Beyond the Bonk

Excited to share a guest post by one of my hiking besties, Cheryl aka Impossible Turtle …

We’ve all been there: You’re partway through your day on the trail and you find yourself checking your watch (or phone or AllTrails or Ken – aka Cairn) to see how many kilometres you have left. And it never seems like the “right” number. Then it slowly hits you, that realization that no one wants on a hike: You fell out of love with this sh*t five or six km back.

Dammit. This, my friends, is the wall. The bonk. The “why am I even out here” moment. And it sucks.

But let’s not mistake it for more than it is. It happens to everyone at some point. It doesn’t mean you don’t still love hiking or long distance walking, it just means you need a different game plan for this hike and this day of walking. That’s it. And believe me when I say you can spend five or six or ten kms trying to talk yourself out of it and find your trail joy again or you can embrace the suck, acknowledge where you are (in all the ways – literally, metaphorically, emotionally, physically), see it as temporary and get sh*t done.

Before I delve into the ways I battle the bonk, I should mention there are plenty of perfectly logical, sensible ways to prevent bonking.

Here are a few:

  • Get adequate sleep the night before your hike
  • Drink (and bring) plenty of water, some with added electrolytes if it’s hot or you’re a sweaty mess like me
  • Eat a good, but familiar breakfast. Think something filling that will hold you til elevenses but not something heavy or bothersome for your guts.
  • Bring plenty of snacks. (Protein like beef jerky or pepperoni is a go to for me. Salty is good. Candy is also good, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)
  • Relax. This is the hardest one, I know. But if you can stay in the moment and keep your head on the trail (not at home with your daily stresses), you’ve got a better chance of feeling the pre-bonk feelings and saving yourself some grief.

Now, let’s say you (*cough*me*cough*) did all of these things to the best of your ability, given the circumstances and still, you’re feeling. It. All.

Muscle pain. Fatigue. Joint pain. Heat. Anxiety. Guilt.

It’s all beating down on you like the 28 degree sun but there’s no cream that blocks that junk out. You feel like you hit your limit.

(Side note: I’m willing to bet you’ve never actually hit this limit. I’ve let the negative part of my brain convince me I’ve been at that edge many times, on many trails. But it’s lied to me every time. There’s a way to finish. I promise.)

So what do you do? What did I do? I got angry with myself. That sounded a little like this: “You’re in the Cotswolds, for god’s sake! C’mon, Ashworth, you’re in England, in area of outstanding natural beauty, how dare you not love this? Do you know what your family had to do to make this work?” Uhm, that’s not exactly a motivational speech, friends. That kind of self talk doesn’t make the 10 or 15 kms left feel breezy. 😉 But I had to have that moment to hear the ridiculousness of it and then I had to say it out loud to mg trail buddies to hear it sound even more ludicrous. And then it was out of my system. I’ve admitted it. This afternoon, this moment in time on this small section of the Cotswold Way is not my friend. I admitted that, I owned it and I tried to let it be. I couldn’t change it. I loved the day before and would probably love the day to followed. Not loving this bit right here and right now doesn’t define my walk.

So now what?

Candy. I wish I was kidding. Moments like this are what Skittles were made for, my friends. A little glycogen for the muscles, a little sugar straight to the brain brings back some semblance of motivation. I discovered Skittles without the shell in the UK and they saved me several times. Despite condensing themselves into one giant candy clump in the heat, I could always rely on these for a sweet little kick in the butt.

My second saviour will seem like a real trail rule breaker to some and that’s fine! I get it. But music motivates me like nothing else. When you really, truly need something to push you forwards, I know you have a go to song. For Wales & Cots, mine was Free by Florence and the Machine. I don’t often have headphones in my pack, but I did throw them in for the last few days on the trail. (Persistent muscle troubles and some joint pain will have you reevaluating and carrying bits & bobs you otherwise might skip.) I always have my phone, for maps and for emergencies, so at least once, on my really down day, I pulled out my headphones and set Florence to repeat. I think Shar relied on some Motley Crüe one day – whatever floats your boat or moves your feet!

Above all, the biggest thing to remember is the cheesiest platitude I have for you: This too shall pass. It will. It does. And when it happens next time, you’ll know it won’t beat you. It never has. The bonk never wins.

As long as your feet are still in your boots, you can bust through any bonk.

Cheryl

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

Cotswold Way, Day 6 Dursley to Old Sodbury

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!

Brandé

Cotswold Way, Day 5 Haresfield to Dursley

Day 5 of 8 is in the books and wow what a scorcher! We are in the middle of a heat wave here in England. I could never have guessed we would be up against 35+C temperatures! Too hot!

To beat the beat, we got our day started as soon as possible – skipping the included hot breaky from the Beacon Inn for a granola, fruit and yogurt option. We also got a ride from Jaguar Jenny (her name is Jenny and she drove, you guessed it, a Jaguar) back up to the trail head to save us a 2km CLIMB up a country lane that is not part of the Cotswold Way! Seems like a small distance but a climb like that in this heat takes time and energy we needed for the actual trail. Thanks again Jenny!

From there, we still had a climb though. The Path started with a forest climb up to our first high point of the day and great views! Which we immediately followed with a decline and another climb to the next one!

After that it was a lot of agricultural land walking – a corn field, wheat field, vineyard and pastures for the rest of the morning.

We stopped for ‘elevensies’ on a grassy, shaded spot in the town of Ebley. A chance to pop off the boots and socks to dry, get the feet up and enjoy some yummy snacks and good company.

At Eberley, we had a choice to make – a scenic route up and around the town with views across the hills OR an urban route through the little towns. The routes met up again in Pen Wood.

We maximized the experience and split 2 and 2! I had the pleasure of walking the scenic route and while I did not enjoy the burning hot, steep, long pastures we had to climb or the edge of the gully we had to walk … the views were pretty awesome!

The band was back together again in a couple hours in one of the highlights of the Way, Pen Wood, for our’twosies’ break. Then we started to make our way to our home for the night, Dursley.

But not before the Cotswold threw us another curve ball with a final, STEEP climb that near did my fear of heights right in! This pic does not do it justice – how steep and and how high the path is was so intimidating from the bottom. I could reach out and touch the hill as I slowly trudged my way up and may have resorted to a few very unattractive Gollum moments.

The reward was amazing though – great views and a long downhill trudge into Dursley where we found some delicious cold pints and a fantastic dinner at the King’s Head to end our day!

Brandé

Cotswold Way, Day 4 Birdlip to Haresfeild

Day 4 of 8 of the Cotswold Way wrapped up yesterday at 23km (8.5hours) and it was one of those amazing yet full of personal challenging days on the trail…

If you have done any multi day treks you know exactly what I mean .. the trail is great but your body or your headspace or your gear or your whatever is not great and it impacts every darn step you take and every thought you have. Pretty amazing how much a small or a very big personal thing can impact your day’s 40,000+ steps regardless of how majestic the views are. For those of you who have had ‘that day’ – we see you, we honour you, we send hugs, we cheerlead you, and we cheers your perseverance no matter what that looks like for you!

We started the day with a short but a death defying jog down a busy road from our hotel to the trail head – good morning! Then we were right away into a long and peaceful forest track for quite and time. Meeting dog walkers and petting some pups on our way.

From there we had our usual forest track mixed with fields and some lane bits…

We had the chance to stop a golf course the path runs directly through the middle of for our first break – snacks and an accidental half-pint! Such a good little stop.

From there we kept on trucking and made our way into Painswick. We had the chance to visit Saint Mary’s Church that has 99 Yew tree growing – legend has it the devil will not let the 100th Yew tree grow. Pretty amazing.

We met the cutest little grandma on the trail and her grand-doggie Teddy and got some puppy pets in before we grabbed some lunch for our afternoon break and headed out of town. We stopped on a grassy hill just out of town and enjoyed a socks and shoes off with feet up yummy lunch!

Just after lunch we were rewarded with, of course, some big steep climbs out of the town – we have come to expect this after every town – and the ‘halfway’ point. Just 55 miles to Bath and 47 miles to Chipping Campden .. so not really, really the half way point but still photo worthy! This marker was in the middle of some farmer’s cattle field.

From there we were in the home stretch (well a couple hours of home stretch but who is counting .. we were every kilometer!).

We finished the day with a 1.4 kilometer downhill lane off the Path into Haresfeild straight into our home for the night, the Beacon Inn. This place was pretty fantastic! We were all jammed into the same room like a summer camp and oh the arrival pint on the deck was exactly what we needed to cheers the day! A few visits by their pet chicken George as we sat on the patio was a nice touch too!

Brandé

Cotswold Way, Day 3 Cleeve Hill to Birdlip

Day 3 of 8 of the Cotswold Way is complete.

While this was a long one clocking in at a final 27km and over 9hours on the trail (breaks, photos, and random wandering included), it was a fantastic day! I really liked the trail today except for the ‘valley of death drop’ – my name for the approx 1km on tiny sheep trails on the edge of a deep gully. I hate heights so my heart was racing big style to push through that part!

We started the day from The Rising Sun Hotel with a good breakfast and, you guessed it, a STEEP climb up out of Cleeve Hill to the highest point of the Way. At over 300m this is the highest point of the trail.

After a quick ‘spontaneous energizing dance party’, we walked and walked and walked – stopping around noon for our lunch spot and again at 2-ish our afternoon break when we found a great shady spot and when the dogs were barking (aka feet were starting to make themselves heard!)

We found an awesome spot for a cold drink just as the sun started to heat up mid-afternoon at a diner on the side of the road. The staff were less than friendly but the Fanta was delicious!

We wrapped up the day with our feet up and a wee dram of Honey Mead before showers and an awesome dinner and some drinks at the bar right in the Royal Oak Hotel where we were staying!

A fantastic day that felt longer than planned of course but wow does it feel great to be sore but happy when you arrive exhausted at the hotel!

Brandé

Cotswold Way, Day 2 Wood Stanway to Cleeve Hill

Day 2 of 8 of the Cotswold Way is a wrap – well actually Day 3 is too but I am catching up on posts now that we have some ‘decent’ WiFi…

We left the Wood Stanway Farmhouse and the most adorable B&B host Maggie (above) around 830 to start what ended up being a 26km and over 9 hour walking day. To be fair, some of that time was spent doing some enroute or just off route touristy stuff not all walking-walking.

Day 2, here we go … we started out at about 830am and covered some great distance at 26km in total, that includes meandering around some tourist spots!

First tourist spot: just as we approached the Hailes Abbey ruins at 10am (directly on the trail) they were opening their doors for the day! We popped in, explored the ruins (pretty much had the run of the run of the place), had a bit of a break and accidentally did a wine as mead tasting. The mead was so fantastic we now have a bottle and it has become our ‘check in and a wee dram on ice to relax the muscles’ routine!

Here are some of the pictures of Hailes Abbey – founded in the 1200s and largely destroyed during grumpy Henry VIII’s Suppression of the Monestaries campaign.

From there we were back on the trail (one of us a bottle of mead heavier) and made it way to Winchombe. This is a decent sized town so we were able to pop into a pharmacy (for sports tape for my foot) and a great little bakery for a to-go lunch.

Second tourist spot: we took said lunch over to Sudeley Castle (our next tourist spot, just a 20min walk off the trail) and had our lunch siting in a fantastic shaded grassy spot on the grounds. Such a fantastic break on a hot day!

After some eats and cool down, we explored the castle grounds, ruins, and the estate house that has some royal peeps still residing in it to this day. The grounds featured a co-exist outdoor exhibit so you may see a few very large animals made out of natural bits and bobs that are not part of the usual look/feel.

We left Sudeley Castle at about 2pm (we wandered for about an hour) to start the last leg of the journey to Cleeve Hill at the Rising Sun Hotel. The day was smoking hot by now and it proved to be a pretty hot, hard slog up and out of Winchombe. The first steep (and I mean steep!) hill out of town was a doozy – when I am tired I count my steps to distract myself – it was 807 direct sun, steep uphill steps up ick. We felt like donuts in a deep fryer! Thank goodness for the forest walk sections.

Bonus tourist stop: before our decent (that also included some steep climbs ugh) into Cleeve Hill the trail took us right past Bella’s Knap Long Barrow. Which today looks like a large grassy mound but is actually an ancient burial that includes at least 14 skeletons, pottery, bones of animals and more. You can see a couple of the sealed stone entrances still.

By the time we got to the Rising Sun Hotel we were knackered. A cold pint before showers and supper was in order! Nothing better than feet up, cold pint in hand and chatting through the day’s events and photos. Especially when you have 9.5hours of walking to chat through.

We had supper right in the hotel bar (delicious Steak and Ale pie by the way) and all of us turned in pretty early after such a long, great day!

Brandé

Cotswold Way, Day1 Chipping Campden to Wood Stanway

Day 1 of 8 of the Cotswold Way is a wrap and wow there is just nothing like it!

The Cotswold walk is a National Path in England from Chipping Campden to Bath. The distance is 164 kilometers and the trail is largely rolling hills between quintessential butterscotch colored brick and thatched roof buildings clustered together into small villages. The buildings are so different than any other area I have walked in before in the UK – so signature! Very touristy compared to Offa’s Dyke Path truth be told but only in the towns. While on the Path it’s just us and nature!

We (myself, my sister Shar and our two besties Rosa and Cheryl) kicked of the fun this morning just after 8am at the official start/finish – which is the very old market area of Chipping Campden.

From there we made our way out of town and and across parkland and pastures and quiet lanes most of the day. The temp was meant to be about 24degrees so we were a bit worried about walking in the heat – but the ‘trail provides’ as they say and it was warm but we had cloud cover all day. Yahoo!

We walked right through a little village called Broadway where we stopped for a fantastic lunch at the deli. A goat cheese with chili jam and red onions toastie (panini) for lunch? Yes please!

We made our way out … or should I say up .. from Broadway after lunch to enjoy more pastures, quiet lanes, and parkland.

Our afternoon (or two-sies) break was on some well placed rocks along a quiet lane – just long enough to have a bit of a snack and for me to put my foot up for a wee bit. If I stay ahead of it with pain killers, sports tape and elevation for a bit every 10+ kilometers – its golden!

As we came into Stanway, a small village just before the hamlet where we are staying called Wood Stanway, we discovered the Stanway Fountain and Manor House was open. So we popped in for a break at the 300 foot fountain (largest gravity fountain in the world?) and a look around the home and estate that has been with the same family since the 1600s. You can even tour the actual manor house – but not the house kitchen as the Earl himself was making a cup of tea. For reals!

From there it was a short skip and a jump (ok at 20+ kilometers there was no actual skipping and jumping) we arrived at the Wood Stanway Farmhouse our B&B got the night. Not only was this B&B farm house built over 400 years ago, but our host Maggie was amazing, and she made us a delicious home-cooked meal for dinner. Wow! Checks all the boxes.

That’s an early night for us. 2 of our crew are still adjusting to their 7hr time change and all of us are keen to get a good sleep and on the Path early tomorrow before the day gets too hot!

Brandé

Offa’s Dyke Path, Day14 Tintern to Sedbury

Day 14 of 14 done! That’s right today we reached the ‘finish line’ – wrapping up the Offa’s Dyke Path adventure in Sedbury!

We started the day in Tintern cross a very cool old Tramway Bridge that is now only for pedestrians and bikes to cross the River Wye (which seems to be pronounced We in mid to North Wales but in South Wales is Way). You could see the amazing Abbey ruins to the right as we walked across!

Then we had a longer than expected flat forest walk to kick off the morning .. aka we got to chatting and missed out turn (there was no sign post or way marking in our defense)! We ended up adding an extra couple of kilometers when we back tracked but also a great conversation – so still a win.

We got ourselves sorted and were happy to see the first Offa’s Dyke Signage for the day!

From there it was up and up and up into the forest which had a very Lord of the Rings vibe to it – so fantastic! There were many Gondor and Elves and Baggins and Shire references. Largely by me, total Tolkien nerd!

Our time in the forest continued for the morning and into the early afternoon. Thank goodness as the day quickly heating up to 26C and the shade of the trees and soft path kept us cool and warm for most of the day!

We had our lunch at the top of the forest at a place called the Devil’s Pulpit – with views of the Tintern Abbey again but much farther below.

I may have jinxed my juju up too though … there is a ancient Yew tree that is growing it of som rocks and I put out some incense someone had burning by the tree. They lit it and walked away – no one was around. Sorry but burning and forest are not a good mix and I could not just walk away from it! Hope I didn’t screw up anyone’s ritual or something.

After the forest we had some field walking and then we were in Chepstow (Wales) and then Sedbury (England) for the official finish of the path. It is a bit of an underwhelming finish, truth be told, after so much amazing scenery and then just ending in city stuff. I guess one of the benefits of walking the other direction is finishing with your toes in the ocean in Prestatyn. But we were elated all the same!

That’s a wrap on Offa’s!

Now a couple days to recover and then we will start the Cotswold Way …

Brandé