Cotswold Way, Day 8 Cold Ashton to Bath

Looking back on Day 8 of 8 on the Cotswold Way – yes that’s right, finish line day!

We clocked this day in at 15 kilometers and just over 5 hours back in July – wrapping up before the sun was sweltering but still warm enough that the cold ‘finish line’ pint in the ONLY pub with air conditioning in all of Bath felt amazing. In fact, it felt epic!

We kicked the day off as early as possible as part of our continued ‘beat the heat wave’ strategy. We were staying in Bath so had to arrange taxi transport from our B&B back to Cold Ashton to start our walk back to Bath (where the finish line is for the Way).

Our walking company had arranged the taxi to pick us up at 930am originally but in light of the 35C temps we expected by noon that was no longer going to work! Chatting direct with the taxi company, they agreed to change it to 6am for us. We had to skip our included breakfast at the B&B but totally worth it! We were on the trail for 630am and the temperature was really comfortable of hours. That 3.5 hour difference would likely mean a 10C difference – that’s a big deal!

Much of the day (morning really) was spent walking though fields of cattle or crops. Most had wide open views of the hills and other fields around us – the sense of being small in such a big space was fantastic!

The path today was ‘easy’ in that it was a lot of rolling up and downhill – not the dramatic, heart pumping climb in and out of every town we had grown used too. The trail and the views were still spectacular mind you! Recognizing that we would soon be playing in Bath and London and the views would be all city scape and not these beautiful green hills – we had to snap one more selfie ‘up top’. So lush!

A little bovine excitement …

One of the fields we crossed had a ‘Bull in Field’ sign. While we appreciate the heads up, the warning can make you a little more nervous than is maybe warranted. I could have probably crossed this field blissfully unaware that Mr Bull was present but the sign had me on high alert. (Refer back to terrifying Bull vs Brande of 2008 on Hadrian’s Wall incident here for background lol)

We stayed together walking with a pep in the ole step to the rock stile (steps up and over the field’s rock wall perimeter) where we would leave the field behind – no reason to dilly dally even if Mr Bull was being entertained by his ladies in the far corner.

As luck has it though, when we stared our trek across the very long field, the cattle also made their move and started to make their way to the same end of the field we were headed towards. But no worries folks – our graceful, stealth like hiking skills had us at the rock fence well before the beef arrived. In fact, we were so non-pulsed by the walking steaks and hamburgers heading our way that we hung out at the rock wall a while for a little photo shoot. We knew we could just pop over the fence quickly if the beef headed our way.

Little did we know, the fence was not complete. The beef walked right through the gap to the very next, again long and large, field we were also heading into. Another field where we had to walk to the far side of AND then walk the length to the farthest corner (where the cattle were heading too) to reach the next stile to leave said beef filled field behind. Yikes! We double timed it a little more seriously this time … just in case Mr Bull heard us laughing at him and took exception to our tom foolery!

We made it and little did we know that would be some of the last livestock we would see as we wrapped up Cotswold Way. Soon we were in more urban settings, passing though a golf course (where we took a nice snack break), then city parks and finally the city itself.

By the time we did get into Bath late morning, we were smoking hot – the temp was already in the low 30s and the approach into Bath was full of steep hills and little shade. An emergency iced latte was required from the cutest coffee shop called Hungry Bear before we even approached the finish line.

Rested a bit and refreshed a little, we made our way to the Bath Abbey where the Cotswold Start/Finish is located – a circular plaque on the ground with an acorn in the center, matching the one we started at in Chipping on Campden.

Unfortunately the Abbey was in full swing all week for local university graduations so we couldn’t visit the actual Abbey (as many do when they finish or start) and we had to act like bouncers to get some time with the acorn plaque without a grad in the frame. So while not quite what we expected – it felt pretty amazing all the same.

Right, well there is the Cotswold Way wrapped up with a spectacularly hot finish but what a long distance adventure! While not listed as difficult or even moderately strenuous in guide books, the Way should not be underestimated. There is a good amount of work on the trail to be done – you cannot achieve great views without great climbs. Most definitely easier that the Offa’s Dyke Path but still a heck of a work out and but felt great to finish.

Ok now let’s go find a celebratory pint …

Brande

Cotswold Way, Day 7 Old Sodbury to Cold Ashton

Looking back at Day 7 on the Cotswold Way and our 16km hike from Old Sodbury to Cold Ashton.

This was another hot one – smack dab in the middle of the unexpected and inconvenient UK heat wave. Temps were forecasted to hit 36C but we lucked out and it topped out at a ‘comfy’ 33C while we were on the trail. Ugh! No matter, we were getting ahead of the heat by starting early again. We left the Dog Inn in Old Sodbury at 5am. It was even a touch chilly as we started out and I got to wear the thin long sleeve I had dragged from Canada for a good minute or two.

Our ramble the first hours of the day had all the things that make early morning walking my favorite! Great temp, amazing landscape, good friends and all is quiet. I find peace when walking and with these conditions, I was in complete Zen!

We walked across wheat field after wheat field, which were easy underfoot and had very little incline, as the sun came up – making the landscape (and our photos) looks pretty magical! Even the dew glistening off the spider webs in our path or across the wheat tops looked pretty and I don’t think I have ever put pretty and spider in the same sentence. Ick.

The icing on the early morning cake? We were blessed with a view of hot air balloons off in the distance. Beautiful! When planning this trip to the Cotswold many people asked ‘where is that’ and my answer was always ‘do you know those images of rolling green hills, clear blue skies and air balloons on calendars, puzzles and screen savers? That’s the Cotswolds’. I could not even believe we got to actually experience this in person. Wow, pinch me I was in a puzzle!

Following a lengthy and thoroughly enjoyable hot air balloon photo shoot – we are all scrapbookers and photograph junkies so you cannot even imagine how many photos we took collectively – we were on our way again.

Not too long later we came upon some signage that diverted the Way around a police incident on Beacon Lane or Road or some such place. The diversion didn’t change the distance we walked, just took us off then back to the route a little.

As we walked the diversion, which I think was about an hour, we discussed what the possible police incident could be. In my always very logical and pragmatic approach to life, I assumed the obvious – a multi person murder / suicide event. Oh wait maybe a horrible alien cult problem. Hmm no. Most definitely and had to be a serial killer. For sure. In stark contrast to my drama, Cheryl suggested it was likely just a grow-op. Which I interpret as a scary, international gang growing whatever makes heroine and amassing stock piles of weapons of mass destruction and serial killing. Obviously. Definitely. Whatever the reason, nothing came up in the media – we looked – so one of my assumptions is surely true if it was so very secret squirrel.

Back to the walk …

We stopped in Tormarton for our morning break – some snacks and a chance to get the feet out of our shoes and up for a bit. I personally had to break every 2-3 hours due to my pesky foot injuries and I needed to do some surgery on my hiking shoes. They were falling apart and I had been using duct tape, sports tape and a sewing kit for the last 100+ km already. They just needed to work with me for a few more days – so a bit more duct tape and sweet talking was required! ‘I love you shoes-sies, we got this! Please do not fall apart on me now’ may have been heard as I coaxed them back to hike-able condition.

Rosa was feeling the need to keep waltzing so spent a just bit of time with us at the break spot and then carried on the Way. It was fun knowing she was ahead of us and we would be ‘hunting’ her aka excited to see her again once the rest of us got going again. I am competitive person by nature so felt a bit like the greyhound with the rabbit on the track in front.

While ‘hunting’ Rosa, we passed through a fantastic forested area called Dryham Wood and came across a message box!

When Cheryl, Shar and I came across the message book, among messages from MANY walkers, we saw a note from Rosa. A proof of life that she was ahead of us and we were on her tail! The hunt continues.

After spending some time to add our own message – which included a hello to our New York friends who were behind us on the trail and a drawing of all of us by our resident artist Shar (she is mumbling ‘I am an artist’ right now as she reads this I bet) – the ‘hunt Rosa’ adventure picked up again.

Pleased to report, we found her not too far after the forest and it’s funny how good it felt to have the band back together. I think she got lonely and stopped to wait for us cause her long legs and steady pace could have our ran us all day if she wanted to.

After a bunch more kilometers, we were so excited to arrive at little cafe just off route. A dangerous road walk (think playing chicken with a big truck or 2) by Shar to confirm it was open, followed by a much safer jaunt across a field by the rest of us to join her, and we had a fantastic place for our Elevensies break. This may have included bacon rolls, hot tea, black pudding and more. Such a fantastic spot and we were out of the sun!

Today’s final walking destination was Cold Ashton, a very-tiny-wee town (read that as a grouping of houses and a parish hall) where we would be getting a pre-arranged taxi to Bath where we had our next B&B. The taxi was meant to come for us at 4pm but we were due to arrive in Cold Ashton by noon and we wanted to get the Bath asap to get out of the heat. A morning of calling and texting via WhatsApp with the taxi transport company while I walked (good thing it was easy walking today or I would have fallen in a death gully) – and we had a taxi pick up for noon!

Following our break, we made our way to Cold Ashton to make sure we were ready for the taxi. The time between arrival and pick up afforded time for a little photo session!

Our taxi was on time and made quick work of the 20min ride to the Walton’s Guest House in Bath. We would be staying at this B&B for the next 3 nights and we were excited about not packing everything each morning.

We had showers and naps and then headed out about Bath (in the sweltering heat) for the evening – this included an amazing Italian meal on the riverside for Cheryl’s birthday. The best Carbonara I ever had that day and the worst sleep ever for all of us that night – historic buildings are not built for heat waves. Sweat, toss, sweat, hit pillow in frustration, sweat, toss, and morning alarm. The belly full of pasta and pints did not help but totally worth it!

More on our Bath excursions in a future post and our final day on the Cotswolds Way too!

Brande