Walking the Cotswold Way part 3: Stanway to Winchcombe, Winchcombe to Cleeve

Views over the Cotswolds

Views over the Cotswolds - Credit: Archant

It’s May and we have walked two more sections of the Cotswold way, Stanway to Winchcombe and Winchcombe to Cleeve, in quick succession.

Stanway Gatehouse; Penny, Susie, Clare, Sue (me), Sara and of course Saffy, Clare's black labrador

Stanway Gatehouse; Penny, Susie, Clare, Sue (me), Sara and of course Saffy, Clare's black labrador - Credit: Archant

Me, Sue, Penny, Susie, Clare and Sarah, all friends from Chalford Hill, pledged to walk the Cotswold way. On this occasion, we tackled two more sections; Stanway to Winchcombe and Winchcombe to Cleeve, in quick succession. On both days we had the most amazing weather; sunshine, blue skies, and bit of a breeze. Just fabulously beautiful days. The Cotswolds at their best.

We started off at Stanway Gatehouse, an amazing Jacobean style building topped with a scalloped edge, thought to have been built by a local stone mason Timothy Strong. The landscape had changed in just a few weeks, the grass a lush green, and most of the trees had come into leaf. Breathtaking views, as we walked to the top of the hill we could see for miles to the Malverns and the Vale of Evesham.

Flowering rape, almost flourescent yellow

Flowering rape, almost flourescent yellow - Credit: Archant

A gentle walk to Wood Stanway then up hill, through woodland and fields, we came to Beckbury Camp where Thomas Cromwell is said to have stood and viewed Hailes Abbey as it was destroyed during the notorious reign of Henry the 8th. We’re all avid readers and watchers of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, so this really brought history to life. There is also an Iron Age hill fort here, and the ditch and rampart are still visible; so much history in one place.

We stopped to watch the lambs and their mothers snuggled in the farm barn, sprayed in green with letters to match their mothers. By then we were thinking about lunch, so we walked down to what remained of Hailes Abbey and sat on the grass by the beautiful 12th century church opposite for a picnic. Afterwards, we wandered into the Norman church, small but exquisite, with 13th century wall paintings of saints and hunting scenes. Back on the path the rape, bright yellow, almost fluorescent, was in full overpoweringly scented blossom.

Sudeley Castle in the distance

Sudeley Castle in the distance - Credit: Archant

It was an easy walk down to Winchcombe, where we saw a ‘Grand Design’ of huge proportions, a very modern house just outside the town. It contrasted with the honey coloured limestone and half-timbered buildings of Winchcombe. At this point, we stopped for the day.

Just a week later we were off again. Another fine day, we passed the entrance to Sudeley castle, where Katherine Parr, Henry’s widow came to live when she married Lord Seymour. We could see the house as we climbed uphill, and enjoyed the patchwork of fields and woodlands that stretched for miles. Not far to Belas Knapp a Neolithic burial chamber, the Cotswold walk book says it’s the finest historic site of the whole walk. We walked around the long barrow and peered into the burial chambers where 13 people were found in the 1860’s. It sits high up on the horizon, and as we walked down towards Cleeve, we could look back and see it for miles. Standing above us as we walked are three tall transmitter towers which appear and disappear as we looped round Wontley Farm, where we spotted two deer half hidden in the woodland.

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To find our way we are using a waterproof Zig Zag map, It is a long strip map that follows the Cotswold way, so no folding up masses of paper that gets increasingly wet and soggy as time goes on.

Saffy having a drink at the trough in Postlip

Saffy having a drink at the trough in Postlip - Credit: Archant

The Cotswold way continued and was crossed in many places by intriguing paths - walks for another day perhaps? Then down a beautifully manicured driveway that overlooks Postlip hall, a community-owned manor house, where they offer working weekends, story telling events and also hold the annual Beer Festival. There is also a beautiful Tithe barn they rent out for weddings and other events; such a fantastic setting.

Soon the farmland changed to common land, the golf course came in to view and we saw Cleeve Hill village below. Back to the car, coffee and biscuits and we looked forward to the next walk. It’s certainly going to be quite a climb up Cleeve hill.

Horses near Cleeve Hill

Horses near Cleeve Hill - Credit: Archant

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Read part one of Sue’s walk, Chipping Campden to Broadway.

Read part two of Sue’s walk, Broadway to Stanway.

For more from Sue Wise, visit her website www.thelensmen.co.uk

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