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Day 3 - Winchcombe to Cheltenham via Cleeve Hill

8 miles/ 13 km Distance is approximate.

semi-overcast 12 °C
View Cotswold Way, England on Laura Walking's travel map.

As previously indicated, written from notes on Oct 24 from B&B in Painswick.

Today started out nice and sunny, although quite windy. There has been a very high probability of rain this week, and today it is supposed to start at 2 pm. So if I start early, walk quickly (Ha ha!) and don’t make any wrong turns - I may make it before, or as the rain starts! I’m not holding my breath.

Stayed at a pub last night in Winchcombe, the room was nice, although on the third floor, up a rather narrow staircase. After the three gentlemen dropped me off yesterday, my big pack had already arrived, but was sitting waiting in the reception area. Sometimes the proprietors or staff, take the bag(s) to the appropriate room, but not today. I took the wet things I had in my hands, poles, hat, small pack, up to the room and came down again - after all that walking up and down hills today in the rain, my knees were really stiff - to get the big pack. I was disappointed that there was not an offer to help with it… but whatever. I dragged the heavy thing up winding stairs and jogs in hallways and finally got it to my room. There were three rooms on the third floor. They all required sharing a bathroom. It was a lovely big and modern shower room, one shower, one toilet. Obviously newly refurbished. No one else was around yet. I’d inquired when I’d registered about dinner. Apparently their dining room was fully booked so I headed out to a nearby grocery store to get a few things. When I returned the other two rooms still appeared to be unoccupied, so I quickly got my shower things ready and had a nice hot shower in that nice clean shower room!

The other two rooms were occupied later in the evening. In the morning however, sharing a bathroom can be a bit of a challenge. There are 5 of us sharing it and there has been a steady stream of showers and then hair dryers and so on. I believe I was the last one to check out of my room in the morning! No breakfast here this morning, but was aware of that at the grocery store yesterday.

Got going around 10am I think, I don’t recall. Today I would be reaching the highest point on the Cotswold Way, called Cleeve Hill. It stands at 1066 feet or 325m (by the way, Broadway Tower stands at 1024 feet, 312m). It was a lovely walk out of Winchcombe this morning, sunny and a bit cool. Not a cloud in the sky, but that can change very quickly. Out of town, we are heading up and up and up almost right away. The path is well signed, so that was helpful. I took off a layer of clothing almost right away, and while I was doing that, four very chatty ladies passed me and said the usual greetings. They were up the hill and out of sight before I was on my way again. After winding through woods and guessing at directions a couple of times - I came across these four women friends again. This time they were having a bit of a coffee break. They congratulated me on getting up this second very steep hill and offered me a small snack, which I accepted. We chatted for a minute or two, and then off they went! I was close behind them, but that gap grew larger by the second.

The first thing that we were all going to see today along the trail was called Belas Knap. This is a Long Barrow, which is an ancient burial ground. It looks like a big hump on the ground, like a “beached whale” it says in my guidebook, except covered in green grass. It is 180 feet long and 18 feet high. It dates back to 2500 BC, and archeologists think it was used for successive burials, possibly over several centuries, until it was deliberately blocked. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of 38 human skeletons, as well as animal bones, flints and pottery. There is what appears to be an entrance on one side, although it leads nowhere. They don’t know why. There are very thin layers of stone visible, neatly stacked like sheaves of paper, used in its construction. It was really an interesting thing to see - and causes one to wonder about not only the people who built it, and how they decided on this design, but also the people who were buried there.

It didn’t take long to see this ancient place, and then we were off again. The four ladies zoomed off onto the path, and other than seeing their brightly coloured coats in the distance here and there, I never saw nor spoke to them again. The path took me through woods and up hills, then down hills and over small bridges. Then through a farm yard where the cows were having lunch. Finally I could see an absolutely enormous hill, the kind of hill where you really have to back up to take in the whole scope of it. This must be Cleeve Hill. Again, I huffed and puffed my way up the steep and very windy side of this hill. I tend to stop frequently to catch my breath. I followed a path, but again, when I looked for the familiar Cotswold Way sign in a critical area, did not see one. I continued my way up. Now I should say, that on the top of this monumental “hill” there is a golf course! Can you believe it?! And there were many people playing today. Some in shorts, but with toques on their heads! It was extremely windy up there. How could you hit a ball straight with such a wind?! Anyway, I found myself near the 4th hole, and asked a nearby golfer where the club house was located. He pointed and yelled something that was swallowed by the wind. But the pointing was helpful. So I carefully went around the edge, sort of, so I wouldn’t be in the way of any errant golf balls… and eventually found my way to the golf club house. There was a lovely cafe inside, so I had something to eat. (While inside I briefly joined a scheduled Zoom call from Toronto (9:15am EST and 2:15 here). Although I couldn’t access my camera, probably just a settings thing, I saw my cousin on my phone. I really didn’t think it would work! I was only on for a few minutes with them, and I was outside so I didn’t disturb others in the cafe. The wind was so strong that I could barely hear the conversation.) Eventually, as the sky grew darker, I needed to continue on my way down this enormous hill to Cheltenham.

As I was leaving the club hose area, a very friendly couple started talking to me and gave me very helpful instructions, and directions on how to get down into the town from where I was. I followed their directions, but it took a LOT longer than I thought it would and my legs were pretty tired and “rubbery” by the time I found the correct path to take. I asked a few more people along the way if this path was going to get me where I wanted to go. I came across a young couple and their young daughter who were going back home into Prestbury, a suburb of Cheltenham, and we walked and talked for a couple of kilometres. Very friendly and funny and delightful. Time and distance passes unnoticed when you are otherwise occupied, or entertained! I wish I had gotten their names; their daughter was Anna. At the same street where this couple turned to go up to their house and we said our goodbyes, another couple was just coming down to where I was walking… it was like they picked up where the first couple left off. This couple were Jackie and Clive. They were just out on a day walk and were heading back to their car. We probably walked for a kilometre or two as well, and chatted about paths and books and other interesting things. I was asking them about directions in Cheltenham, and they immediately said, oh, we know this city, we’ll drive you to where you’re going!

At the end of a very long walking day, it is again wonderful how one’s needs are met! I’m truly grateful.
My Fitbit said 25,410 steps and 17.28 km.

Posted by Laura Walking 22:12 Archived in England

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