Part 2 of my vacation trip diary, which started with Day 1: Standing Stones.
Friday was the day that all our walking had been preparation for- we planned to get an early start and try to walk a 22 mile section of the Cotswolds Way, a footpath that follows the ridgeline of the hills.
Our plan met its first setback on the train. Just short of the station we planned to get off at, the train came to a rapid halt. Apparently there was an 'incident' on the tracks--we gathered some person ill or injured in the path of the train. We sat on the train, just barely short of our goal while paramedics came and went and transit police walked all up and down the track.
We finally pulled into Stonehouse an hour late and set off for the trail. The day was gorgeous- warm and sunny, not too humid. As we climbed out of the valley we got our first taste of the most incredibly gorgeous views. Lush green fields rolling over gentle hills, small farms and clusters of houses like illustrations from a children's story book.
The trail took us through beautiful woods and natural areas, along country lanes, past charming stone cottages with lovely gardens and through a number of fields and a golf course. (Public footpaths in England often cross private property- they are protected rights-of-way.)
We reached our first potential bailout point at Painswick, and got cold drinks to go with the sandwiches we had brought with us. At eight miles we were both feeling pretty good and wanted to continue on. We had another delay while we located the next trail marker- it turned out to be above eye level on a signpost with a gaggle of other signs, as opposed to being on one of the distinctive waist-level posts we'd come to expect.
The afternoon walk continued just as gorgeous as the morning, but we were starting to tire, and with the late start both agreed it would be sensible to take the bus from the second bailout point, Birdlip, at the 16 mile mark. Perfectly respectable, we agreed, and if we'd not made as good time as we'd hoped, we'd also had a couple of unplanned delays. Only, we missed the turnoff for Birdslip, which was apparently completely unsigned.
By the time we realized we'd missed it, we were already over a mile into the last stretch. At that point, we decided, we might as well finish. Our resolve was bolstered a mile or so further along when we joined the main road for a short stretch which passed a pub. We stopped and ordered two ciders and a pitcher of water...which we drank all of! Thus bolstered, we picked up our packs and soldiered onward. The last few miles were kind of a slog, but the succession of beautiful and distinctively English views continued to enchant us all the way to Cheltenham. We actually did divert from the Cotswold way to take a footpath down to the town which cut about a mile off our original plan. We got to the bottom of the hill and found a bus station....and found that we had missed the last bus by a very considerable margin.
So we stopped for yet another cold drink and then walked on, down into the town center, had some dinner, and then walked the last couple of miles to the train station. From the Cheltanham station, we went to Birmingham, walking from the station to our hotel. We arrived at midnight. We figure that we covered about 24 miles, more than completing our goal of doing a seriously ambitious hike and then some.
And the best news of all- sore as our feet were, we didn't blister at all, nor were we more very stiff the next day! Talk about a payoff for all our preparatory walking.
Slideshow of more Cotswolds photos: (You can click on the show to see it with larger photos.)