If you follow me on Twitter (@thethoughtcard) than you would know that I am obsessed with the English countryside. Back in July I spent a week in England and despite the unraveling Brexit situation, I had a wonderful time across the pond. I spent most of my time exploring South West England including Cheltenham and Bath. I also spent a day exploring Northamptonshire in the East Midlands.
The first time I spotted the English countryside was during a bus ride from London to Cheltenham. A friend had just moved to England and invited me to spend a week in Gloucestershire. I welcomed the opportunity to see more of England and after spending only a day in London, we boarded a bus heading to the South West.
For the next 2 hours, we drove past rolling green and yellow hills, and small picturesque villages tucked in the countryside. The rest of England looked completely different from metropolitan London and I loved that.
When we finally arrived in Cheltenham, I was already head over heels in love.
Throughout my trip I took advantage of the good weather and spent a lot of time outdoors. In addition to canoeing River Nene in Northamptonshire, I also hiked the Cotswold Way. The Cotswold Way is 1 of the 15 National Trails of England and Wales, and it spans 100 miles. This trail starts at Chipping Campden in the north and ends at the Georgian city of Bath in the south. The Cotswolds has lots of quaint villages and smaller market towns. Itís also a great place to access North Leigh Roman Villa, an ancient Roman ruin that includes bath suites and mosaic floors.
Super cloudy day but it didnít rain! Follow the Public Footpath.
Although I didnít have enough time to hike the entire 100 mile trail (trust me I would if I could), I did however hike the Cotswold Way Circular Walk which started at Cleeve Hill. Cleeve Hill was only 15 minutes away from Cheltenham which made this 6 mile route a perfect half-day outdoor activity. I completed the circular route in about 4 hours and only needed a pair of sneakers, my GoPro, a map, a bottle of water and a sweatshirt.
National Trails marked with an acorn.
After parking the car in the free parking lot behind the golf course, I followed the Cotswold Way signposts and started my hike.
Although at times I found it hard to navigate the grasslands, following the signposts and occasionally referencing my map kept me on track. I also wasnít shy about asking the locals for help when I got lost.
The Views from Cleeve Hill
Hilly grasslands of Cotswold Way.
One of the most strenuous parts of the hike was getting to the first plateau. The terrain was very steep but I made it to the peak with moderate effort.
Past the hills, I could see the entire town of Cheltenham along the horizon. Since Cleeve Hill is the highest point of Cotswold Way, I also had clear views of Brockhampton (a small village east of Cheltenham) and Wales!
Takes my breath away.
Despite spending a lot of time admiring the views, I also spent an equal amount of time watching my feet. One careless move meant stepping in a mushy pile of dung. Although I didnít get to see any sheep, I did however spot grazing cows and lots of friendly dogs.
There were also plenty of benches along the route which were great for resting. The benches offered the best views from Cleeve Hill and yesÖ I made sure to stop at every bench. Even on a cloudy day, the views were so worth it.
Most benches were wet but who cares when the views look this good.
Cleeve Hill Hiking Mishaps
No outdoor adventure would be complete without a mishap, right?
About an hour into the hike, I must have gotten too close to a poisonous plant because my hands started to sting and burn. Within a few minutes, white blotches started to appear on my hands and I started to freak out.
Of course in a state of panic, I ran to Twitter. I frantically tweeted about my condition and a few friends mentioned that this was nothing to fret over. I had a case of ìstinging nettlesî. The cure was finding dock leaves nearby.
Since this wasnít life threatening, I decided to push past the pain and wait it out. By the end of the hike, I was pain-free.
Restoring the Mud-Capped Wall Project
You are looking at an experiment!
On a more positive note, another highlight from hiking Cotswold Way was the mud-capped walls. These walls are part of a restorative project to conserve critically endangered moss.
Before cars, dung and mud were used to strengthen walls. This organic combination hosted different types of moss species, but by the 1950s, most mud-capped walls were out of use. As a result, many of the moss species either became endangered or extinct. This project at Cotswold Way tests the effects of the combinations of horse, sheep and cattle dung and determines the best habitat for these rare mosses.
Heading back to the parking lot, I took one last look at the rutted trackways and hilly grasslands and knew that hiking Cleeve Hill was a highlight of my trip to England. Although I was sad to leave, I knew that Iíd be back soon.