Day One. Monday, 29th September, 2014. Chipping Campden to Stanton. 10.5 miles.

 

No ‘buses on a Sunday, and no railway station at Chipping Campden! Hence the overnight stop in Moreton. After a tasty breakfast at Acacia, the no. 21 was up and off before half-past nine. On the map Chipping Campden looks to be about 7 miles from Moreton. But the 21 had other ideas taking us through the chocolate box villages of Bourton-on-the-Hill, Blockley, and Broadway. This scenic route must have clocked up nearly 20 miles, and more than three-quarters of an hour. But it gave us an introduction to this pretty, undulating part of the world. And it’s hardly surprising that the ‘bus arrived a little late when the driver was not only the man at the controls, but social worker, trusted friend, and spiritual leader (blessing the cotton socks of all those with the correct change).

Chipping Campden marked the start of our walk. The ‘bus dropped us at the town hall; next to it is an unprepossessing stone stump which states “Cotswold Way: The Beginning and The End. Bath – 100 miles”. If we make Bath, I hope that we can take a selfie with something a bit more celebratory.

Easy to miss! The stump that is the official beginning and end
Easy to miss! The stump that is the official beginning and end

The meander through the High Street turned right, turned north and turned steep as we passed St Catherine’s Church. We were soon out of the village/town. It was misty and cool, but humid and without a breath of wind. The climb to Dovers Hill was quite hard. Having reached the trig point, we found the views west were still shrouded in mist. No chance of seeing the lumpy bits of Wales. Dovers Hill is part of a ridge which runs south-west, and our morning basically followed it to Broadway Tower, apparently the 2nd highest spot in the nebulous area that we call The Cotswolds.

Having reached Broadway Tower, we discovered that it was £4.80 per adult for the privilege of climbing it! Our tight-fistedness got the better of us. We descended from the tower to its eponymous village. We were familiar with Broadway, having passed through it on the ‘bus only a few hours beforehand; we were hungry and hence dived into the first eatery: The Horse and Hound. The meal was light and delicious – bread with hot Camembert dip, and nachos; Old Hooky from the Hook Norton Brewery slaked our thirst. Leaving the Horse and Hound behind, we meandered through the well manicured village. An ice cream vendor seemed to epitomise Broadway:  smart white jacket with lilac trim; impeccable manners, and well spoken to boot!

On the path to Shenberrow Hill
On the path to Shenberrow Hill

The afternoon had turned cloudy; the airless humidity persisted. It was a long climb out of Broadway, the ascent continuing nearly all the way to Shenberrow Hill – a distance of about three miles. The descent from here into Stanton was much more precipitous. We were somewhat apprehensive as there were young cattle in a wooded dell below the summit of Shenberrow; they were inquisitive, totally without timidity, and totally without aggression. As the path levelled out towards Stanton, our bolt hole for the night – Shenberrow Hill B & B – hove into view. What a beautiful location! Tucked away in a wooded fold in the lower reaches of the hill.  We were to be the night’s only guests and we had been allocated a spacious room with spacious bathroom!

Shenberrow Hill Fort
Shenberrow Hill Fort

The landlady, Angela, put us in contact with Mark at The Volunteer Inn back in Chipping Campden – as an off-shoot from running the inn, he coordinates the transfer of luggage along The Cotswold Way. I had a blistered heel after today’s ten-and-a-half miles of carrying all our gear; in the days ahead we would often have to cover thirteen-and a-half to fourteen miles a day; with heavy rucksacks, this might well be very uncomfortable. In addition, we had never been this old before! Mark offered to transfer our luggage for £10 per daily transfer; I bit his hand off!

In addition, Angela had booked us a table at The Mount Inn,  just around the corner from Shenberrow Hill. This was an intimate little country pub which could boast some breath-taking views over the village and beyond. Once again, the food was top drawer – we both had skate with a caper butter and al dente veg. Regrettably, I cannot remember much about The Mount’s beer, but I scribbled its name upon a beermat:  “SBA from The Donnington Brewery in Stow-on-the-Wold!”

The next day