All good walks start in a pub car park and today was no exception. We met up bright and early with what little gear we had. This was our first walk so we were not as well equipped as we are now. We all took the option of wearing water proofs because at that time rain was torrential. I am writing this a year later and as they say you never forget your first time and even now we always talk about this walk.
We made our way from the Crown Car park on the A431 up the road to our first part of the route. The map lead us into a waterlogged field along a foot path. Each field lead us to a bridal gate that was surrounded by thick swampy mud. We had to circumnavigate the best route to the gate and beyond it without getting a soggy foot. By this time we were already ankle deep in mud and our nice walking trousers and shoes were caked in it; but we soldiered on.
Eventually we made it onto the Cotswold Way which was a bit more rocky and wasn’t as muddy. It was quite a nice saunter up to the racecourse. There were some great views over Upper Weston and the valley of Lansdown. We passed a field with cows in to our right and a field with sheep in to our left. What we did not expect to find along the path was a small headstone marking the death of a young girl that fell from her horse. We always tend to see strange things on our walks and this was the first of many. I think we all could agree that it was nice to be out enjoying the countryside, it had even brightened up a bit however that was to be short-lived.
After reaching the race course we came across a viewing point where we took the opportunity to grab five minutes and refresh. The views were quite stunning looking out over Lansdown at all the flooded fields. We walked alongside the racecourse towards North Stoke. It said on the map that there was a fort there but apart from a few suspicious mounds there was nothing else. I think we got our first taste of rain at this point. We all saw a farmer in his nice warm tractor, we all reckoned he was thinking the same “Look at those idiots out in this” How right he was.
We then headed up to the golf course were we were expecting to see some Roman Ruins but they had gone too. As we kept to the path and walked through the golf course a ball hit the ground a few feet in front of Nigel who thanked his lucky stars he was not hit. It was tempting to kick the ball into a muddy puddle..! Once we arrived at Pipley Wood we saw a shark! Thats right, it was in a huge puddle, well ok it was a fin that looked like a shark. It was here that we went the wrong way, we should have gone left but instead we went right. We passed through the trees of Pipley wood and it began to rain hard. Once the three of us had reached the end of the trees and our protection from the pelting rain, we made a joint decision that we could see the Civil war monument – we did not need to walk up to it. This was our original route, to the monument and back but the weather prevented us from completing it. As we stood there dripping wet, tired and muddy a car pulled up asking if we were lost, we shook our heads and we watched the warmth of the cars interior disappear on up the road.
We went the opposite way round the golf course and cut across the racecourse. We past the Viewing point and back on to the Cotswold Way. The rain turned to hail as it pelted us from the side. Gusts of wind tried to unbalance us as we thought about that nice pint which was getting closer with every step. I had to give Mark the map so that he could protect his face from the hail. The fields that we crossed at the beginning of the walk were even more waterlogged now. Each foot had to be carefully placed ensuring that we did not lose a boot. finally the rain eased and we made it back to solid ground. The car park was in view and we could almost smell the ale.
It was clear that our water proofs were in fact ‘light shower proof’ so we were all wet and relieved to be back. We staggered across the road and gatecrashed a romantic couples dinner in the back snug area. Three muddy, windswept men thundering in and commandeering the fire – we apologise to you if you happen to read this. There was nothing more pleasant than feeling the ale swill past our testbuds as we warmed ourselves by the roaring embers. We were all quite surprised that the walk did not put us off for good. Yet here I am talking about it a year later having done 13 more amazing walks after it. However this one will always stick in our minds.