The day’s walk would be dominated by woodland: a) Short Wood with its ancient beeches, on the way to Crickley Hill with its Belted Galloway cattle and its ancient settlement.
b) The Scrubbs, on the descent down from Crickley Hill to the busy roundabout on the A417, with its attendant public house, The Air Balloon. A rare piece of poor time management found us arriving at this point before opening time. We climbed alongside the major road for a few hundred yards, and we realised why so few people were out walking – they were all incarcerated in their “Prisons on the Road”! I have no idea why the A417 was so clogged-up mid-morning in the middle of nowhere.
c) Around the Peak near Birdlip, an old Neolithic camp, and more recently, the site of a radar jammer employed during The Second World War with the aim of protecting Bristol from Luftwaffe attacks . This is an atmospheric spot with limestone cliffs looming out of the woodland. We took a brief detour up the road to Birdlip in search of lunch. We followed the accepted wisdom of walking in single file up the right side of the road (facing oncoming traffic) and yet had to jump up repeatedly onto the narrow earth verge as oncoming driver after oncoming driver drove with aggression and lack of respect for those of us on foot. Having reached the hamlet of Birdlip, we discovered that The Royal George Hotel was totally closed for renovations. There was no attempt to provide a basic service; for example, there was no wench at the door to dispense ale from a ewer. Poor old Birdlip; scouting around, it seemed to have little in the way of public amenities – a nice ‘bus shelter……. and the aforementioned hotel. I’m sure that it has its good points but we were in no mood to try and discover them. Once again, we took our life into our own hands and scooted off back down the road to regain the comfort of the CW.
d) Witcombe Wood and Cooper’s Hill Wood. Having been thwarted at the only potential watering hole on today’s walk (given that The Air Balloon arrived too early in the day), we found a moss-covered wall, sat down, and discovered that we had filched enough for a decent lunch – cheese smuggled away from our meal on the previous evening at The Brown Jug, bananas slipped under the table at breakfast this morning, and some monster bags of crisps procured from The Rising Sun two days beforehand. The weather was wonderful – warm, still, with the sunlight filtered by a canopy of beech: a Laurie Lee moment! Walking on after our improvised meal, we spent the best part of three miles in this woodland, and whilst the sun shone, the play of light and shadow was captivating. But when the sun disappeared, the atmosphere was all too dull murky. Was it my imagination, but do the birds twitter less when the sun isn’t shining? One can probably have too much of this sylvan idyll. Do the men of the woods go mad in the same way as the people of the prairies, pining for a point of vantage?
e) Brockworth Wood, Upton Wood, and Buckholt and Rough Wood. These woods tumbled one after another as we descended from Cooper’s Hill. But before we continued our woody way, there was a small hiatus: we emerged from Cooper’s Hill Wood to open skies at a hamlet beneath the summit of Cooper’s Hill itself. The reassuring acorn signs seemed to have deserted us, probably because we had harboured such nasty thoughts about Birdlip. We saw a man toiling, seemingly hacking away at a limestone face to widen the access to his garage. We asked if we were still on The Cotswold Way. He confirmed that we were, and the ensuing conversation lead to Cooper’s Hill’s claim to fame – the cheese rolling races every Whitsun. Julia had read that these events had been banned due to their propensity to cause serious injury. But our interlocutor, glad of a rest from his terrible toil, proved that she had been misinformed. He produced his smart phone to show us video footage of the 2014 event. “T’crops ud fail if the race didn’t take place”. The Cotswold Way subsequently took us to the bottom of the field where the cheese-chasing takes place, and then via a despicable climb, we were given the privilege of a view of the same meadow from the top! The thought of rolling anything down that slope seemed suicidally daft; Julia quickly dispelled any ideas of training for next year’s ladies’ race.
Our day spent under a canopy of leaves came to an end at a golf course! Usually I am lukewarm at best when my meandering brings me to tees, greens and fairways. But today, the Painswick Golf Club gave us open vistas and springy turf – a real treat for our eyes and feet. The way over the course brought us up to the hill fort at Painswick Beacon. Our descent into the town of Painswick was slow and tetchy. Through weariness, we abandoned the idea of visiting the rococo gardens. The town was quiet in the late afternoon sun. The delicious homemade lemonade at Oliva’s gave us the spur to walk the last 30 metres of the day to Cardynham House, our place of rest for the night.
On a crossroads within the town, Cardynham House looks well established and indeed dates from 14th-15th century. It has an air of patched-up grandeur. Our room (no. 1 or “Medieval Garden”), looked over the crossroads, and boasted a four-poster bed! In the evening, we visited The Royal Oak, a traditional pub next door to Cardynham House, and enjoyed a “Rite Flanker” brewed by Wickwar Brewing Co. We dined at the bistro, at Cardynham House itself. This proved to be an excellent decision! Duck with chilli sauce,wild boar steak; followed by white chocolate and honeycomb ice cream!! We seem to be developing an ethos: if one is to ramble, replenish well!