Day 28 - Bodkin House Hotel to Forthay
Dry and sunny intervals forecast today. Thank goodness. Most of my clothes had dried out, but my rucksack was still damp from yesterday. It’s also becoming increasingly stinky, so in a way a soaking wouldn’t have done it any harm, but it would be good to freshen it up a bit - if anyone’s got any rucksack refreshing tips? I had a good chat to the receptionist at the little hotel. She had hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and up again, and this had given her a taste of what hiking can be like. She’s looking for a new challenge. We talked about equipment and boots for a bit, and I encouraged her to plan her next walk.
I set off cheerfully, avoiding the awful footpath from yesterday and doing a diversion along the Sunday morning quiet A road. I joined the Cotswold way again in Hawkesbury Upton. When talking at the hotel I was saying how people have missed a trick on this route, as there are so few places to get a coffee in the morning. As I was recollecting this conversation, immediately round the corner, as if a mirage, I saw tables and chairs on the pavement. The Hawkesbury Community Shop L is owned by the community, run partly by staff and partly by volunteers. They try to employ youngsters at the weekend, and Sam was a great example. I know of a few of these fantastic enterprises, this was as good as any. They try to stock local produce, ranging from their meat to their ice cream, and Diane, the staff member I spoke to, had baked the delicious looking pastries that morning. Coming from the North East, we agreed she wasn’t locally sourced though.
Whilst drinking my coffee (first caffeinated one of the whole walk, watch out!) I got chatting to Aileen and her lovely dachshund Frank. Such a good conversation about the power of walking solo. She said she was inspired to plan a big walk. I hope she does, I think she’d really enjoy it.
Walking out of the village, I was intrigued by the road named Starveall Lane. It made me wonder if there had been famine or other such tragedy here. But looking it up later, it seems it was a common nickname in the 19th century for poor land. Arguing awkwardly from poverty, I then walked past the monument to Lord Somerset. He must have been quite something, or others had a point to prove - his monument is enormous.
I took an accidental but welcome change to the route by progressing down a little of the Monarch’s Way instead of the Cotswold. I’ve rubbed up alongside this a few times, most particularly in Wells. Its a long distance walk if 589 miles, following the route taken by King Charles II after his defeat by Cromwell in 1651. It starts in Worcester and ends in Shoreham. The bit I walked on today was open meadows, almost like parkland. Great easy walking.
A bit of a start when I thought I glimpsed a crocodile next to me in the stream…. I can handle cows, but I think crocodiles are a step too far.
There was a bit of hill climbing today. The first one opened up some extensive views, enjoyed whilst I walked through meadows of grassland. It was idyllic, there were clouds of butterflies dancing round me, wood pigeons calling, the sun on my face. And in contrast a wind turbine rotating lazily on the horizon and the distant sound of shooting.
I continued to climb up, emerging into a forestry area. There I had the pleasure of meeting some groups of teenagers doing their silver Duke of Edinburgh expedition. They were staying in a campsite nearby and were equipped with compasses, maps and enormously stuffed rucksacks. The first group I met appeared to be in some disarray, and the teacher in me stepped forward. Lana, Zaynab and Mahla were kindly interested in what I was doing, and even more interested in my GPS unit. One said ruefully that her dad had offered to buy her one, but then told her it would be cheating. We didn’t think it would matter if I put them on the right track. They told me that there were actually 4 in their group, but that they’d sent the fourth down the (wrong) track to find out where to go, whilst they hung around in a log. Good planning.
Having had a great chat with them, remembering how much I used to love working with teenagers, brilliantly I then met their geography teachers. Lucy and Kirsty are at the beginning of their careers, and appeared excellent at their jobs. They had set up camp on a high vantage point, trying to keep tabs on their wayward charges. All the groups had trackers and phones, and they were ringing in asking for help with no more specific locational information than ‘we’re near some horses’. The teachers were patiently talking to them, helping them find their bearings, telling them (clearly not for the first time) how to use their compasses , then watching on their phone as the trackers on their app set off confidently in the opposite direction. They had a huge bag of snacks. Which I think they’ll have needed - they were in for a long session. All on their day off.
A steep descent to Wotton under Edge for lunch. Given it’s a town, I was surprised how hard it was to find something to eat, almost everywhere was shut because it was Sunday. Another example of the Cotswold Way walkers not having the same sort of infrastructural support as that of the Coast to Coast. An attractive little town though.
Coming out of the town was a steep climb up Wotton Hill to get a great view over the town and way over as far as the Severn.
The walk then dived into woodland, and the type that felt so like Hodgemoor Woods at home. I’ve not been especially homesick since starting. I miss people, sometimes almost overwhelmingly, but I don’t normally wish for home. But in these woods, so like the ones I normally walk in every day, I had a heart turning pang. But then it was replaced by today’s default, which is increasingly the regular default, of being curious about the new place that awaits me round the corner.
Round the next corner corner was another hill, another monument (this time to William Tyndall, the translator of the Bible into English) and another amazing view. The Severn bridge was even clearer. I had a chat with a happy young couple who told me that they’d met a man at Glastonbury who was walking the End to End in the opposite direction. I think he’s the one I’ve heard about from others. He must be nearly at Lands End by now.
At lunchtime I had phoned my B and B to ask about check in time. I couldn’t arrive before 4, but the landlady suggested a cafe that served great cake. I searched it out, and ended up spending a delightful half an hour or so with Niel and Sara whilst eating an exceptional piece of tiffin. They were fascinating. Sara is Italian, Niel is South African, and they met at university in Newcastle. Sara is in the middle of her training to eventually be an anaesthetist, Niel works for the Ordnance Survey. I just love how this adventure is giving me the chance to meet people whose paths would never have otherwise crossed with mine. Universally, everyone I have met has had an interesting story to tell, and taking the walk slowly has meant I’ve had time to hear them.
I’m staying in a lovely B and B tonight. Unusually, they offer an evening meal. This is prepared by the landlady and served by her husband. Dinner was one of the nicest meals I’ve had since setting off, and I had the company of Gion and Giordana with their young dog Benno. They are Swiss, just coming towards the end of their two weeks in the UK. Their English, as always, put my language knowledge to shame. Indeed, we talked a lot about languages, and particularly those spoken in Switzerland. I knew of German, French and Italian, but I didn’t know of Romansh. There are only 50.000 Romansh speakers, and Gion is one of them. We experimented with the same phrase spoken in all the languages so that I could hear the differences and similarities. And lest it sounds like we were entirely focused on one thread, we also covered the origins of the Cornish pasty, the Camino, the rules of cricket, the heaviness of an English breakfast and I showed them pictures of my dog.
Distance travelled: 12.5 miles
Total ascent: 1500 feet
Calories burned: 1850
Local (not very) tipple : half a pint of Odd Job
Dinner at Forthay B and B - excellent
Peppered haddock kedgeree with chilli raitha
Video of the day
New song of the day
Hayley Williams - First Thing to Go
She is described as pop-punk. Doesn’t sound remotely punk to me. She has a lovely vocal quality, and I love the hook. Sad lyrics, but the song draws you in.
Number of pieces of zinc oxide tape holding my feet together: 4