Walking the Cotswold Way part 4: Cleeve Hill to Dowdeswell

Looking out over Cheltenham and beyond

Looking out over Cheltenham and beyond - Credit: Archant

Having had two brilliant days walking in May, the 1st of June was grey and windy as we started our walk from Cleeve Common to Dowdeswell. I took my two geriatric spaniels as I thought it would be warm enough weather and not too strenuous. Not a good idea...

Taking a break and enjoying the view

Taking a break and enjoying the view - Credit: Archant

We climbed up Cleeve hill to the rocky western edge of the escarpment of Cleeve Cloud, which, on a good day, provides truly great views of Cheltenham and beyond.

If you go in June, look out for Monkshood which grows beside the path; a beautiful deep blue-purple flower which Susie told me is highly poisonous. Also keep an eye out for Lady’s Bedstraw which, as its name suggests, was used to fill people’s mattresses long before memory foam.

Lady's Bestraw and the posionous but beautiful Monkshood

Lady's Bestraw and the posionous but beautiful Monkshood - Credit: Archant

The path takes you by the rough undulating remains of an Iron Age hill fort, along the escarpment and through Prestbury Hill Reserve. It was here that we suddenly realised Chippa, my 13-year-old Sprocker, was no longer with us. We had passed a large group of walkers and she, being a bit blind and deaf, tends to follow any old pair of waterproof trousers going. We split up and started to scour the hillside - three and a half square miles of common land, with lots of bushes and no clear view. I walked back in and out of the hawthorn. Everyone we met we gave phone numbers to. A good half-an-hour later, just when I was thinking she was lost for good, Penny shouted that she had found her. Thanks Pen!

Prestbury Hill Reserve

Prestbury Hill Reserve - Credit: Archant

Both dogs securely on leads, we stopped for lunch. Then continued down the hill, on to a track where we saw some amazing looking ponies. They were very distinctive; the shape of draught horses, but fairly small, and the colour of palominos. Their white manes were cut a couple of inches long and stood straight up, with an amazing black strip right down the centre of them.

The owner, who was about to go riding, told us that they were Norwegian Fjord horses, one of the oldest breeds in the world. Though small, they are capable of carrying an adult or pulling heavy loads, and despite measuring between 13.1 and 14.3 hands (a horse is usually over 14.2 hands) they are still called horses rather than ponies. They are also very good natured. If I had a field, I think I would rather like one of those.

One of the Norwegian Fjord horses

One of the Norwegian Fjord horses - Credit: Archant

We headed on down to a lane, dominated by beech trees on either side in new fresh-green leaf. This was the longest stretch of road so far, but luckily very quiet - only one or two cars passed us by.

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As we started to descend further, we glimpsed more views of the high scarp edge where we will be walking next time; more phenomenal views in store for us!

Sheep grazing on the hill

Sheep grazing on the hill - Credit: Archant

There was a steep descent through Dowdeswell Wood Nature Reserve, full of wild garlic and the remains of bluebells. Then we passed the Reservoir - and suddenly the A40 is in front of us. We crossed the road to our car which I had strategically parked before our walk, concluding the Cleeve to Dowdeswell portion of the Cotswold Way.

I think my spaniels can stay home in future.


Read part one of Sue’s walk, Chipping Campden to Broadway.Read part two of Sue’s walk, Broadway to Stanway.Read part three of Sue’s walk, Stanway to Winchcombe, to Cleeve.For more from Sue Wise, visit her website www.thelensmen.co.uk