Rolling hills, stone built villages and rural landscape is what defines the Cotswolds area and makes it so popular. Stretching from Stratford-upon-Avon all the way to South Bath on over 2.000 sq km is one of the biggest protected landscape in England. While it might not offer you the exposure of a hike in the Alps, Cotswolds offers plenty of day hikes opportunities, including the 164km Cotswold Way walk. In a place that time stood still one can enjoy a quiet and relaxing day away from the busy and crowded cities.
There is good public transport from London, but one must change to local busses for some of the walks. If you don’t have a car it would be easier and less time consuming to rent one. Depending which of the walks you will be doing, expect to drive about 2-3 hours each way. There are multiple car parks and most of the free of charge. If you choose to spend the night for a later start, you can either camp or stay at a B&B. Both of the option will require booking in advance. As wild camping is forbidden, the sites are private. Expect to pay anywhere from £12 to £16 per tent.
Cicerone Guide – Walking in the Cotswolds has pretty much all the information you need and it’s up to date. Alternatively you can get an OS map. While the routes are marked with a red or yellow arrow, at crossroads there are no other indicators and it becomes confusing so make sure you have at least a guide book with you.
Another mandatory item is a pair of waterproof sturdy boots. And not because the terrain is very challenging but because it can get very muddy and slippery. Even after a week of sunshine, deep in the forest is still wet.
Laurie Lee’s Slad Valley
The start point for the walk is Bulls Cross. There is a lay-by where you can leave the car right at the start. If you are coming by public transport, then your train stop should be Stroud. From there either walk for about 4.5km or take the bus. The bus stop is across the starting point. The sign post that marks the beginning describes the shorter version from the Cicerone guide and should take about 2-3 hours. The longer route is 11km and takes anywhere from 3 to 5 hours depending on your hiking pace and stops. I don’t see the point of describing the route step by step as there is already a guide for that. But instead give you a preview on what to expect.
From the lay-by go uphill on tarmac for about 20 m and take the path on the right marked by a signpost. The track goes straight into the woods steeply and gaining altitude fast. Soon after you will reach Dillay Farm and green pastures with yellow flowers. Cows, sheep and pheasants populate the lands. After another section through the forest and a few stiles you reach an open valley. Cross it and go steeply uphill into the forest again. Following the narrow path and a few turn you find yourself in Snows Farm Nature Reserve. Wild and beautiful landscape and if it weren’t for the wired fence you’d think no human has set foot there. Continue your walk and soon you will be rewarded with view over the valley towards Slad. Here is a lovely field where one can enjoy the views while having a snack. Shortly after you reach Furners Farm and cross through their garden. There’s a pond where horses drink water, apple trees and sheep. From here on the track bears right to Slad and soon you find yourself on the main road. If you stop at Woolpack Inn for food or refreshments don’t be shocked about the prices. At £8 a sandwich it better have gold instead of cheese. Just across the road there is a lovely stone church. We leave the village behind for the last section of our walk. Dominated by Frith Wood Nature Reserve with mature beech and oak. We enjoy a last snack on an old bench before the path takes us back to Bull Cross and our car.
We finish the walk just before 2 p.m. and decided to do another short one. On the way to Haresfield Beacon we stopped in Painswick at the Royal Oak Pub for a beer. Sadly by the time we arrived at the start point the weather changed. We opted for a quick run instead and well deserved freeze dried dinner before we drove back to London. A lovely way to spend some time far away from the busy capital and every day worries and stress.