Fifty years ago today, 17 May 1970 (also a Sunday), the Cotswold Way was launched. This was to coincide with the Ramblers’ National Footpath Week, a brilliant initiative to put the spotlight on public paths which suffered from obstruction, neglect and lack of knowledge and interest by local authorities.
National Footpath Week was a contribution to European Conservation Year 1970, and it generated a large amount of publicity. The article in the Ramblers’ magazine, Rucksack (summer 1970), pronounced:
Head office is still counting the nationwide tally of press cuttings, but so far we have more than 7,000 column inches of publicity. There were also numerous mentions and news items on local radio and TV. somewhere between 500 and 1,000 separate events were organised.
Nearly every Ramblers’ Area put on an event, with a national rally at Bradgate park in Leicestershire, and MPs turning out to walk with local ramblers.
The inaugural walk of the Cotswold Way, organised by the Ramblers’ Gloucester and Swindon Area (as it was then), was one of these events. It took two decades of campaigning by Gloucestershire Ramblers, led by Tony Drake and Cyril Trenfield (sadly, both now deceased), for the route to be recognised by Gloucestershire County Council as a promoted path. After much further lobbying by local and national Ramblers, the government approved its development as a national trail and this was finally achieved in 2007.
The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was only four years old when the Cotswold Way was launched. The AONB’s Cotswold voluntary wardens do a grand job looking after paths throughout the area, including the Cotswold Way. (Indeed, the same 1970 edition of Rucksack mentioned that a number of Gloucester and Swindon members were members of the volunteer warden service, and that there was ‘close co-operation with the head warden, Major W R Clarke’ but that unfortunately he had ‘adopted a system of waymarking for the Cotswolds which is over elaborate and likely to be impossible to maintain’. It continues: ‘He would be well advised to take the advice of an Area whose membership includes Tony Drake, one of this country’s pioneer waymarkers.’
The 102-mile way runs between Chipping Campden and Bath, taking in the high spots and viewpoints of the Cotswold escarpment.
I described my walk with Marika Kovacs and Arthur Lee, from Campden to Broadway at the end of last year, here.
I have also walked over Cleeve Common, the highest point on the way.
The Cotswold Way is a terrific path. Unfortunately, the celebratory event today had to be cancelled due to the virus, but it will instead be held on the 51st anniversary. It’s in my diary.