The Pennine Way? Too long. Maybe the Cotswold Way? OK, maybe half of it.
With some time off between jobs, I had been pondering what sort of multi-day walks I could do. I had always fancied the Pennine Way, but I was not sure I would be ready for 14 days of solo walking. I then searched for “UK long distance walks in a week”. Up came this list, and my attention was immediately drawn to the Cotswold Way. Its location, its length and its (relative) hilliness appealed to me. After a bit of research, I figured out, in terms of transport and accommodation, it would be a lot easier for me to just do the southern half. So I bought a train ticket from Oxford to Stroud (which is strictly speaking not on the Cotswold Way), and booked overnight accommodation at Dursley and Tormarton.
The Journey began…
Distance: 10.5 miles; Ascent: 1850ft
The Stroudwater Navigation/canal was easy enough to find from the train station. The first thing that struck me was how industrial this part of Stroud was. Nonetheless, the toll path made easy walking, especially when I was still getting used to the weight on my back. After a mile and a bit, the giant that was Ebley Mill suddenly appeared around the bend of the canal, and I knew that is where I needed to turned to join the Cotswold Way. The state of the windows is always the first indication of how dilapidated an old industrial building is, and I was glad to see that it was not at all — it now houses the Stroud District Council, with a couple of obligatory lanyard-donning office workers smoking outside.
A wooded path soon led to a main road, and I was excited to see the first Cotswold Way signpost. The Cotswold Way immediately climbed up a grassy slope towards Selsley. Just beyond the All Saints Church, which is famous for its Morris & Co stained glass windows, a path led up to the top of Selsley Common. This was an instant reminder of, despite being a non-fell/mountain trail, how steep and undulating the Cotswold Way can be. Having slowed down a bit to enjoy the view (or just to catch a breath!), I soon found myself quickly descending into a woodland. The view was mostly hidden for a couple of miles, only with tantalising glimpses of the Severn to be caught occasionally.
But one knows that the Cotswold Way promises big views, and it did not disappoint when I finally reached Coaley Peak. The grandeur of the Severn finally revealed itself. To think that it had flowed all the way from the Cambrian mountains, far beyond the line of mountain tops currently above the horizon, was awe-inspiring. Knowing that there would be plenty of other views to savour over the next couple of days, I moved on and followed the path into another wood.
The section was surprisingly tough going, with some sustained ups and downs. In a state of tiredness, I was slightly surprised to be confronted with Cam Long Down when I exited the wood. It was literally a massive lump of landmass dumped on what would otherwise have been a vast expanse of flat land. Of course, the Cotswold Way should choose to tackle it straight on. Dragging my heavy legs up the green blob, I started to feel some pain on my right calf, and the wind started to pick up. All in all, I was not in a mood to enjoy the panoramic view this time, and I scurried across the top to find the way to descend into Dursley.
Too early to check into the Airbnb, I decided to relax at the Old Spot Inn. As I entered, it started raining — just as well I did not linger to have a reflective moment on top of Cam Long Down.