We awoke to grey skies and rain – we had miraculously had five consecutive days of dry weather. At breakfast, we met Julia and Malcolm from Northallerton walking CW like ourselves, but they had started a day later, and were arriving in Bath a day before us! They were unquestionably leaner and more experienced walkers than ourselves. We enjoyed our locally sourced breakfast, particularly Tom’s own honey.
We set off in wet but mild weather. We returned to The King’s Head and walked across King’s Stanley’s impressive playing fields to rejoin The Cotswold Way on its way south to Middleyard and Pen Hill. At this point we turned westwards, and luckily we were under the canopy of beech trees, keeping relatively dry through Stanley and Buckholt Woods. Unexpectedly, after walking along a hairy stretch of the busy B4066, the skies cleared as we reached Nympsfield Long Barrow. Indeed the views west from Coaley Peak were unusually sharp – there was blue sky to the south-west, and on the horizon, we could clearly make out the silhouette of The Blorenge and Sugar Loaf in The Brecon Beacons.
We descended into Coaley Woods, emerging into more open land at Hodgecombe Farm. We were impressed by the stand alone clump of Cam Long Down; we were less impressed by the fact that The Cotswold Way expected us to climb it! We accepted this docilely. We huffed and puffed up to a pocked and cratered ridge with great views over the M5 and The Severn – a big, fat, silver serpent – before descending helter-skelter to the town of Dursley. By now, the sun was shining; our wet weather gear was drying, and lunchtime was closing in. Our sense of well being was enhanced by the rolling, green pastureland, and the sight of an incongruously grand house to our left – built of local stone with ornate niches in its perimeter wall and ostentatiously tall chimneys ( I think that this is Chestal House).
Dursley itself seemed to be, on first impressions, a workaday small town, despite its grand parish church and ancient Market House. Dursley however, will always be associated in my mind with the wonderful oasis known as The Old Spot. A traditional pub, not of spit and sawdust but of unpolished table tops and sturdy benches. I had my first taste of Old Ric (from the nearby Uley Brewery) and will not forget it in a hurry. The food was beautifully prepared and presented ( Stilton and broccoli soup, a “doorstep” sandwich, fish cakes).
We emerged from The Old Spot into warm sunlight. Without respite, we were puffing steeply up to Stinchcombe Hill Golf Club; an uncomfortable climb on a full belly. The rest of our day’s journey was a pleasant, sun-splashed meander over meadow and pasture. As we entered North Nibley, where we planned to stay the night, we heard the characteristic shouts and cries of a Saturday afternoon football match. It was difficult to pick out what was happening through the hedge, but our ears told us that it was a hard fought game!
We arrived at The Black Horse Inn….but our baggage had not! The details that we held for Mark, the baggage carrying coordinator, were with the luggage! We remembered that Mark operated from The Volunteer Inn at Chipping Campden. The phone number of the pub was in our guide…the line was terrible despite having climbed up to a lay-by above the village where several villagers were also endeavouring to find a little bit of connectivity…but Mark wasn’t there. We then rang Shenberrow Hill, where we had stayed on Monday night….Angela, who had originally given us Mark’s details, passed on his mobile number to us. It transpired that our luggage had been delivered to Nibley House, an old, grand manor house on the edge of the village. Fortunately, this was little more than 150 metres from The Inn. Our bag was sitting in the porch; the lady of the house confessed that she had been curious as to the bag’s owner, and was worrying about where she might accommodate him/her/them!
The Black Horse Inn looked a mess – its exterior was being decorated, and hence was clad with scaffolding. But inside, it is an atmospheric pub with low beamed ceilings and walls that are the best part of three feet thick. Our room was clean and comfortable with TV and WiFi. Once again we ate well and as it was Saturday night, I not only tried a new beer – Wye Valley Brewery’s Butty Bach, but I also treated myself to a pint of Wickwar’s BOB.