Start - Chipping Campden
End - Crickley Hill
Distance - 16.56 miles / 26.7 Km
Walking Time - 5 Hours
Assent - 2,119 ft / 646 meters
The Cotswold Way is a 100 (ish) mile signposted trail in the UK from Chipping Campden to Bath Abbey through the rolling Cotswold Hills.
I grew up less than 2 miles from part of the path, and yet, have never walked more than the shortest parts of it. In September 2020 I started to right that wrong.
Starting from Cheltenham I took a bus to the start of the trail in Chipping Campden. The bus took the best part of 2 hours to wind its way through every village (stopping at every lamppost we passed,) but, for the princely sun of just £4.20 it must be one the country’s most reasonably priced public transport services. Add in the fact I was the only passenger for the majority of the journey and it was like having a large over sized taxi just to myself.
A small stone pillar and modest plaque marks the starting point (or end point if you’ve walked the route in reverse.) From there an unbroken series of signposts carefully guide you along the route. So frequent and reliable are they that I didn’t once have to check the map for the whole day.
Whoever planned the route obviously has a thing for walking up hills as day one is full of them. Given a choice between staying high up on a ridge line or following a valley floor, the path ignores both options. Instead it merely goes up and down and up again with an alarming frequency.
In between the gorgeous green countryside are wonderful picture postcard villages. Each with their perfectly manicured lawns, Cotswold stone buildings and palpable feeling that you’ve stepped back in time 100 years. The only difference being cars lining the streets insects of horses and the distant hum of the M5 gently rumbling along in the distance.
It seems Cotswold villages fall into two distinct camps. The first are the villages that have become tourist havens; full of tea rooms, souvenir shops and day tripping families. The rest are the complete opposite; stripped of any former facilities (banks, pubs, post office, even phone boxes) are all gone and now just private dwellings with the odd Manor House/Spa resort remain. I’m not sure which I prefer more but on a hot day like I had i’d have welcomed the option of purchasing a cold drink at every turn if I could.
Having started later than normal due to the bus ride, my expectations for the days mileage were tempered but, a final total of 16.5 miles seemed like a more than respectable effort. I carried everything I needed with me to camp, cook and survive and only topped up with food and water along the way. As sun started to draw lower in the sky I began to look for a place to rest my head for the night (preferably with a an epic sunset view.) As I descended yet another hill a sign for Hales Fruit Farm campsite appeared on the path. Never one to miss the opportunity of a hot shower and meeting some fellow hikers I ducked straight in and settled down for the night.