Walking the Cotswold Way: Chipping Campden to Broadway
PUBLISHED: 12:25 16 March 2015 | UPDATED: 09:24 17 March 2015
The snow came swirling down, thick and fast, as we lost sight of the hedges and fields we began to wonder if today was the best day to start walking the Cotswold Way.
I had thought that the bad weather would have dissuaded some of our party, but here we are. Susie, Penny, Sara and me in my car - more like a dog kennel- Clare following behind with Saffy her Labrador. We chugged through Bisley in a blizzard to the motorway.
Chipping Campden is our starting point. We dropped off Clare’s car just outside Broadway on West End Lane, a good 6 miles walk away. Then six up; including Saffy; my tiny Corsa struggled on up the hills, we eventually made Chipping Campden and parked by the church. At last we were here, and about to set forth on one of the most challenging walks in the West Country - but first things first, to find the loos.
We walk past the 17th century Almshouses, then down the High street, and find one just behind the tourist information. The town is beautiful, shops of golden coloured stone with beautifully displayed windows. Cafes beckoned, and I would love to stop and shop, but we are on a mission - this is the first day of our walk.
Passed the old market with it’s stone pillars and open sides, built to sell dairy and produce. Chipping Campden had grown as a wool town in the 16th and 17th centuries. To protect the wool trade, an act was passed during the reign of King Charles II in the 17th century, to the effect that everyone who was buried (unless they had died of the plague) had to be buried in sheep’s wool. If not, a fine of £5 was levied. The old saying ‘You can’t pull the wool over my eyes’ came from being buried in a shroud of wool, and says ’I am not dead you know.’ How did the poor afford this?
We turn right just past the church, and branch off up Hoo lane. I am surprised that for a town where the Cotswold Way starts there is very little signage, and if it were not for the guide book, we would be lost. The path climbs higher, we cross a road and walk along the edge of an escarpment with views over the vale of Evesham. The weather is cold, but dry now and without snow. We are all in high spirits, surrounded by beautiful views. Dover’s hill is where the first English ‘Olympick games’ were held in 1612, featuring leap frog, wrestling, skittles and shin kicking. They were revived in 1951 and now take place every Spring Bank Holiday.
We follow the trail down to the car park and public loos, alongside a lane, then slip along the edge of a muddy field, and through a gap which leads into Mile Drive. It is a broad grassy strip of land, with views over Tilbury Hollow. Further along we reach Fish Hill with it’s own topography point, where we settle down for a sandwich and a drink at a very convenient picnic table. The miles have slipped past with chat and discussion of life and family. We rapidly cool off, and soon we are walking once more, passing through an Anglo-Saxon burial site.
It’s not long before we see Broadway tower, surrounded by a country park, with panoramic views over the Vale of Evesham. The views today have been amazing, and we enjoy them still as we walk down over the fields to Broadway. A beautiful Cotswold village, laid out along a broad wide street with many fine houses, shops and hotels. A display of fruit and vegetables attract my attention, and on peering in I find that not only does it sell veg, but has a counter which sells the most beautiful cakes, breads and croissants, and another counter which sells cheeses. The aroma of coffee hits as you walk in the door, and find at the rear of the shop a café, with a beautiful garden beyond.
If we were to stay along The Way, Broadway would be my first stop. Only 6 miles, but this would give you time to investigate the arts and crafts that fill this beautiful village, and to stay perhaps in one of the historic coaching inns steeped in history, dwelling on what life here would be like in the 16th century.
We are parked just a little way out of the village on West End Lane, right beside the footpath. For the last few hundred yards it rains and we reach the car dripping. Damply we strip off our waterproof trousers and drink a mixture of hot chocolate and coffee, then head back to Chipping Campden to collect my little car.
We’re looking forward to the next leg of our walk. Six miles down, ninety six to go...
For more from Sue, visit her site: www.thelensmen.co.uk