Monday, 25 June 2012

The Cotswold Way - Day 8 - Wotton under Edge to Old Sodbury

Today's adventure starts early in the hope that I can get back in time for the glamour tie of Holland v Germany in the Euros and so I catch a bus from Chipping Sodbury (where I have parked) to the start point of Wotton under Edge.  The bus goes all round the houses to get there but it gives me the chance to survey the general landscape and it's pretty apparent that it's a lot flatter than I am used to on the Cotswold Way so far.  It's isn't the sort of thing that I would normally pay much attention to but here on the walk this sort of thing takes on a greater significance!  The bus terminates yards from where I need to start walking and, after a brief detour to see the almshouses that were locked for the night when I finished here last time, I am on my way. 

The route through Wotton is easy enough and pretty clearly marked.  In fact they have bright blue signs which boldly and proudly proclaim the route and it's the best signage I've come across so far.  Through the church yard at Wotton and then along a path beside a stream and it makes for a very gentle start to the day before heading steeply uphill though a narrow path lined with tall stinging nettles.  Time to retreat and zip the bottom half of my trousers on. 

This hill, which becomes less severe once I hit the road, is the worst of it today and while it's hard work, it's also the start of a stage, which makes a difference.  It's here that I meet a great Canadian couple who have started from Wotton and are aiming to get to Little Sodbury.  Ken and Karen are walking the section from Painswick to Bath and are even newer to this walking game than I am.  I have to smile at Karen's distress at having to walk through mud and her glee at finding a puddle to wash her boots off a little.  With about ten miles still to walk it seems a little early to worry about such things.  I walk with them a little of the way and then they head off as I stop to take yet more photographs.  The views at the top are excellent and the sun is out and I've taken off a layer and just wearing two tee-shirts, which is how it stays for the rest of the day. 

Further proof of their inexperience follows as they miss a sign about a hundred yards from where I am taking pictures and they end up walking down a hill that they then have to walk back up again.  I manage to wave them back to where they need to be and they are following me at a distance.  They are probably the only two walkers I have encountered who walk more slowly than me (though I do feel that I am quicker than when I started this) and so I fgure I won't be seeing them again. 

There is a long, steep descent through woodland after this, which makes me glad that I am walking south rather than north but it is still very beautiful.  Then over open fields and looking back there is a great view of Wortley Hill and even more impressively, given the summer we have had, glorious blue sky. 

By the time I reach Hawkesbury Upton I am ready for a brief detour to the local hostelry having eaten my sandwiches up near the Somerset Memorial.  The Beaufort Arms serves a good pint and I end up on a table next to an Australian couple who are, rather heroically, doing the whole of the Cotswold Way in seven days.  They leave and their table is taken by Ken and Karen who have loved their walk but are calling it a day.  And why not?  It's all about enjoying the journey.  They are happy to enjoy a couple of drinks and enthuse about the walk and give themselves extra time before they walk again tomorrow.  Or they won't, depending on how they feel.

On hearing their story, I am surprised to find that they booked the walking holiday on a whim, just two weeks ago to the day.  They hadn't done any training for it and they aren't walkers.  She is 58 and he is 72 and they play some golf so figured, how hard can it be?  So they booked plane tickets and joined up with a company that arranges bag transfer along the route and stepped out.  Respect is due.  No wonder I walk a bit faster than them. 

After a couple of pints I know that if I don't get up and walk soon I won't feel like starting again so I wish them well and retrace my steps to where I left the trail.  The walking is very easy at this point and it is the terrain rather than the effects of the very good Spa ale, though beer tastes so much better if you have walked nearly eight miles to get to the pub.  There are poppies poking through, a sight that I always love. 

Past Horton Court and the lovely views from there and I am very soon in Little Sodbury.  It's here that I visit my second church because this is where William Tyndale attended church (although the building was elsewhere in the village then) and decided that he was going to translate the Bible into English.  I wonder if it was because the priest was doing such a good job or a bad one of preaching the Bible?

I promise that I won't go off on another one about Tynedale.  The church is quite pretty and there is a great sentiment on the lectern in the pulpit.  Tynedale is remembered with some strained glass, a little booklet, his figure is carved into the pulpit, there's a page of his translation framed on the wall and there's a great big sign about him outside too.  All well and good.     

However.  Bizarrely, and I promise that I didn't know this when I wrote up day 7, they appear to use the Tynedale translation (with original spellings) in their worship still today, nearly 500 years later.  Why?  I'll leave it at that.  New readers are referred to my previous rant / post about Day 7

A short sharp climb follows, up to Sodbury Camp, which is the site of an old Iron Age fort, covering 10 acres.  High on the hill it is the perfect vantage point for spotting potential enemies as they approached on the A46.  From there it's an easy walk down into Old Sodbury.  There's a moment or two of confusion as I try and follow the instruction about what to do when I reach the tall sycamore, all the time not having a clue what a sycamore looks like.  Just as I am in danger of missing the path by no more than 50 yards, a woman tending to her horses puts me right and I am soon at the point in Old Sodbury where the route crosses the main road.  

Here I must leave the Cotswold Way to turn right and walk another couple of miles into Chipping Sodbury.  I note that the bus into Chipping Sodbury is on this junction and more by accident than design I see that the last bus is due in two minutes.  I wait fifteen before giving up.  It races past three minutes later.  Nevermind.  The terrain is flat and it's still dry.  It doesn't take too long to walk and I manage to get home in time to watch the whole of the Germany v Holland game.  I can now look forward to two more days walking before I reach my goal, Bath Abbey.  They are walks of 9 miles and 10 miles and I plan to do them consecutively in early July.  Can't wait!    


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