Day 29 Forthay to Painswick
A lovely breakfast today, without feeling like I’ve got to force down yet more eggs. The landlady at Forthay B and B makes her own granola. It was great, really tasty and felt really nourishing. She has become so successful that she has now stopped making it on her kitchen Aga, and since January has been baking it in an industrial unit, but with the same sort of oven. If you’re after great granola, her site is https://forthaygranola.co.uk
It was a good job I ate light today, as the walk started with a climb. I don’t mind the odd hill, specially if it leads to the sorts of views I had yesterday, and I’m getting noticeably fitter. But to do a nauseatingly steep hill straight after breakfast and then just end up on a golf course led me to feel short changed. It was busy with players, and I enjoyed the anomalous grassy path allowed for the Cotswold Way across the manicured course.
As I continued, there was a steep descent with the land falling away dramatically to my left. It reminded me of the coastal path, but this time it was a sea of green.
I called in at Dursley, pushing the negative Harry Potter connotations out. It’s an attractive little town, with hundreds of years of manufacturing industry history.
I jumped at the chance of a coffee, and received a very friendly welcome at the Hummingbird. Angela and Brian were kind enough to sponsor me, and Suzi the manager gave me the coffee on the house.
As I was leaving the village, enjoying the Shetland ponies in the field, a kind walker stopped me to tell me of a road closure. This was going to mean a problem if I stuck to the path. I devised an alternative route which meant I missed climbing one of the many hills on the Way today. When I eventually reached the closed road, the workmen let me through anyway. I was not at all concerned, one pointless hill fewer felt like a result.
The morning was a combination of enclosed forest walks, interesting stone walls, or perhaps the remnants of quarrying, steep climbs and stunning open views.
When emerging onto the road briefly, sweating heavily, I chatted to John who was waiting for his friend toiling up the hill from the other side. He was very interested in the idea of walking the End to End, having only heard of cycling it before. He made a kind donation before we made our way off in opposite directions.
Frocester Hill is the sort of climb I don’t mind, because the effort was absolutely worth it. The views were spectacular, all the way to the Brecon Beacons, fifty miles away. I could see the Tyndall monument from yesterday on the horizon and the long wooded trail that I’d come from. It was exhilarating.
Leaving the lovely Coaley Park nature reserve, I walked past a Long Barrow, an ancient burial site. What a fantastic place to lay your dead.
I eventually started down again through the woods, more confident on my feet now than a month ago. My rucksack doesn’t feel as onerous, my limbs are stronger, my feet are more nimble. It doesn’t mean I’m not careful, just that I trust everything more. I moved through jungles of ferns, with the landscape to my left getting nearer, the familiar Malverns on the horizon.
I decided to divert off the Way to be able to have a look at Stroud. It added a couple of miles, but I didn’t want to miss out on a big town. This reroute meant that I accidentally stumbled on the Thames and Severn Way, and my first canal since I started, sliding its way through Stroud’s old industrial past.
After Stroud I took the footpath up the Painswick valley. This was on ordinary footpaths, which started well but eventually became more problematic, so I cut my losses and did the last section on the road. It’s been a long day, over 17 miles, but particularly tough on ascent. 3200 feet is the equivalent of climbing Helvellyn. So I was pleased to see Painswick, as that’s where my bed was. But also, what a delight this village is. It is ancient, beautiful and unspoilt, yet still living. There’s evidence of an active community, with an arts centre, families taking their toddlers out on bikes, a happy atmosphere in the pub. And as I sit in the quiet writing this in the evening I can hear someone practising the flute.
In the last 24 hours two sets of strangers have told me that I look really happy and well, and that this trek must agree with me. Something must be obvious. And when they say that, I reflect and think that yes, I am happy. It’s not easy, but it is deeply satisfying and I feel I am doing something that is doing me good.
Distance travelled: 17 miles
Total ascent: 3200 feet
Calories burned: 2500
Local tipple: HPA beer from Hereford
Dinner at Royal Oak Painswick - great!
Goats cheese, avocado and mushroom burger with coleslaw and fries
Lovely Karen, the manager at the Oak
brought me a free extra portion of fries because she thought it was likely I’d need the energy. She then said that if it was her pub she’d have given me much more, and that my journey had inspired her to go walking next year. She and her daughter Charlotte made me feel so welcome, which as a solo diner is a great thing in a pub.
New song of the day:
Kings and Queens - Ava Max
I was troubled by this as I felt I’d heard it before. And in a way I had, as it’s based on an old Bonnie Tyler song - If you were a woman (and I was a man), which was itself pinched by Bon Jovi with You give love a bad name.
Video of the day: