Sunday 8th January 2017
One day after a mist and mud experience on the Somerset Levels, I drove north for a walk in the Cotswolds with an urbanised beginning.
This route is available in Walk West Again; created by Geoff Mullett and free to download from this site.
I chose to begin this walk from Nailsworth, which is the alternative option to rural roadside parking in Kingscote. I felt more confident this way and I was able to leave my SatNav behind.
From the long-stay car park in Old Market (which is free to use), I followed the road south before turning right to begin the climb up another road named Chestnut Hill. While it was clear this going to be yet another walk of poor long-distance visibility, I did pass the Quaker Meeting House beyond cars to my left.
This would’ve been a tough start to any walk. One of the reasons I chose to start in Nailsworth was so that I could clear the tarmac walking early on. After continuing up and along Dark Lane, against a relentless gradient, I eventually found my way in to the woods.
Looking now at the OS map, I believe this was at Bunting Hill.
Geoff mentions in his text that numerous footpaths will spring off from several junctions (most of which were marked) and he also warns that not all are featured on the OS map… So, you really do have to read and follow his words carefully.
There’s a point where you have to climb steeply up to the right and then turn back on yourself near the top… Failing to make that turn initially, led me up past a school to a road or track that I think might’ve been just south of Wood Farm. Before I turned back to discover the very broad path that does begin to contour the hill.
I hadn’t seen or heard another soul from within these woods. As much as the low cloud provided an eerie backdrop, it was bliss. But I was aware of a dirty herd of cattle making quite the ruckus, somewhere beneath me… Knowing that a descent was almost imminent, I feared having to cross their land.
There’s a junction where the instructions tell you to go left and down beneath telegraph poles. Without any signage, I took it to be a sheep track and continued on, over the fallen trees you can see above; following what appeared to be a reasonably broad track.
This track soon grew wider, more defined and, before dropping down to the ford you can see, I passed a young couple with their dog, who were heading in the opposite direction. They were friendly enough but, I wonder if they quietly questioned where I might be going, as the gate beyond was locked and appeared to prevent access to private land… Perhaps they had themselves, completed a ‘questionable’ trek across said field and over the gate…
Maybe I think too much.
This must’ve been within High Wood. Before retracing my steps up the hill, I followed the stream to its source of this tiny waterfall.
It was early January and I found the correct route tricky to follow. There was minor overgrowth in places. I wonder what it’s like in the summer months?
I felt a sense of relief, as I reached the wooden footbridge with a series of yellow waymarks to follow. Still I wonder: why do we sometimes see footbridges with hand rails only on one side?
Suddenly, it was time to climb again, as I entered a field near Lower Lutheregde Farm. A single waymark highlights only the alternative route… Where was the one leading directly to the farm drive? Can you see why I get suspicious about these things.
Mud was thick and soft, which made for a tiring trek up the hillside. From here, I could follow the dry farm drive. While it maintained a slight incline, there was no question of the way forward.
Further on and I passed the buildings of Upper Lutheredge Farm on my right. Here, I was looking for a footpath cutting left across the fields… A fingerpost was present and even a redundant stile. But, the owner(s) had installed a wire fence that cuts straight across the right of way.
Slightly further along the drive, there was a large metal gate (unlocked) that would provide access to the field but, no waymarks to permit any right to access… I occasionally find horses to be as intimidating as cattle and so, decided to follow horse riders along the track, which would soon lead to a quiet road and a left turn to get me back on track.
From the other end of this path, there is a stile. I wonder what people do when walking in the opposite direction?
Over the road, I continued across a large, barren field to meet a junction of paths at an opening in the hedge. I was looking to go left, here, with the hedge on my right… Even the OS map I own, seemed to agree with me.
Looking now, I can see that the right of way has moved (or, I was mis-reading the map), despite the fact that the sign post was to the north side of the hedge. I met this fence (which looks like it might once have been a stile), before turning back to the gap… Then, it was back to the fence again, before I hopped over and climbed a locked kissing gate to reach the road… I can see now that I made a mistake.
Now, I was following the B4058 south-west to Woodleaze Farm. This was the busiest stretch of road I had encountered on this walk and it was a relief to reach the farm drive.
Paths from here on were quite clearly marked and well-defined on the ground beneath me, as I continued south, past Kingscote Wood and on towards the halfway point on this adventure.
As I returned to the hills and regained height, I found myself surrounded by the cloud, once more.
There is a point on this walk, where Geoff instructs you to turn left up a field towards a metal kissing gate in the top-left corner (possibly between Binley Farm and Windmill Cottages)… I couldn’t see a path leading this way and continued along the ploughed track towards houses, before realising my error. This field was laden with the kind of mud that adds kilograms to your boots.
I was getting quite tired of these ascents and began to wonder, how I would have coped with this being the end to my walk, if I had started in Kingscote.
It was raining by the time I reached Kingscote village. I was hungry and in need of a sheltered space to stop for lunch. Finding the church was easy enough and probably a better option than soldiering in sheer hope of finding something more.
There are some interesting sculptures in the church yard. Discovering these led me to a large tree to the back of the year. Fortunately, I was carrying my WalkStool and this would prove to be adequate for a fifteen-minutes of rest.
After lunch and, with the rain persistent, I would continue my walk towards the eastern end of Kingscote Wood, with the village of Horsley beyond. I read that these stone walls once defined village boundaries and wondered, is that the same for many other parts of the country?
There were warnings of a threat to ash trees, at the entrance to Kingscote Wood.
I found stark evidence of felling at a junction of broad tracks. This photo, sadly, does not fully justify how many ash logs had been felled. I’ve been somewhat aware of this threat for a couple of years and yet, I find it hard to accept that ash may go the same way as chestnut.
From that junction, you can follow a narrow path up the hillside the to another broad track or, I think I’m correct in saying that you can just follow the track to your right, on a more gradual ascent. Either way, you soon leave Horsley Wood and descend towards Hartley Bridge.
This walk continues through Park Wood and, in spite of the weather, a couple of families were active nearby. This area seemed so very well secluded from the roads above.
Before leaving, I encountered this human-like sculpture which, apparently, tends to get lost in the overgrowth of summer…
Imagine walking through these woods one evening, at any time of year, only to catch this in the corner of your eye!
Now, I was following a river or stream that would lead me all the way to Nailsworth.
There’s a lot to be admired in this area, close to Ruskin Mill.
This is the waterwheel of Ruskin Mill, which was once used in the processing of corn. Apparently, there is now an art gallery inside, which makes a welcome change to someone’s private residence.
Making my final strides back in to Nailsworth and the rain was not going to ease. I successfully navigate roads back to my car, before making a brief diversion across to the public toilets, ahead of the drive home.
A walk of only 8.75 miles but it did add to a successful tally for the weekend. Plus, I ticked off another one of Geoff Mullett’s ninety-or-so routes from the Walk West eBooks.