The morning was sunny and clear; the breakfast at Shenberrow Hill, delightful. So, filled with autumnal esprit, we returned to The Mount Inn to take in the view of Stanton before meandering through this perfect village. The church, St. Michael’s and All Angels, was open and we snooped around. On emerging, we noted that the local newsagent had left the village’s dailies upon the porch bench; a cursory flick through revealed nothing other than Telegraphs!
We had put off the start of the day’s walk long enough! In perfect conditions, we headed SSW through the villages of Stanway and Wood Stanway before climbing back onto the Cotswold ridge to reach the iron-age fort at Beckbury Camp. Near the fort is an odd stone monument known as Cromwell’s Seat – Thomas Cromwell reputedly sat here and watched Hailes Abbey being razed to the ground as part of the dissolution of the monasteries during the 1540s.
The path from The Seat down to The Abbey took us through a shady glade. At Hailes, we decided to have a break and take a look at what remained of Cromwell’s demolition. As members of The National Trust, this proved to be gratifyingly cheap! The morning had remained warm and sunny. Although the Abbey is but ruins, with the help of our audio guides, it wasn’t difficult imagining how it might have been in the 15th century.
Forward 600 years – and on to Winchcombe! The town’s stone buildings along the High Street were of a monochrome cream, less beguiling than the honey-hued stone of the villages further north. Having said that, The White Hart Inn looked more than welcoming – we availed ourselves of their speciality: bangers and mash! As we left Winchcombe, we turned left and south into Vineyard St; the prosaic decor of the High Street gave way to rural idyll.
Crossing the River Isbourne, we climbed away from Winchcombe, beyond the village’s cricket club and back upto the Cotswold Ridge. It was sunny; it was hot; it was hard work! So, sweating and cursing, we came upon the amazing barrow of Belas Knap -5,500 years old! It’s the best part of three cricket pitches long and over five metres high! The CW continued through a beautiful wooded dell; this seems to be evocatively known as Breakheart Plantation on the OS map; we sat on a log and soaked in the calm solitude whilst draining the contents of our Thermos.
Once again, we crossed the River Isbourne by way of a pretty wooden bridge.
From here it was a slow climb up to Cleeve Hill Common, passing the ugly walls of Postlip Hall. On the higher ground, before reaching Postlip, we could still see Winchcombe basking in the late afternoon sun. It seemed that our afternoon walk thus far had taken us five eighths of a circle – south, then west, and finally north. On Cleeve Hill Common, cyclists, horse riders, walkers, and golfers all mingled with the sheep; a whole host of humans and livestock determined to enjoy the last vestiges of summer.
From here we dropped down to The Cleeve Hill House Hotel (now simply The Cleeve Hill Hotel – 2021), tucked underneath the common on the busy B4632. The hotel did not provide an evening meal, but the proprietress recommended a local establishment, The Rising Sun. This was but a short walk along the main road; however, we went the back way, over the lower slopes of the common. The Rising Sun proved to be a large, soulless pub; unlike its namesake in New Orleans, this establishment would be unlikely to tempt one to impecuniousness and ruin. But let’s be fair! It provided good food at a reasonable price and with sparkling service. Our walk back to the hotel was in the dark along the B4632 – noisy, but completely clear of sheep’s droppings!