The Cotswold Way - Day 9 - Old Sodbury to Pennsylvania
This old tree makes for great shelter in Doddington Park.
There are amber weather warnings issued for the day that I am due to walk Day 9 of my route but the plan is for completion on the last Friday/Saturday of my sabbatical, so there's no wriggle room. My game of chicken with the weather is well and truly lost and I must carry on regardless. My sister, under no such constraint bails out of walking with me but I don't blame her, and actually, it turns out for the best.
The original plan was to walk to Cold Ashton but the B&B is booked up and so I will be finishing a little earlier in Pennsylvania. It makes for a short walk. I could now complain about the conditions and research the rainfall but if you're living in Britain in 2012 you know what sort of a summer we're having. Suffice to say that it was wetter under foot here on Leg 9 than when I was walking back in April. I finished soaked through.
A couple of shots taken in light drizzle rather than steady rain. Both in Doddington Park.
The church building in Tormorton was a good place to repack my bag and eat an energy bar, say a prayer and resolve to move on and keep walking. They had a lovely carpet and I already have wet muddy boots so no chance to explore.
This is the last shot I took today, note the car headlights, windscreen wipers on, plenty of spray and gloom. All at lunchtime in July.
There is, however, a definate highlight that will stick with me long into the future. Shortly after walking over the bridge crossing the M4 motorway and walking the width of a field from it's traffic, I look up from the path to see a deer standing watching me not more than 25 or 30 yards away. We meet each others gaze for a few moments before he bounds off ahead of me and then crosses my path and takes off towards the motorway. It is a magical moment. I have no prove of this encounter, my camera deep in my dry rucksack but it was a magnificent sight.
The B&B is reached quite early in the day as the weather encouraged just putting your head down and stepping up the pace. There was no-one to talk to all day except a woman cutting the grass outside Dryham Park, and in that wonderfully English way of ours we joke about the weather and move on. I finally give in to the iPod for the first time on my walk and remember a "Rain" playlist that I'd put together for a recent family barbeque. It does the trick and raises my spirirts.
There is no pub in Pennsylvania anymore. There is no pub in Cold Ashton anymore either. But there is a wonderful woman in Cold Ashton called Sarah who does meals for walkers in the evening if they pre-book. When I get there I discover that I am the only one to have prebooked and so I feel like royalty as I dine on wonderful garlic mushrooms and chicken curry, all washed down with selections of Bath Ales afterwards. It really is a terrific meal and she's a great host. All this and photography magazines to read as well. I feel very local signing her visitors book amongst the Norwegians, Dutch and Americans - sometimes it feels like the rest of the world are more interested than the Brits in the Cotswold Way.
I feel ready for the last day of the walk tomorrow, where I am to be walking with Andy again and we'll be meeting our wives in Bath for a meal to celebrate.
The B&B that I almost stay in, is an oddity. Very friendly people but I am a little troubled that virtually the first thing I notice is the UKIP tea-towel, something I've never seen anywhere before (I do lead a very sheltered life). My discomfort is heightened further when I check out and ask them to order me a taxi, which they do in super quick time, but they tell me they have ordered me an English driver rather than all the Poles that are working round here at the moment. It's odd - to say the very least - to be saying such things when your business relies on entertaining so many walkers from overseas.
I've had to check out though because I've had a phone call. My Dad has suddenly been taken ill and I am in that taxi to get to his hospital bedside late at night. For a few days it all looks touch and go but mercifully he seems on the road to recovery now four weeks later; out of hospital and just beginning to get out and about. This is why I've not blogged a lot or updated my Cotswold Way progress. It's also why I have yet to complete the walk. In the last month we've had some glorious weather and sometime soon I will complete the leg from Pennsylvania to Bath. But in the meantime some things are a lot more important.
I'm a middle aged man, a Baptist Minister, and more to the point an evangelical Christian. I have a great family, the best wife, an interest in music (mainly the sort of things that a middle aged man should like) and media in general. I like my sport and hardly ever play any. Will watch Test matches very happily and have a love of football, Exeter City are my club of choice.