Another clear, windless day.
We had eaten so well on the evening before, that all we really wanted for breakfast was toast. But our hosts were determined to provide value for money, so we ended up having a bacon sandwich and scrambled egg on toast. We spent some time chatting with the family running this village inn. They had been at The Black Horse for 18 months or so, and were obviously finding it an uphill struggle to turn around its fortunes. The scaffolding was testament to their determination; they were clearly proud of the fact that in two day’s time, the scaffolding would come down and the inn’s appearance would match their ambitions.
Our gluttony was immediately put to the test by a steep climb up to the Tyndale Monument. The scholar and theologian (his translation of the New Testament was the first to be printed in English) was born locally and certainly spent some of his formative years in Nibley. I counted 121 steps up the monument itself, and the views from the top were wonderful in the early morning. There was an eerie preponderance of wailing sirens, and whilst I was on the top of the monument, a helicopter strafed the woodlands around. What was happening in this sleepy backwater?
We descended from the monument through the beech of Westridge Wood, and were soon on Wooton Hill with its unusual, atmospheric monument in celebration of victory at Waterloo. From there, we tumbled down in to the small town of Wooton-under-Edge. We spent some time in town, having a sit down in the coffee shop in Long Street, visiting the almshouse (and its tiny chapel), and wandering through the churchyard of St. Mary the Virgin.
Our leisurely meandering came to a rude end, with a steep climb up steps to gain the Cotswold escarpment once again at Blackquarries Hill. By now, the bright morning with its gossamer of high cloud, had given way to overt blue skies and warm sunshine. We were soon being overtaken by Jamie from Oxford, but we hung on to his coattails as far as Wortley. Long enough to discover that Jamie was a new father, who had taken a few day’s break from parenthood to reflect and recharge; a reminder to us new grandparents of the lightning strike life-changing impact of the first child!
We stopped for lunch in the village of Alderley, having found a shady bench (weird that we should be seeking shade in October). Sandwiches and cake bought in Wooton were enough to slow our afternoon progress. We didn’t have to go far, but the walk along the valley of a clear, fast-flowing stream as far as Lower Kilcott, and then the gradual climb to Hawkesbury Upton, seemed to be hard work. The end of our day’s amble was marked by another imposing monument; this one was built during the 19th century to the memory of General Lord Robert Somerset.
It was only a few hundred yards from the monument to Coombe Farm, our place of rest for Sunday night. Those that take B&B at the farm are accommodated in an independent block of 3 rooms. Our hostess was out, but had left keys in the door of one of the 3 rooms. The problem was that our baggage was not in the room; we could see the rucksack through the glass door to one of the other rooms, but it was locked! Julia was about to shimmy through an open window when we discovered a young man working on the farm. He contacted family, and we were soon reunited with rucksack.
We walked about half-a-mile to the local pub, The Beaufort Arms. It was Sunday evening, but the place was heaving! We fortunately found a table; we ate extremely well (chilli con carne, fish pie) and experienced a new local brew – Severn Vale’s Dursley Steam Bitter. The walk home was cool under a clear sky. No indication of the rough weather to come!