Cotswold Way Day 3: Tormarton to Bath

Distance: 17.8 miles; Ascent: 1740ft

A GPX file of the walk can be downloaded from https://www.strava.com/activities/7200717726

I woke up with some aches, but I was hopeful that the lower mileage today would be more agreeable to the tired legs. The sky was adamantly grey, and the drizzle was clearly not going away. Coupled with the constant rumble of the M4, this made pretty unpleasant walking. Maybe it was this that made the day a more reflective one for me, but maybe it was because I knew I was approaching the end of a journey?

Power I
Power II

As the Cotswold Way started to veer slightly away from the M4, the background crossfaded from the droning of modern life to the sweet twittering of a pastoral past. The changeover sadly was never complete before the M4 took over again. On auto-pilot, I wandered through fields to reach Hinton Hill and the stonewall of Dyrham Park, which certainly provided some respite from both the wind and the monotony, which had had been the feature of the day so far. As I left Dyrham, I saw a group of people with machineries on the path. My first thought was, inconvenience. As it turned out, they were volunteers cutting the grass, and I felt immediately ashamed of my thought. I thanked them, and suddenly realised how privileged I was to be enjoying the Cotswold Way. The National Trails are the work of thousands of volunteers, and we must not take them for granted.

Grass does not cut itself

The drizzle turned into heavy rain as I approached the first climb of the day. I also knew that the only place where I could get lunch between Tormarton and Bath was just over a mile away, so I marched on. I was thoroughly wet as I entered the Shell petrol station on the A46 by a village called Pennsylvania. A steak bake and a coffee later, I felt more energetic, and embarked on the rest of my journey. As I headed across the field towards Cold Ashton, the noise from the A46 became less and less noticeable. I started to formulate my first paradox of the day:

How much we love and hate modern convenience.

I had just had the best steak bake and best coffee ever in a petrol station, and yet already I was relieved to be away from the busy road, on which the very existence of the petrol station depend. I also reflected on the fact that, all this time, I had been following a GPX breadcrumb on my watch. So was this a real escape from modern life?

Best steak bake ever
Cold Ashton

Cold Ashton had some pretty houses, but I was more excited to see the rolling hills in front of me. As I descended to bottom of a valley. I saw a cheerful-looking man heading towards me, and he said, “There are a few Cotswold Way walkers today”. I asked whether he had just started from Bath. He said, “I started from Land’s End and I am walking to John o’ Groats”. He had 65 more days to go. I wished him good luck and carried on. Secretly I also wished he would stay cheerful for another 65 days. This brought me to my second paradox:

How much we cherish solitude, but also camaraderie.

Does one need to find solitude before one can appreciate true camaraderie?

From a safe position
Cotswold Warden plaque

From this point onward, the Cotswold Way started to redeem itself, as it wound itself along the edge of a plateau from Lansdown Hill (where the Battle of Lansdown took place) to Prospect Stile, offering breathtaking views. From Prospect Stile, I felt a bit sad that I would be abandoning the Cotswold hills, but I was also excited to be walking into Bath, the end of my journey.

Looking out to Bath from Prospect Stile
Descending into Bath

A long descent led me to Weston in Bath. Cheekily, the Cotswold Way threw in a couple of urban hills inside Bath — Primrose Hill and Sion Hill. Sion Hill in particular was a very pretty neighbourhood with some immaculate Georgian houses, overlooking the city centre itself. The rest of the walk to the centre of Bath, where the Cotswold Way ends, took me past the famous landmarks. It also took me past loads of shops, the sight of which already made me want to plan my next walk to get away from the everyday consumerism.

But for now, my adventure was done — I was happy to sit by the river Avon and take my walking shoes off.

Who is St Alphege?
Sion Hill

Final thought

It was a wonderful walk, both as a physical challenge and as a way for me to further understand my relationship with the land. I had many thoughts during the walk, but one obvious yet often forgotten fact is that:

If not for all the people who have contributed to the Cotswold Way, along with the other National Trails, it simply would not exist.

So get out there, enjoy it, respect it, and hopefully we can all give something back!

Done!

Cotswold Way Day 2: Dursley to Tormarton

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s