Saturday, 2 June 2012

Cotswold Way - Day 5 - Birdlip to Haresfield Beacon

After a couple of weeks off, back on the Cotswold Way trail.  It's a beautiful day as I leave Birdlip, stopping only to apply sun lotion because it's a hot sunny day today.  The start of the walk is through Witcombe Wood and it's a lovely area.  There's isn't much to look at but there is plenty to hear.  The birdsong seems to be amplified by the lack of other people in the wood, and there are squirrels aplenty, along with a few rabbits.   It's easy walking and I don't see anyone for a couple of miles.  When I do, there's a couple of older men, then a single walker, then a group of five women, all within a few minutes. 

At a distance the five women all seem to be older, retired women, resting up ahead and taking in the view, a bit of a rare thing in these woods.  It's only as I get closer that I realise that four of them are older retired women and one is younger and blind.  They have stopped to rest and are sorting out who's turn it is to lend a guiding arm to the blind woman.  The light tone of the conversation makes it clear that they each want to be of help and that they are in no way reluctant to help.  It's a very beautiful thing to have witnessed.

Cooper's Hill soon follows, famous for the annual cheese rolling event that takes place there each May Day Bank Holiday, though in this Jubilee year it will be taking place a week later.  Which means next week people will be running down this slope chasing a Double Gloucester cheese.  Look at the slope and how steep it looks from the bottom.

However steep you reckon it is, it's even steeper when you look at it from the top, a gradient of 1 in 2.  My climb up to the top is less direct than that but it's plenty steep enough.  The path just below the cottage in the picture is where I took the other shot from.  I wouldn't even want to walk down this slope, let alone pursue dairy produce down it.  I sit at the top, a little breathless, and treat myself to an orange and more water.  It's recorded as 100% humidity today, so even without being in direct sunlight the whole time, it's energy sapping.   

More woods which, in all honesty get a bit dull after a while, views being occasional but then out to Painswick Beacon.  This was a picnic spot of choice when I was a kid (though the choice of my parents rather than me, to be honest).  Fond memories though, yet I don't remember very much of it.  I remember the spot we picnicked in, which turns out to be very close to the Beacon, so I must have seen a great deal more of it today than ever before.  What I don't see is many people on the golf course.  Whereas Cleeve Common was heaving in very windy weather, Painswick has two lone golfers to offer in all, despite the sunshine.   A great view from the Beacon though, and the showers that were promised, threatened but came to nothing. 

Painswick itself brings the chance to sit in the churchyard with another bottle of water, a sandwich and a well-deserved (according to me) Twix.  The churchyard is said to possibly have the finest collection of table top tombs in Britain and these are surrounded by 99 yew trees.  All very well, but it plays havoc with your sight lines when you are trying to photograph the place. 

There's a lovely descent from Painswick but you pay for it with a long tough climb up to the top of Scottsquar Hill.  I sit at the road having climbed the best part of a hundred metres and contemplate whether I am goimng to be sick or not.  As I sit in the low stone wall of the Edgemoor Arms I wonder if I am going to throw up.  A van driver, waiting at the junction looks like he thinks something much more serious might happen but in that English way we both have I roll my eyes, he smiles sympathetically and then he drives on to leave me to it.  Both of us are probably glad that no fuss was made.  Even then, after crossing the road, there is more climbing to be done and I use the last of my water, save a mouthful, to get there.

There are a few more ups and downs to get through but that's the worst of it.  Haresfield Beacon is a welcome sight and the topograph (I'm a sucker for those things), and the great view a bonus.  It's been a tough day, the toughest by far, but I am now half way through my journey.  For now, an easy amble (a little further along the Cotswold Way to the National Trust car park at the edge of Standish Wood, tomorrow on to Uley Bury.   

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