Taking time off work at the moment is a bit weird, I certainly didn’t spend it on a road trip here in the UK, travel abroad to explore a new-to-me country, or even do the long distance hike I was supposed to be doing in June 2020. But, I feel very fortunate to have been able to spend much of this last week outside, exploring some local (and not so local) places on foot. And I hope in this week’s weekly blog I can demonstrate just how lovely it has been to have the time and ability to have a routine-free week doing some things I enjoy in a way that has filled me with joy.
The weather hasn’t been overly brilliant. I dodged it early in the week by walking in the morning and doing my at-home stuff in the afternoons, but there was no escaping it from Wednesday onwards. We had 48-hours of constant rain, very heavy at times, that started on Wednesday afternoon, which meant my planned walk on Thursday was something of a washout, but more of that below. This is always the problem with having to plan time off in advance, you just have to hope the clouds know that you want it to be nice and deal with whatever it throws at you. Even with the dodgy weather, I do feel I made as much as I could of my week with my work laptop shut away in the cupboard…
Monday | Cheltenham has a Meadow
Did you know there is a wildflower meadow right in the middle of Cheltenham? I had an appointment to keep so I needed to head into the town (a very unusual occurrence at the moment as I’ve had no need to), and used the opportunity to explore some of the streets I’ve not yet walked. In all honestly, the first day of the shops opening was not the best to be in the town centre, so I did my best to avoid the Promenade and High Street area and ended up walking to a new-to-me park called Cox’s Meadow that incorporates a wildflower meadow in the centre.
This park is part of Cheltenham’s flood defences; we are vulnerable to run-offs when heavy rain falls up on the hills around the town, and this flood plain helps give protection by providing somewhere for the water to go. Rather than just leaving empty space, the area has been dedicated to wildlife; when the weather is very wet, the area turns into a wetland, and once any floodwater has drained back into the river, it becomes a meadow again. It was a lovely place for a wander and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for some open space when visiting the Cheltenham.
We’re actually very fortunate in Cheltenham to have lots of green space to grab a bit of nature even when the rest of the town is super busy; there’s Pittville Park, Imperial and Montpellier Gardens, and Sandford Park to name just three. If you’re interested in finding green spaces such as parks, gardens and recreation fields near to where you live, there is a free-to-access layer on Ordnance Survey’s maps online which is well worth a look.
Tuesday | Poppies in Naunton
For someone who has lived on the edge of the Cotswolds for two years now, I’ve explored such a small part of it. I’d planned three walks in the north of the AONB this week, the first of which was a short 5-ish mile loop from Guiting Power.
Guiting Power itself is a charming little Cotswolds village, which has been a settlement since 780 and since the 1060s has been based on an old manor owned by King Edward the Confessor back. My circular route took me from the centre of Guiting Power, across fields to Barton, up a hill through trees and along a lane passing the bottom of Cotswold Farm Park and a stone quarry, across the top of a hill and down a lane passed another quarry and into Naunton, along a stream and passed an ancient Dovecote before joining the Warden’s Way back to Guiting Power.
The highlight has to be the field of poppies I came across on the way into Naunton (used as my header image for this weekly blog). I could see the red from quite a way away, and the lane I was on went right by the field meaning I could easily snap some photos without stepping off the public right of way. I should also give a massive shout out to the person (or people) who look after the Warden’s Way in this area, so beautifully well kept and easy to navigate, especially the section across farmland between Naunton and Guiting Power – it’s a delight to find such a nicely maintained footpath across crop fields.
This is the route I followed if you fancy doing it yourself some time. If you don’t have a subscription to OS Maps and you like hiking, I would highly recommend it for route planning and when out and about – I’d really appreciate it if you would use my affiliate link to get started.
Wednesday | Mist in Snowshill
Knowing the weather was going to turn in the afternoon for the rest of the week, I chose to do the longer walk on Wednesday morning exploring an area from Snowshill. The National Trust property and Lavender Farm here are currently closed due to the pandemic, but there is a small village car park on the outskirts of the village where I started and finished my nearly-nine-mile circle.
This route by Country Walking Magazine took me through part of the Snowshill estate along the Winchcombe Way before joining up with the Cotswold Way and walking through the two beautiful small villages of Stanton and Stanway, before heading back up (and I mean “up”) through Lidcombe Wood and back to Snowshill. It was such a beautiful and varied route, taking in all the different types of scenery the Cotswolds has to offer. It was a real shame that the first half was done in very misty conditions, so it’s a walk I’ll have to go back and do again on a better day to get the benefit of the views from Snowshill itself.
Stanton is an absolutely stunning little village, complete with Stott Lanterns, and Stanway has a large manor house, tithe barn, and working watermill. And between the two villages I walked by Linseed fields that were just starting to turn blue. A much hillier walk than the one from Guiting Power, this was such a pretty circular route, it’s definitely gone on my to-walk-again list.
Thursday | Rain in Bourton-on-the-Water
The route I planned to walk from Bourton-on-the-Water was a five-miler taking me over to Lower and Upper Slaughter that I found in my Pathfinder Book of short Cotswolds walks. It looked lovely, just what I needed to round off my trio of walks in this part of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. However, the weather just wasn’t playing ball, the rain was heavy, and once out of the village the footpath was completely waterlogged and flooded for as far as I could see in some places. I decided against continuing once the water lapped over my boots, and parked the route for a better day, choosing instead to go back into Bourton and see what this very well-known and popular village had to offer.
Bourton-on-the-Water is a charming village, regularly voted one of the prettiest villages in England, that sits on the River Windrush. On any normal day it is packed with tourists who come by the bus load to visit the attractions, go shopping, and see what a “typical” Cotswolds village looks like. And while the village was clearly gearing up to welcome visitors again after being silent for weeks thanks to the pandemic, there were very few people (if I tell you I easily got one of the free parking spots on the High Street that will give you an idea of how empty it was) – I’m sure the torrential rain helped with that, too. It is such a nice place for a wander, even without going in the Model Village, Birdland or Maze. If you visit, be sure to head to the nature reserve and along by the fishing lakes, and feel your way through all the alleyways and footpaths that crisscross through the village. It really is beautiful, even in the rain, although I will certainly have to go back on a nicer day to sit and enjoy it with an ice cream in my hand.
Friday | Muddy Fields at Home
I had no car on Friday so it was back to exploring from my own front door, which is no bad thing. I think we’ve all learnt a lot more about our very local area over the last three months or so, and that has to be one positive thing to come from this period of lock down. It was still raining, but I did my now-regular walk across the fields to the next village along anyway. With us having so much rain over the previous two days the fields were now sticky with mud and I definitely grew an inch or two thanks to the mud stuck to the bottom of my hiking boots by the time I reached the lane and headed back home.
Muddy fields and rainy days can be hugely draining on the mood and the energy levels, but being out in the countryside, even when I can see my house for most of the walk, was lovely. I really do try to get my One Hour Outside even on the wettest of days, it’s so important for my physical and mental wellbeing to get fresh air and move my body outdoors every single day, I highly recommend it.
Saturday | Views from Bradgate Park
Now that we’re allowed to meet up with people outside, we took the opportunity to drive a bit further on Saturday and meet my mother-in-law at a half way point for a walk and picnic. We chose Bradgate Park near Leicester, which I haven’t been before, but I already know will become a regular meeting and stopping point it was really quite a find.
Bradgate Park is a massive public park on the edge of Charnwood Forest, originally enclosed as a deer park over 800 years ago, but now also open to the public as a beautiful place for a countryside walk. I was expecting something like a country park, but it’s much more than that – the landscape is surprisingly wild and rugged, and there are some amazing and very old oak trees all over. It was hugely busy, being a very accessible slice of moorland close to a large city, but it didn’t take much effort to lose the crowds by heading off the main path and up the hills.
The River Lin runs through the park, which looked like a rather excellent place for a paddle, there’s a folly called Old John built in the 18th Century at the highest point in the park, and there’s also the ruins of Bradgate House, which was the birthplace of Lady Jane Grey. Oh and I must mention the deer herd – there are over 500 Red and Fallow Deer calling the park home – some of the park is still a sanctuary with no public access, but you will easily spot the deer in the public areas too.
It really was an excellent place to meet, walk and picnic (and have an ice cream…), and we’ll be back to explore more I am certain.
It may be that some of these walks get blog posts of their own at some point, maybe when I’ve actually managed to do the walk from Bourton I had on my list I’ll do a “three walks in the Cotswolds” post to help inspire your next long weekend in this area. But I hope my walking themed weekly blog has given you a bit of inspiration for your next short walk, or maybe on how to spend some time off work in this continued lock down period.
It’s back to work for me tomorrow. I have to admit, with all apologies to my boss, I’m not that excited about being sat in front of my computer for the next six days (yep, a six day week). But never mind, you know I don’t mind my job really, and it means I can look forward to another week of freedom next month. In the meantime it’s back to lunchtime walks around the village, video calls from my dining table, and living from one snack to the next. See you next Sunday!
If you’re not already following me on Instagram, I’d love it if you would come over and say hi. I posted loads of photos, and even some video, of my walks each day over the last week and it seemed to go down well. I guess this next week won’t be quite so interesting over there but I’ll be posting some of my favourite photos from my walks on my main feed to remind me of the outdoors while I work.