Day 6 of 8 on the Cotswold Way was the first day we saw the temperatures rise to well above the 30C mark. The heatwave that we are experiencing here in England has definitely changed our approach to the walk and I am secretly loving it .. we have decided to start these last days of the Way as the sunrises at 5am. My favourite time to be hiking! Brings back fond memories of my Camino adventure.
All of us were up at 430am (if not earlier) to get ready and quietly sneak out the doors of the Woodlands House B&B in Dursley. The B&B does not do breakfast for 430am so instead they left us a nice note and had some fruit, crisps (potato chips) and granola bars for us to grab and go. I have to admit I did missed my full English Breakfast and pot of tea.
As we started our walk with the moon heading to bed and the sun coming up all in the first hour of the day. The temperature was perfect and, crazy enough, still warm enough to be in just tank tops and shorts (a signal of the heat to come!)
The Way kicked off with a climb out of the town (of course), a nice jaunt across a golf course, some more uphill and then we were rewarded with our first break of the day at the Broadway Tower.
An amazing tower on the top of a lengthy hill surrounded by forest and fantastic footpaths all over the place. No wonder we saw so many early morning dog walkers here – they too were beating the heat of the day at a great place!
While the rest of us settled into our first break to enjoy our trial breakfast, Shar popped up the 187 steps of the tower to see the 360 views of the landscape. Adding more steps to an already 26km day on a skinny old, stone, skinny spiral staircase was not my idea of a good time. She was our tribute to head up and see what she could see – while we snacked lol.
While sitting enjoying our breakfast we heard scary, freaky animal screaming from the forest we would be entering next – like blood curdling kind of screaming. We had no idea what made the sound. A bird of prey, tortured souls, maybe a werewolf! The dogs in the area were barking heaps when it happened too. When we asked the locals who passed us what is was they also had no idea. What the heck?! I asked one chap walking his dog if there are werewolves in the areas, jokingly of course, oh wow he laughed. We chatted about our hike with him a bit more and as we said goodbye, he said ‘good luck with the beasties’. Hilarious!
Happy to report we made it through the woods safely. We may never know if it was a werewolf or white walker or a death eater.
From there we crossed field after field of crops and livestock. One crop we had not seen yet was a field of, we think, Canola plants. They were head height and the field was so long it took us quite some time to get through – poor Cheryl was in the front of our pack on spider web clearing duty and her shoulders and arms were on fire by the time we came through. Thanks Cheryl!
I took my turn on spider web clearing in the next Vegetation Corridor of Humid Hell (what we came to call skinny paths between chest height brambles and grasses). One of the down sides of getting out first on the trail is that no other hikers cleared the arachnids for us already.
One ‘exciting’ moment on the trial was when we tried to get through a pasture of cattle. Other walkers came through before us and cause the cattle to move to one end of the pasture which was quite skinny with bramble (thistle, stinging nettle, blackberry bushes, etc) and either side and our gate dead centre where the beef were currently standing. Doh!
We tried to find a high path to get past and down to the gate but nope, trued a low route and nope, tried to encourage them as a group to move along to one side or the other but nope, and tried to walk through them also nope.
After way too many minutes in the hot sun hoping they might move away from the gate on their own, we made our way through the devil brambles and used the arms wide and saying ‘Bubba Bubba Bubba’ over and over again (not sure why I used that word in the first place but we all got in on it and it worked) moved the massive cows off the path enough to get to the gate. We mostly came out unscathed…Rosa’s legs (she was the lead on the bramble taming portion of our plan) however will never be the same!
In our travels we passed a few other cool sights, another tower, a fantastic church, neat shine stile and some new Cotswold Way sign style we hadn’t seen before.
Our most favorite moment, was this sweet sign from a local child offering us weary hikers some fresh water on way too hot of a day.
Just a few kilometers from Old Sodbury, our destination for the day, we stumbled into the Beaufort Arms pub to refresh with some iced sparkling water and a look at the trail ahead. The temp was already in the 30s and we had just finished a long section of the trail where there was little or no shade to take breaks in.
As it got hot on the trail our technique was to hike from shade to shade. Cross a long pasture in the sun, take a micro standing break in the shade to cool down and slow the heart rate – repeat! During the afternoon, these shaded breaks were getting far and few between with no trees or clouds to provide refuge. We were sorta, kinda, totally melting.
Looking at the trail ahead, we had just a few km left but it was all through wide open farmland – that meant waist high crops and zero trees / shade. We would have been like mini donuts on the deep fryer conveyor belt at a carnival. I like to eat donuts not be a donut. So what to do? When in doubt let the path decide…
The bartender (we refer to her as Beaufort Bonnie now) was going into Old Sodbury at the end of her shift in an hour and offered us a ride AND the kitchen had cooked too many roasted potatoes for Sunday dinner and brought us out a warm bowl for free to enjoy. A sign to order cold pints to wash the potatoes of joy down and hitch the ride!
We arrived at the Old Sodbury, thanks Beaufort Bonnie, at about 4pm to enjoy a shower, maybe a nap, and then a great supper in the Dogs Inn pub (also our accommodation) and some pints in the beer garden with some other hikers we met along the way. Fun!
A fantastic way to end the day before we start again tomorrow at 5am again!