How has your week been? Have you been enjoying the Spring weather? Spent some time in a café or pub garden? Met up with some friends? I hope that however you have spent the last week you’ve had some happy times and smiles. I know I have, thanks to friends, food, hiking, and the sunshine.
Other than the all-important day job, this week continued to be about getting out for hikes. I feel like something has reignited my love of walking recently, and I am very pleased about that. I really do need to up my hiking fitness if I’m going to enjoy the Coast to Coast later this year, and so I am taking the opportunities to get out and enjoy the countryside as much as I can.
I have walked every day. On workdays it was just a simple short walk or two from home to get moving before work or in my lunch break, although the fact that the ground is much drier now means that those walks have been over fields rather than along tarmac.
I’ve also done some big miles this week thanks to a happy combination of a Friday booked off work and a rather lovely sunny day. And so my weekly blog this week is an ode to my happy hiking legs.
Snow in Pittville Park
While the weather for the last few days has been much more Spring-like, with frosty mornings and beautiful blue-sky days, it didn’t start off that way. After the skittish weather I spoke about in last week’s weekly blog (Weekly Blog Episode 65), on Monday morning I opened the bedroom windows to a blanket of snow. Not a light icing-sugar dusting, oh no, a proper blanket of snow.
It didn’t last too long, the sun came out and even at three or four degrees it melted away pretty fast, but it was actually a lovely way for winter to put it’s hand up and say goodbye.
I had a lovely walking meeting in Pittville Park with a couple of colleagues which was planned a good couple of weeks ago; we couldn’t have timed that better really. The park is beautiful on any day, but in the snow it was just wonderful. And given that we’re now permitted to sit outside and drink coffee and eat cake we did just that.
The Winchcombe Way West Loop
The Winchcombe Way is a 42-mile long-distance trail centred on Winchcombe. The waymarked trail is designed to show walkers the hidden gems of the northern Cotswolds, and being a figure of eight route from a decent sized place with amenities, it can very easily be split into two 21-mile walks – the West loop and the East loop.
I had dreams of tackling the route in two consecutive days, but let’s be honest, I’m not fit or strong enough to do that at the moment. I can’t kid myself too much. Instead, I decided to walk the West Loop on Friday (I had the day booked off work), and maybe see if I’d recovered enough to do the East Loop on Sunday. If not, or even if I just didn’t fancy it, the second 21 miles could wait for another weekend.
The western loop first ascends Langley Hill to the north of Winchcombe, providing great views all around (as shown in my weekly blog header image this episode), before dropping down into Gretton and across to Alderton. Gretton was actually something of a find, what a gorgeous village!
From Alderton the trail heads around Dumbleton Hill with every kind of view you can imagine, before heading back south to Alstone. The woodland on the side of the hill was glorious and I’ll certainly be back to do more walks there in the not too distant future.
From Alstone, where I made one small detour to avoid a field with cows and their very young calves, it was on to Nottingham Hill and Cleeve Common. The most significant climb of the day, this is the bit I already knew but it was great to arrive from a completely different route to normal.
The Winchcombe Way goes right over the top of Cleeve Hill, the highest point in the Cotswolds, and over to Belas Knap long barrow, before descending (steeply) back into Winchcombe with views of Sudeley Castle and the surrounding countryside.
Twenty-one miles of utterly wonderful Cotswolds countryside; not too difficult underfoot, not too steep up or down (even Nottingham Hill!), super simple to navigate thanks to the amazing way-marking of the route at every junction, and just a fabulous route. I hope the East Loop is as nice!
I was out for about eight hours, including a few breaks to drink tea and eat my favourite hiking snacks, and so while it was a very long walk it was a doable day hike. I was pretty sore by the end though, I willed the last two miles to go much faster than they did, but I think that is to be expected. I very much enjoyed a soak in the bath and a large helping of spaghetti Bolognese when I got home.
I did record some video clips so there might be a vlog coming when I’ve done the second half and if I get time to edit it… there will certainly be a full “hiking the Winchcombe Way” blog post at some point. Watch this space, I guess!
Cleeve Common History and Archaeology Walk
I decided that the second half of the Winchcombe Way could wait for another weekend, because I didn’t want to push my luck while my foot is still not quite right. I still wanted to get out and walk – not only did I not want to waste the glorious weather, but I also wanted to keep moving to help my muscles recover and keep my head clear.
And so on Saturday I headed onto my local hill, Cleeve Hill on the edge of the Cotswolds, to help the Cleeve Common Trust test out a new self-guided walk. The four-mile walk circled Cleeve Common with commentary explaining the geology, views, and other features you can see along the way.
I’m not about to give it all away now, of course, I’ll leave Cleeve Common Trust to do that, but I’ll be sure to feature the route and my highlights when it’s been published. It will be a lovely way for those old and new to the hill to learn a little bit more about the history of the highest point in the Cotswolds.
Today’s morning bimble was a new-to-me hill not far from home. Sandhurst Hill sits at just 86m above sea-level, the exact same height as the trig pillar close to my old home over in Lincolnshire. It was like old times!
I walked from Sandhurst Church, through Bishops Norton, through a very executive feeling livery, over to Wainlode Hill on the River Severn, and then up and over Sandhurst Hill itself. The six miles took in farmland, paddocks, meadow, and woodland (with some of the best bluebells I’ve seen so far this year), all with fantastic views both sides of the River Severn.
Apart from the helicopter motorway overhead, it was a beautifully peaceful walk in what felt like deep countryside, very different to Cleeve Hill and its busy golf course and popular car parks. I have no problem with how popular Cleeve Hill is, I should say, but it was nice to feel away from it all for an hour or two.
I’ll plot and share the route sometime soon because I think it’s well worth having on your list of walks near Cheltenham and Gloucester (if you’ve not already done the walks I’ve previously shared, this compilation post is a nice one to start with). I know I’ll be back to walk this hill again, it was just the perfect place for a Sunday morning walk in the Spring sunshine.
Honestly, my weekly blog this week, with all this talk of walking, feels like a proper weekly blog as I imagined they would be more often than not. I love sharing my In the Mail and That’s Entertainment notes, I also quite enjoy the more philosophical writing every now and again. But I can’t deny that when I started my weekly blog 66 episodes ago, this is the kind of post I imagined writing more often than not.
I’ve also been sharing a whole bunch of stories over on my instagram this week. I mean, when you are happy wandering in the scenery, there is something about sharing that with others even in a weird online space that makes that feel even nicer. Head over to @splodz on instagram to see.
As always, I would really love to hear from you in the comments below. Let me know what your favourite thing about the last seven days has been, and don’t forget to get your One Hour Outside today… whatever day you happen to be reading this on!
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