Woodchester wander

For our latest walk, visually-impaired Marika Kovacs, Arthur Lee, and I met at Coaley Peak, high on the Cotswold escarpment in Gloucestershire, with a wide view across the River Severn. It was even hotter than on our previous walk from Sapperton.

Marika and I set off on the Cotswold Way, through the cooler Stanley Woods which hug the escarpment.

Stanley Woods

We were following a walk from Ramblers Routes, which was also in the Ramblers’ 2009 book, Walk Britain, great views. The route description is more about time than distance, so we were told we would reach the base of Pen Wood in just under an hour whereas we took much longer. We thought the guide should give an additional measurement of ‘Marika minutes’—not that Marika walks slowly, far from it, but we have to go slower to look out for obstacles along the way, trippy roots, low-hanging branches, brambles etc.

After about an hour we came to an open stretch (far short of Pen Wood), with another glorious view, this time with the Malverns as the backcloth (to the right of the photo below).

Woodside Farm

After more woods we emerged onto the open Selsley Common, a vast stretch of golden grassland. We met Arthur at a seat on the slope and looked across to May Hill and the Welsh hills while we ate our lunch.

We crossed the B 4066 and found the footpath leading to Bownhill. At its entrance is an old metal stile.

The path took us along the drive towards Bownhill and then downhill through fields and across a vineyard to Inchbrook. Here we joined the drive to Woodchester Mansion. As we walked we could hear people swimming in the lakes below, which was tantalising.

At last we came to the mansion, built in the mid nineteenth-century but abandoned when the owner, William Leigh, ran out of money. It has never been completed. Pevsner (1970) comments on the ‘superb masonry which has hardly weathered during its hundred years existence’ and says that it ‘must rank as one of the great achievements of C19 domestic architecture in England’.

Arthur had arrived before us and negotiated with the tea shop to stay open until 4pm (it is normally open until 5pm but had run out of most food and was planning to close early). We were just in time for a cup of tea and ice cream, which were most welcome.

Then we returned to Coaley Peak, to enjoy the view in a very different light from earlier.

The view from Coaley Peak in the evening

We also explored Nympsfield long barrow, a chambered tomb built over 5,500 years ago, which is close to the Cotswold Way on the down.

On my way home I walked to the toposcope on Selsley Common, which we had missed earlier. The view west to May Hill, Clee Hill and the Black Mountains in the mist was lovely.

May Hill on the horizon

Below was Selsley church with its William Morris windows.

Selsley church below

It had been another memorable day.

About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in Access, AONB, commons, Public paths, walking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Woodchester wander

  1. Arthur Lee says:

    Marika had a wonderful day, loved the walk and had much to catch up with Kate. Ice cream and a cuppa at Woodchester Hall I was told, was to die for on such a hot day. Strawberry ice cream had real pieces of strawberry in it. Thanks Kate fir guiding Marika.

  2. The ice cream was quite something!

  3. John Bainbridge says:

    I remember it well from my boyhood.

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