Saturday 12th November 2016
At the time of this walk, I remember I was beginning to struggle for motivation to get out and do something; feeling tired from work, a sudden decrease in daylight hours elsewhere and a gradual drop in temperature.
I found myself feeling as though I was about to ‘waste the weekend away’. Somehow, I found the impetus to consider a short walk for the afternoon. Post-lunch and fewer miles… This seemed do-able and soon, I was heading up the M5 towards Dursley.
This is a walk from one of the Walk West eBooks, which are still available as free downloads from this site (again, I am not the author).
With a decision to tackle this short route (about six-and-a-half miles), I also considered an intention to finish one of the three Walk West titles; an idea that I’ve used to continually encourage myself to get out on the weekends that have since followed.
So, the walk begins at a small, undesignated parking layby, a short drive from the M5 motorway. It was so close to full capacity that I had to park up on the small section of raised pavement, alongside another car. In situations like this, I often wonder; if they’re not going for a walk then, what are the other drivers up to?
Across a ploughed field, I reach a private lake reserved for fishing only and with plenty of warning signs to inform you. From here, the way ahead is clear and skirts a portion of Tortworth Arboretum.
Mud was wet and slippery under foot, as I stuck to the well-worn path. But I had definitely picked the right time of year to do this walk, with all the colours on offer; offering life to an otherwise dull and potentially wet afternoon.
Following this path, I notice a couple of access points off to my left; each of which is marked with a sign warning that the arboretum beyond is private. I assumed this meant that access was only permitted from another point to the north and near to the road. It’s worth looking in to the Tortworth Forest Centre, as they offer wild camping among other things on their website.
At the end of this path, I cross a patch of grass to reach the driveway for the Tortworth Court Hotel.
Through the trees and beyond the tall fencing to my right now, is the local prison (HM Prison Leyhill). I wonder how this situation might affect business at the hotel? Regardless, several cars pass me, en route to the hotel, as I continue towards the road.
Now, I’m walking towards the B 4509 road. A few hundred metres west along which, my car is parked. Before that and the point at which I cross over, I pass a parked car. Stationary but with two passengers in the front… As I move along closely, the smell hits me:
I deeply detest the stuff. One day, I may even write a full length rant on that alone. Fortunately, I continue on to finish the walk without seeing another e-cigarette.
Geoff’s words now guide you along a driveway towards the primary school. I found this step quite confusing and, as I reached the school building, I found now continuation of a footpath. Neither could I see a way around the house to my left.
After retracing my steps beyond the car park, I spot it; a yellow way marker attached to a telegraph pole. Barely visible amongst the greenery. It’s the kind of situation where I wooden post dividing the path from the driveway would be far more convenient to non-locals… Then again, I might’ve seen it for myself, had I been following an OS map.
Along the right route, I cross a playing field towards a cross-junction of paths at the brow of the hill, with Tortworth church now in view and Dursley further beyond. At the very top of the horizon, you can just see the North Nibley Monument tower (also known as the Tyndale Monument).
From here (following the guide), Geoff talks about walking downhill towards the church and following a fence at your side… I didn’t initially see a fence (it’s possibly been removed, or not) but, knowing where I wanted to end up, I turned right, following the hedge on my right towards a farm, where I hopped over a locked and unsigned gate in the corner, to reach the quiet road.
While many may admire St. Leonard’s Church and the surrounding graveyard; the true treasure is in what’s known as the Tortworth Chestnut and is believed to be the oldest specimen in the entire United Kingdom.
Over eight-hundred years old, if I’m not mistaken.
There are no signs directing you to here from the church entrance. You may find a vague path cut in to the grass but an OS map would definitely help.
This chestnut wasn’t the only tree to demand attention, nearby.
To the rear of the churchyard is a memorial dedicated to Julia, Duchess of Ducie. Who’s family, I believe, still own the church today.
I did also pass a vacant portaloo before returning to the road. Of course, some reservation work is currently being undertaken, here.
Moving on and I pass a courtyard and brief line of houses before following a track down towards the Little Avon River (no, I’d not heard of it before).
Across a footbridge and the walk continues to follow the river westward for a few miles. I am soon greeted by the owners of a dog who is afraid of people (yes, really) as it also begins to rain.
I leave the river trail at Damery Bridge and begin to climb steeply uphill, following a quiet road that leads back in to Tortworth. Somewhere along the way, I gain another view of the North Nibley Monument, while a man younger than myself gives a friendly hello as we pass each other. With his wellies and warm clothing, he’d clearly been for a short walk of his own.
At a sharp left-hand bend, I leave the road to continue on towards Crockley’s Farm. I was through here that I spotted two signs – the second of which, says ‘Wood Yard’… Feeling excited, I’ve yet to find anything relating to this site on the internet and the public right of way drew me away from any further on-foot investigation.
Possibly relevant link to The Woodyard.
A woodland walk lay ahead, following an occasionally muddy beneath beneath the warm colours of Daniel’s Wood.
From the other end, I crossed a pair of empty field before turning right, now following the left-hand boundary towards Brook Farm and the cottages. Naturally, a bull was planted on the right of way. He caused me know harm as I allowed him and his friends a very wide berth.
I’d arrived at the B 4509 again. Only a hundred metres from my car, I’d have to follow the road and its frequent traffic carefully; crossing over to tread on the grass verge as and when most appropriate. I managed to get back before dark and I felt good for having not spend the entire day indoors. It had been worth the best part of an hour’s drive from home. Six-miles or not.