Monday, 5 November 2012

Finished! Cotswold Way - Day 10 - Pennsylvania to Bath

It seems a long time ago that I started to walk the Cotswold Way, the 102 mile route that starts in beautiful Chipping Campden, ends in beautiful Bath and takes in some pretty special scenery en route as well.  The plan was to finish this last leg three and half months ago but for reasons that are explained here that didn’t happen.  Since then some time-consuming work situations and terrible weather have kept me waiting for that elusive drier weather when I could enjoy the last ten miles or so. 

Eventually my game of chicken with the weather came to an end.  I lost.  On a Tuesday two weeks ago it was a case of either walking regardless of the weather or face the possibility that it wouldn’t happen this year, especially with the clocks changing at the weekend.  Despite seeing the forecast as foggy with very poor visibility (and they weren’t too far wrong on that score) I set out on my last leg. 

I parked up outside an old disused pub in Cold Ashton and the first thing that I did was retrace my steps to Pennsylvania the hamlet that I reached to get to my B&B last time.  It meant crossing a couple of muddy fields and pausing at the B&B a moment, reflecting how I had been there when I heard the news of my Dad being rushed into hospital.  A silent prayer of thanks before turning to re-cross those ploughed fields.

As the (boring) picture shows, it was wet and slippery and grey on the last day of the Cotswold Way, much like the first day!
On getting back to Cold Ashton I revisited Sarah at Folly Farm cafe for a great cooked breakfast and an interesting chat with a man who told me all about how he had once introduced his companions to someone: "This is my ex-wife, this is my wife and this is my girlfriend."  You do meet some interesting people on this walk. 

Cold Ashton boasts the second most impressive door that I will see on the day and because of the conditions there isn't a great deal to see and admire on the leg.  At one point, near the Lansdown Battlefield, the guide book says that I should be able to see both Severn Crossings from my vantage point but I can't even see the Severn.  Likewise, the much remarked on view over Bath from Prospect Stile is a bit non-descript in this weather. 

The weather is very still though and it's pretty good walking weather, certainly was colder some days in June and July than I was here, at the end of October.  Weston brings the surprise of some serious climbing up steep steps (always hard) just when you think that's it on the climbing stakes but they are worth it for the joy of walking through the last mile or so in Bath itself.  The city is so beautiful that you don't notice the walk. 

By the time I have detoured very slightly to be at the Royal Crescent I have, in truth, finished walking the Cotswold Way.  I did the rest without trying on the night of my stay in the city a couple of months back.  So, it's past the B&B we stayed in and through to The Circus. 

The signage for the Cotswold Way becomes much more discreet in Bath (after all, this is Bath) and consequently is a little harder to follow.  The guide book comes in handy though and before you know it you are face to face with  the place you have been aiming for all this time, Bath Abbey.   

The door is the traditional finishing point but now they have a wonderful finishing point in the pavement just before the door.  When I get there it is so new that they are still due to dedicate it two days later - with a peel of bells or something.   

The woman at the Cathedral Shop is very patient with me when I ask her where the new finish point is and takes me out to show me after signing my sheet as proof of finishing the Cotswold Way.  It's a slightly odd feeling finishing, a bit of an anti-climax, in part because I planned it differently, with friends and a hearty meal.  I hang around for a bit and then go to Costa to celebrate with a spot of tiffin - I know how to party!  I text some friends and family to tell them I have finished and it's good to get their texts and calls in response, I don't feel quite so alone.   

Afterwards I try to catch a bus that is listed but no longer seems to exist and so it's late when I finally get back to Pennsylvania.  To fill in time in Bath I have my hearty meal - Big Mac, fries, coke.  Not quite what I had in mind but nevermind. 

I'm really glad to have done this walk.  I did it as a Cotswold boy and it has always been an ambition.  In the process of walking I found out that I didn't really know the Cotswolds at all, and that I have a bit of a love / hate relationship with walking.  At it's best it was joyous and inspiring, at it's worst dour and drab.  I discovered that I prefer to walk with others but that I can cope with walking alone.   

Now, I wonder what route I will be walking next?

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