies because the devil won’t let it grow.
At 7 pm we went out for dinner at the Falcon Inn, which had been recommended by our B&B hostess. The food was very good, but because it was cooked from scratch it took quite a while for our meals to arrive.