cotswolds

A Thing About Little Museums

If you ever find yourself in Gloucestershire and close to Stroud – pronounced with an “ow” and not as someone out-of-town recently said, with an “oo” – go and visit the Museum in the Park.

I’ve been living within easy reach of it for almost thirty years and have just paid it my first visit. I found out it was there only very recently, and the reason I went is because the Gloucestershire Printmakers’ Co-operative, in which I’ve been a lowly student on two past occasions, is staging a small exhibition.

It’s a nice gallery space. It looks purpose built being an extension to the main building, the former Stratford House, one time home of a family of local brewers. The original house, now passed into public ownership along with the surrounding grounds known as Stratford Park, contains a permanent museum. In essence, it is a museum of local history, though quite recent history, from late 1800s, I’d say, to the mid twentieth century.

Part of it is dedicated to the author, Laurie Lee, of Cider With Rosie fame. He was from the village of Slad, which is just up the road. Every so often, a passage from that autobiography is read out from an audio book. It’s an old voice and could possibly be the author himself. You can listen to it, as I did, sitting on a convenient chair placed in front of a grim, black cast iron kitchen stove surrounded by old fashioned kitchen paraphernalia, ornaments and books, as Laurie Lee’s mum might have done on a Winter’s evening, or the two contentious, old-aged spinsters, in their cottage next door.

The best thing for me about local museums, tucked away on the fringes of small towns, is – no crowds! Go into any one of London’s famous museums – of in any City, I imagine – and you’ll get what I mean. It doesn’t really matter to me what they’re exhibiting, the fact that you find yourself alone, wandering around the exhibits, allows for an intimate, almost illicit, sense of experience, like being a nosey parker or an intruder. I can’t resist touching and opening things I probably shouldn’t, whereas, in busier museums, I’d have to be content with just staring at stuff and making do with reading the informative plaques.

It was pissing down with rain, as it has been all June, and this stopped me exploring the Park. I think it’s a pity: when it was a family residence, they planted an arboretum which is now a small plantation of very grand trees, dominated by imposingly huge cedars and tall firs, and a curving path which leads down to a lake, originally a fish pond, presumably for supplying the house kitchens with fresh trout or carp.

The grounds look very well kept and also contain public tennis courts, lawn bowling greens and an indoor sports complex. So, Stratford Park – remember it if you’re ever down that way.

Well done, Stroud.


images (click to enlarge):

1 & 2; opposite corners of the gallery space.

3; view of outside courtyard from inside the entrance hall.

Stratford Park (wikipedia)

Museum in the Park

Out & About

Bredon Hill (Overbury, Bredon Hill, Ashton-under-Hill, Grafton);
Cotswold Walk no.28; 9.5 miles; (6 hours inc. stops)

In summertime on Bredon 
The bells they sound so clear; 
Round both the shires they ring them 
In steeples far and near, 
A happy noise to hear.

(from “Bredon Hill”, a poem by AE Housman)

The sentiment once put to me that “October can be nice, also” has certainly had some traction this Autumn. I head off at the crack of dawn to the village of Overbury to walk Bredon Hill, the last of Jarrold’s Cotswold walks.

I don’t remember where I came by this book now, whether I bought it myself or whether it was a gift. From the many photographs I took on the first walk, an easy two and a half mile stroll around Minster Lovell in Oxfordshire, I can see it began in 2006. I’d splashed out on some decent boots and I am now wearing my fourth pair. It’s a long time over which to complete twenty-eight walks – they could easily be done in a couple of years, I think – but events thwart all endeavours, and god and mice and men. To say nothing of the vagaries of our weather. I am a fair-weather walker, no point in going out to enjoy myself and not enjoying myself.

If you want views, this is a walk for you. They’re almost aerial in a sense, as near as you can look down over a broad landscape and still be on terra firma. The climb is gradual and not too arduous; I was passed by two middle-aged guys on mountain bikes.

Healing Stones

Halfway up, hidden amongst shrubs and trees, are the King and Queen Stones, though I counted at least three separate ones. They are said to have healing properties so I touched the zip of my old and favourite fleece jacket against them as the fastening has become temperamental lately. I’m sorry to say it remains temperamental. Oh well.

Atop The Hill

The summit is expansive and ringed with a typical dry stone wall over which you can see the Midlands of England spread out to the hazy distance. To the west, the dark hills and mountains of Wales. The flatness of the country rising abruptly to the Cotswolds gave me a clear impression of a geological catastrophe. It felt quite surreal, like being in a foreign place. I wished I had a more sophisticated camera than that on my mobile phone, though the emotional response to landscapes can be practically impossible to capture.

Lunch @ The Star

I made The Star Inn pub at Ashton-under-Hill at one o’clock – perfect timing for lunch. It’s a traditional pub and it was very welcoming. I wasn’t familiar with any of the three ales they had on draught and so the landlord talked me through them, and I took a chance on one by Three Brothers. It was very good and complemented my bacon, brie and cranberry sandwich nicely.

As you might notice from the pic, I sat out in their garden, the weather was so good. I wasn’t alone either. October was nice also for a number of drinkers and lunchers.

Saint Barbara Lost Her Noggin

Ashton-under-Hill is a quaint village of mixed buildings, some in Cotswold style, some thatched cottages and some red brick. I poked my nose in their church, as I do. It’s dedicated to St. Barbara, apparently one of only three churches dedicated to her. She was a comely lass, as legend goes; a Syrian possibly, from a heathen family. Her Dad locked her away in a tower to avoid suitors and in this prison she found Christ, much to the annoyance of Dad. When she refused to renounce her new faith, he cut off her head.

The Red not-a-Phone Box

It’s an hour’s walk back to the car which I left in Overbury, passing through the hamlets of Grafton and Conderton. At Grafton, there is a red public phone box, a fine example of one of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s designs, an British icon along with red buses and red postboxes – all red, we must have had a lot of red paint.

I read somewhere there are 40,000 of these phone boxes in existence though British Telecom is gradually removing the innards as use is dwindling due to everyone owning mobile phones. Though the equipment is removed, the boxes may remain and used for different purposes. Housing a defibrillator is quite a common use now. Another use you see in some places is a local lending library where residents donate their unwanted books. Grafton’s box serves both functions, though I can’t imagine any of the titles displayed in it giving anyone cardiac trouble. Still, it looked a well cared for little red box.

A great walk.


By the by, I found out that Ordnance Survey have taken over publishing the Jarrold Walking Guides. My edition has been superseded, and hopefully updated, but the walks are the same. They are very good, look out for them.

Please click on the pics to embiggen. Preferring to walk light, I don’t take a camera and make do with my mobile phone. Whilst okay for portraits and figure images, it tends to be disappointing for panoramic landscapes, which are difficult anyway. Sorry for the quality. After this, I’m thinking of rooting out one of my old cameras and seeing if I can get it to work. But then again…

Out & About

Great Rollright, Long Compton, Little Rollright & The Rollright Stones;
Cotswold Walk no. 27; 9 miles (5 hours inc. stops)

This is the penultimate walk in the Jarrold book of Cotswold Walks; 28 walks in all and they’ve lasted me about twelve years (I think I did the first in 2006, though I’d have to check). It’s a circular walk which, according to the book, should start off in a lay-by just outside Long Compton. As this village is home to the only pub on the route, I park up in the village of Great Rollright, diametrically opposite Long Compton, aiming to hit the pub at lunchtime. I mean, come on! Also this means visiting the neolithic Stones nearer the end of the walk which seems proper.

I couldn’t have pocked a better day: the sky is azure with just a few wisps of my second favourite clouds, high cirrus, as if castor sugar has been blown across a blue tablecloth, here and there. The temperature is mid-teens and there’s just a hint of fresh breeze; the sunshine still has the power to warm the muscles; perfect walking weather.

The preamble in the book warns it is “quite demanding and hilly” but the last leg, which for me is the first leg, is all downhill. Will I regret this? Actually, it isn’t bad at all in the end, just a steep climb out of Long Compton – straight outta Compton, I want to say – there, I’ve said it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The Red Lion at Long Compton is a beautiful pub with a fabulous lunchtime menu. I’m walking so settle for a fish finger sandwich in ciabata with tartar sauce and a lemon dressing salad, a portion of chips (fries) on the side. The beer is Hooky which is a local brew and pretty good too. They think I’m nuts wanting to eat in the garden; there’s a roaring log fire in the bar but it looks a bit too warm in there and I don’t want to waste the glorious sunshine.

Climbing up and over into Little Rollright, the views are spectacularly bucolic. This area is on the edge of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds and I can probably see clear across Warwickshire and a few counties beyond. As with the weather, the visibility is perfect.

There’s not much to Little Rollright apart from a quaint little church in need of love and restoration, a few select houses and soon I’m walking along a field and can see the Rollright Stones in the distance. It comprises three groups, the first I come across are the Whispering Knights. These are actually the remains of a burial chamber (3500 years BC) but the three upright stones are close together, it’s easy to see how these resemble three characters huddled together, plotting against the King.

Some hundreds of yards away is a circle of stones known as the King’s Men (2500 years BC). The myth is that these can’t be counted. If anyone can count the same number three times in a row, they get their wish. I counted 71 stones on the first go around. I only got up to 30 on the second pass, recognising the 30th stone as the 29th one on the first pass. I left it as that, life’s to short to disprove a thousand year old myth.

The legend with all these stones is that a witch or witches turned the men into stones, as witches do. Close to the circle, an artist has sculpted three witches from hazel switches, dancing joyfully in a ring, holding hands. They looked really good. (These are actually intended to be fairies, I now find.)

Across the main road stands the King Stone, alone. He’s just short of the most wonderful view on the walk, a panorama of lowland England in its glory. Yep, he was hoping to see it too but the witches blocked it from his view. Then they turned him to stone for good measure. This guy is a bit younger than the others, Bronze Age (1500 years BC).

From here, the book says follow the road but from the map I see if I back track to the Knights and head through a wood, I can pick up a path over fields back to Great Rollright. And this is what I do.

It was a fantastic walk, with the weather one of the best in the book. Only one more left to do. What then?


The Rollright Stones

More Shakespeare

For too long I have lead an uncultured life as far as the theatre goes, so a few years back I decided I wanted to experience a bit of Shakespeare. I’m assured there’s no finer.

We saw Macbeth performed by the Cotswold Arcadians at Hatherop Castle in 2011. It was really enjoyable and this event has become a fixture in our diary – I blogged last month about seeing the Arcadians perform Twelfth Night.

Well, now that I feel a bit more confident about experiencing the Bard, I thought about trying another performing group, The Riverside Players. Last week, they were putting on Much Ado About Nothing in the gardens of Rendcomb College, just a spit and stone’s throw down the road from us. We booked tickets at the last minute for the last show.

The College is a grand Victorian period building, set up high with splendid views of the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately it was a bit breezy and overcast, and the arena was a bit too exposed to the weather. In the end, it did rain; a fine drizzle typical of English weather; we got dampish but what doesn’t kill you makes you tougher; we toughed it out.

I didn’t know much about this play other than it was billed as a comedy. My wife said it was also a romance. A Rom-Com then, by Shakespeare. I now know that the people who put on Shakespeare often like to play with anachronisms. This performance was set during World War II, with princely officers in uniform, women in print dresses and permanent waves, and even a comical party of Home Guards and an air raid warden.

There was a bit of singing too which surprised me. Authentic Shakespeare or a touch of Vera Lynn?

The Players performed very well, I thought. It was clearly a comedy and the plot was easy to follow, and I cottoned on to some funny lines. We’ll be going along again, I think. Next year, perhaps, though they don’t always perform Shakespeare. That’s okay, it’s good to get out and see some theatre now and then.


The Riverside Players

Out & About

Chedworth & Withington; Cotswold Walk no. 26; 9 miles, 4.5 hours (inc. stops)

It’s an unusually warm June, clear skies and humid, and I nearly put off this walk until some typically English weather arrives which is pleasant for long walks. But then there’s this job I’ve taken on from next week and so I strike while the iron, and sun, is hot. Fortunately, there are two good pubs on the way, about two hours apart, so at the last moment I grab my stuff and go.

The Jarrold book from which this walk comes, suggests parking outside an abandoned airfield but thinking this is too exposed and risky, I drive to the famous Chedworth Roman Villa where I can park amongst numerous others. This also means I have a leisurely two hours stroll to the pub at Withington in time for early lunch, and from there get to the pub in Chedworth by around 2.30. This does mean I’ll be doing the route in reverse to that of the book but on many of these walks, I’ve thought they’d be improved by reversing them, so let’s see. As reading the book’s directions backwards makes my brain ache, I put it away and stick with the map.

This is a superb walk with plenty of scenery and not a lot of trudging up and over hills. The first part is actually 2km along the road from the Roman Villa but it is so quiet. I’m passed by just two cars and four cyclists; the cyclists say “hi”. At a crossroads, I’m to leave the road for a footpath across meadows which more or less follow the little, babbling River Coln, but I’ve read about an art gallery located around here, The Compton Gallery, so I go off to have a look. As expected, it’s closed: it’s such a remote place and seems open only when they have exhibitions. I need to sign up for their newsletter.

The footpath takes me under a disused railway line – a victim of Beeching’s Axe? – and onto another quiet lane into the village of Withington. I was here less than a month back, having a pint and a ploughman’s lunch at The Mill Inn. And this is exactly what I do now, although I’m ten minutes too early for lunchtime so I go have a nosey inside the church. It’s a simple, solid looking building from the outside but inside, apart from a nice pipe organ, it’s one of the most austerely furnished ones I’ve ever nosied around in. A framed list on the wall shows the church’s rectors down the centuries. Richard of Forsthulle is the first named, taking office in 1283. He spent three years there before “Jordan” stepped in for a year, after which the job went to the fantastically monikered Ralph de Vasto Prato. Guess what his nickname was at school.

The pub is much quieter than last time. I take my boots off and stay an hour watching the world go by. Not much of the world actually goes by but I enjoy my pint and lunch.

After lunch, there’s a slight climb up to Withington Woods. It’s not too steep but it’s through an open field and it’s the last thing I wish for after a lunch in this heat. Halfway up, I meet an electricity grid pylon looking incongruous in the landscape. If I were a modern day Quixote, this would be my crazy giant to tilt at. At the woods, I’m supposed to be guided through it by yellow way-markers but there’s none I can see. With woods, you just hope for the best. Luckily today I can see the sun, the map says head south and it’s not far off one o’clock BST – the old Boy Scout knowledge pays off occasionally.

I arrive at the edge of a disused airfield where the book tells us to park. I’m glad I ignored that, it’s far too remote and risky. I walk along the length of what looks like the main runway, cracked tarmac showing here and there under grass and weeds. It may have been built for the last World War; there are many such airfields around here though many still in use. So, the airfield, the abandoned railway and several Roman occupation sites – quite a bit of history here.

I arrive at Chedworth village coming down a hill path which enters the church yard. Going around the church, the path continues down to the Seven Tuns pub which I spot through a gap between cottages. They do their own beer here, I see, but I have a pint of Hookey. It’s a good ale. No one in the pub and only two women in the garden drinking wine. One goes inside for another round and the other strikes up a conversation – about the weather, mostly. It’s a Brit thing.

Should I have had that beer? There’s the steepest of steep climbs out of the village, though thankfully short. At the top, I follow a path which brings me to a field of rapeseed, already gone to seed. The map shows the right of way right through it and it looks as if the farmer has left a gap of two feet straight through. Trouble is, the crop looks about three feet high and the weight of seeds means the crop has fallen across this path. I walk it but it feels like walking through trip wires. It’s a wide field and, guess what, there’s a second one beyond!

Eventually, I reach Chedworth Wood. This is a working woodland, its notices say, and there are tree fellers and felled trees to prove it. This means there’s no getting lost: a single path directs walkers away from the timber business and out the other side. All that’s left to walk is a wide private lane, about 2km long, running between the woods and the River Coln, and plenty of shade from the trees. Before I get to the Roman Villa, I see a couple of hares in a field. These animals are symbolic to the area, in both Roman times and modern. As I get close, they hare off at a terrific pace. It’s a good end to a nice walk.

photos: The Mill Inn; tunnel below disused railway; Rectors of Withington; official footpath through rape field; River Coln under shady trees


Chedworth Roman Villa

The Compton Gallery

Beeching’s Axe – cutting Britain’s railways

Tumulus

All this week I’m on dog walking duty. It’s not a chore I relish as dogs and walking don’t go together in my world: I love walking but dogs are a distraction; you have to keep your eyes on them all the time, in case of livestock, wild animals, other dogs, and any open cottage doors. Also, one of them has a tendency to roll in any foul smelling pile she can find and I’m pissed off if it falls on me to clean her off.

I take them to an area I haven’t seen in a while though quite close to where we live and have a look at the tumulus. If you read Ordnance Survey (OS) maps, you’ll know these are included as landmarks, though, as landmarks go, they don’t always stick out and it’s ironic that you need the maps to see those in the field. This tumulus is one such unnoticeable mound on the ground.

About ten or more years ago, around the time I came to notice it, I found someone had laid a ring of stones in order to contain a fire; there was some ash, burnt twigs and a few metallic objects which hadn’t burned. I’ve no idea what it was about but the stone ring was placed directly on the tumulus. It gave me an idea to construct a marker so each day I placed a fresh stone to form a kind of dry stone column. Then, after a couple of weeks, it was apparent persons unknown were joining in. In time, the column could be noticed from some distance, so I called it job done, but the others kept on adding stones for a while. I didn’t mind, it was a collaborative work in progress; I didn’t feel I owned it.

During hay making time, I thought the farmer might knock it down to make cutting the grass easier but he’d actually cut around it, leaving the stack standing.

So, this morning, I discovered that the original construction has gone – I’m hardly surprised – but in its place is a low ring of stones making a much wider circle than before. Judging by the grass, it’s not too recent a job either. Still, it’s a marker.

Previously, I found a book recording tumuli in Gloucestershire and as far as I could gather, this one has no record of any archaeological dig.

I wonder what’s under it?


the images can be clicked on for a larger view.

About Tumuli (wiki)

A Bit of Englishness

In Winter months, on occasional weekends, we like to have a traditional roast in a country pub: moist, pink beef slices, roast potatoes, baked root vegetables, sour red cabbage, cauliflower cheese, a Yorkshire pudding and gravy. Delicious, bit really it’s all an excuse to sit in a pub on an afternoon and enjoy a decent English ale.

When the warmer weather comes, albeit unreliably and all too brief, a roast isn’t always agreeable, but the pint still beckons. Our considerations turned to the Ploughman’s Lunch, and here’s the thing: pubs don’t seem to be doing them much any more. Not around here, anyway. It’s either gastropub menus or sandwiches.

This lunchtime, we tried out the pub in the Cotswold village of Withington, about nine miles from us, though this was our first visit. Things were looking up as we entered the car park and found parking under some trees, out of the sun. We walked through the open garden which had plenty of tables, many unoccupied, and almost all with wide parasols. Inside the quaint, old building, on top of the bar, there was a small chalkboard on which was written: PLOUGHMAN’S LUNCHES – Stilton & cheddar or Ham & beef.

We sat in the garden, a table on the lawn by a babbling stream. The sun shone in a clear sky but the breeze was cool and gentle. A church wedding was in process – we’d seen it on coming into the village – and the church bells rang. Somewhere behind us, through some trees, there was a tennis court and when the bells paused, they were replaced by the softer puck, puck, puck of a tennis match.

The only thing the scene lacked was a vicar strolling along the lane and a bobby on a bicycle.

If only every day could be like this.


photograph: Pinterest

Out & About

Bourton-on-the-Water, The Slaughters, Naunton; Cotswold Walk no. 25; 10 miles, 5 hours (inc. stops)

I’ve been wanting to do this walk for a long time. However, I’ve either been too busy, or the weather hasn’t looked promising. Today was the one day I could hope for this week and it’s typical that the weather has moved from one extreme to the other. Not a wisp of cloud to be seen. It could be a scorcher! I hope there’s some shade, a little woodland walking possibly.

This is another circular walk from the Jarrold’s series. It starts in the large Cotswold village of Bourton – though more like a small town these days due to extension developments – and goes through the smaller villages of Lower and Upper Slaughter, and Naunton. As 5 hours plus of car parking in touristy Bourton would be in excess of five pounds and as I’ve seen it before, I parked the car in a small industrial park for free.

It is a remarkably short and easy stroll from Bourton to Lower Slaughter. It’s just as well because I’d only walked ten minutes when I realised I left my phone in the car; and so back I went. Approaching Lower Slaughter, you meet the River Eye which guides you in. With a languid and heavy flow, the clear water looked inviting on an already warm late morning. Lower Slaughter is one of those villages that make it onto the lids of chocolate boxes. You can imagine an army of invisible bots continuously going about picking up litter and trimming the soft verges. I followed the river to the “much photographed” mill, and took a photograph, but halfway there, I took in a local artists exhibition in the village hall – this walk was soon looking to take longer than expected. I was sorely tempted to try an organic mint and chocolate ice cream at the mill shop, but I reminded myself of the pub at Naunton and walked on by.

Upper Slaughter is a similarly short distance away as Bourton but, as the name implies, up a gradient. Incidentally, the name Slaughter isn’t anything to do with blood shedding but comes from an old word for marsh, though no marsh was evident on my walk. Upper is just as pleasant as Lower but with a less touristy feel about it.

All too soon you are done with the pretty Slaughters and its a shame because the walk from there is fairly exposed and in the heat I began to hanker for my pub break at Naunton. The Warden’s Way, a bridlepath to Naunton seemed to be never ending and though it was peaceful, there wasn’t a lot to write about.

Finally Naunton came into view in the Windrush Valley below. I walked down into the village and found its pub easily. But it was a disappointment. I don’t like coming down on things like this, and the pub looked popular enough, but my pint was one of the most tasteless ones I can remember having. I think it was called BB, which may have been short for best bitter. Insipid would have been a more appropriate name. My sandwich was as dismal as the beer. How hard is it to make a decent looking sandwich? Taking a seat, I looked around the room. Nothing hinted at the least amount of enthusiasm for the hospitality business. I ate my sarnie, drank up and left under a cloud, the only one around on this otherwise clear, blue day.

The rest of the route out of Naunton and back to Bourton, is as uneventful as the way in. And when it’s hot and there’s no shade, it’s not that pleasant. My advice for this particular walk is, perhaps miss out Naunton. I noticed a swanky country inn in Lower Slaughter, and there are plenty of watering holes in Bourton. If it’s a long walk you want, there are better ones to be had around the Cotswolds, and some of them have good pubs!

A Headclearing Stroll

Grange Farm, Stratton, The Polo Fields and Cirencester Park; Circular walk 5.5miles

I woke today with a thick head. Not a hangover, mind you. I can’t say what the cause was.

Throughout my 20s and 30s, I suffered frequently with sinusitis. During such an infliction there was nothing for it but tough drugs and a prolonged supine posture. I reached a point when I sought the advice of a physician. I wasn’t much in the habit of bothering the quacks and this was the first time I’d set eyes on the one I was “under”. It was very disappointing: she asked me to keep a diary, and sent me away. A diary? I was complaining about chronic sinusitis, not memory loss. It was back to self prescribing medication, the strongest money could buy – legally, of course.

The pill of choice was called Sine Off (geddit? – it’s a fact). It was dayglo yellow, about the size of a petit-pois. The advice contained in the packet was not to exceed the stated dose, one, and not to drive, or operate machinery. There was no mention of keeping a diary, which is my kind of over the counter medicine. It worked when nothing else came close.

The miracle cure which eventually stopped the condition dead in its tracks was exercise. Good old sweat and heavy breathing regular exercise. I joined a gym, not because of that but to get fitter generally. Three sessions a week, religiously, I became a demon on the Concept II rower. I also took up running every Sunday morning, and got myself a mountain bike.

The sinusitis just slipped out of my life quietly. From banking on it at least once a month in the past, it occurred to me one day that I hadn’t had an episode for over three years and I had a medicine cupboard of remedies well past their sell by dates. 

Of course, we all get a thick head once in a while and sometimes all that’s needed is a gentle stroll in the fresh air. I thought I’d walk up to the Polo Fields via the fields at the back of Grange Farm, past Stratton Church (St. Peter’s), the church with two bells – clang and clunk. It’s a regular dog walk and there’s a fair chance of seeing roe deer, a fox, even a sprinting hare. In the warmer months, you can hear skylarks ascending aplenty but it’s November and all I saw were two circling buzzards calling to each other over and over. 

Pope’s Seat

Half way up the track I thought I’d make a proper walk of it and head down into Cirencester Park by way of the beech wooded Shepherd’s Ride. Shepherds rode, who knew? This path passes by Pope’s Seat, after Alexander Pope, the poet and park design consultant. It’s just an arch which contains two wooden park benches set in opposing alcoves, one facing the another about a leg’s stretch apart. This can’t have been the original concept as the arch itself faces a long drive, or ride, towards Kemble, a view which must surely have been its focus and subject of contemplation. It’s not a grand structure, or particularly pretty. I think he was better known for his poetry.

Broad Ride

It’s not long before the path comes out of the trees and faces down Broad Ride where the parish church of Cirencester, St. John the Baptist, is the definite focus, with its stocky buttressed tower slap bang in the centre of the drive. It’s down almost all the way to the main gate but a little before it I turn off and leave the park by a side lane past the old orchard and apple store. 

Then it’s along Barton Lane, around the Nelson Inn, crossing the old Gloucester Road, carrying on over the little bollarded road bridge across the Churn, crossing over the A435 and up Bowling Green Lane. At the end of the vehicle accessible part of the road, I cut through a hedge and head across the meadow, cross the Churn again, and the A435, and I’m more or less home. My head is clear.

Out & About

Edgeworth, Miserden, Rendcomb, 23.4 mile ride

After all the rain, we woke to a sunshiny morning on Thursday. I was ready to do a couple of hours in the garden but the wife suggested going for a ride. Who am I to disagree? With the inner tube successfully replaced since the previous mishap, it seems reasonably to try again the planned ride to Miserden.

Going past the exact point of the puncture felt ambivalent; pressing on through Edgeworth felt a lot better. Before I got to the point, I saw what I thought was a deer heading down the road in front of me, a small muntjac. As it turned in profile, making towards the fields, I saw it was actually a hare. A bloody great lanky hare, all ears and long legs. It must be the biggest I’ve seen (though I’ve not seen that many). I thought it was a good omen. So past rather than through Edgeworth proper, and on to Miserden.

I don’t know how Miserden is properly pronounced, whether it sounds like misery or miserly. Either way might imply an undeserved association with those words for what seems a cheerful, little village. It’s off the track, so to speak; the only road into it carries on through only to meet up with the road you turned off, half a mile further on. The only legitimate business anyone would have to be in Miserden is to be in Miserden.

It appears a self-contained place with its school, its church, with a clock tower which tells the correct time, a busy village store, outside of which is a pleasant, long, wild flower meadow, and its own “community library” (I only saw the sign though). Further along, there’s what looks like a manor house and gardens, and, probably best of all, a good looking pub. (I remember trying to book a table at this pub once and was told it was fully booked, in a tone which implied an utter lack of interest in attracting future customers. Wow, their food must be really exceptional, but I left it at that and we went to our favourite pub instead). Last but not least, they have a pretty and ancient tree growing right through the middle of their bus stop (see image).

Heading back out the way I came in, almost riding past the turn for Winstone. Before Winstone, I came across a couple of Asian tourists. The bloke was stereotypically involved in the workings of a camera, photographing some Cotswold sheep, while the woman greeted me in perfect English (they could have been English, of course) and was complimentary about the countryside. I had to agree.

The way through Winstone, and on to Woodmancote, I’ve done before. At Woodmancote, I remember this time the turning to Rendcomb. I manage the rise into Rencomb reasonably well but the hill out of it kills me. It’s actually the third killer climb on this route. I dismounted each time, muttering with a wry grin, I’m too old for this shit! Then three quarters up this hill, an Irishman, with his silent mate, stops his utility truck and he tells me to get back on the bike. I tell them to fuck off, and we laugh. It’s become a bit of a cosmopolitan adventure.

The hill eventually flattens off before The Whiteway. I hop on and hit The Whiteway, riding flat out all the way. You can rely on The Whiteway for a good ending to a good ride.