20121111_Stanton – Stanway – Snowshill – Broadway Coventry CHA Rambling Club Walk
Who : Coventry CHA Rambling Club, Sunday Walk
Where : Cotswolds, England
Start Point : SP 068,344
End Point : SP 090,376
Distance : Approx 10 miles (16 km) including the wander up into Broadway at the end of the day.
Significant heights : 2 “climbs” worth noting …. The first after leaving Stanway of approx 660 ft (200m) in the morning, and the 2nd after lunch in Snowshill of approx 230 ft (70m)
Maps used : once I got home to look at the route : 1:50,000 OS Landranger Map No 150, but I know the leaders used an OS 1:25,000 map – I think Outdoor Leisure Map No.45 The Cotswolds.
Summary : A sunny day, across varied terrain, very pretty villages, superb autumn colours, and good company … A hilly but really not very strenuous walk in The Cotswolds lead by Janet and Jenny with The Coventry CHA rambling club – 21 of us doing the linear walk.
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After my last few diary entries looking back at the start of the year, this diary write up is more up-to-date, being from a few weeks ago, and what a stunningly beautiful day it was for a walk. We’d been having poor weather (like much of 2012), but the forecast from some way out had been for this particular Sunday might be dry and with the promise of maybe a drop of Sunshine (wow), and it didn’t disappoint despite having to remove a good layer of frost from the car first thing in the morning.
Unlike the Midland Hill Walkers Club (that I’ve walked with most recently) whose coach sets off at 7:00 a.m. the Coventry CHA Rambling Club walks start at a more civilised time of at least an hour later. For today’s walk, the coach set off at 8:30 am from the bus-stop lay-by outside The Coventry Sports Centre & Swimming Pool entrance on Fairfax Street … conveniently opposite a large car park. I used to walk very often with the CHA some 20+ almost 30 years ago now and as my sister (Janet) and her good friend (Jenny) were leading the walk and as there was ample space on the coach, I thought I’d join them and catch up with some old friends..
I also thought it could serve as a bit of a test of my poor old semi-knackered knees; I’d had arthroscopy surgery on them both the previous December and although better than before, I hadn’t plucked up enough courage to get out and about with either the MHW or CHA clubs in the intervening time; I had no wish to have any problems out on the hills and so disrupt the leaders’ job with potentially up to 40-50 other people to consider. Having my sister in-control, kind of made it easier as she could tell me how strenuous the day was to be in advance and she’d have the confidence in me being able to tell her how I was getting on should there be a problem.
Anyway, I’d taken the plunge and enjoyed chatting with several old friends from the club that I hadn’t seen for some time during the coach journey down into the Cotswolds. It didn’t seem long before we’d reached the pretty village of Stanton (not far from the very famous Broadway). Stanton is a peaceful village, but early on a cold frosty autumn Sunday morning it was incredibly subdued, even the normally warm toned, honey coloured, stone of the cottages seemed to have taken on an aura of frosty silvery grey. I think these Cotswold villages are beautiful, not stunningly spectacular like some sights, but perfectly understated and simply proportioned in a very English way; you might even say quintessentially English, a timeless link back through the centuries and hopefully on into the future.
The coach dropped us off in the village, but only disgorged twenty-one of us, (including the two leaders) where we rescued our ruck-sacks from the coach’s hold. The rest of the passengers were to do a much shorter “B” walk or simply just head into Broadway for its multitude of cafes, pubs, shops, ET-al for the day. Rather than the potential of 40-50 peep’s, 21 is a nice number to lead and we happily set off through the village on quiet roads to find and take a path heading more or less southwards across grassy fields bounded by mature hedgerows and some full grown specimen trees. We had a small amount of elevation which afforded some lovely views over to our right, and, to our left, the hillside rose up and away from us covered in long shadows, showing the relief of the ground in fantastic detail. I just loved it, and as we moved on, the farmland almost felt like parkland, reminiscent of a Capability Brown landscape.
The morning was turning out to be quite gorgeous, cold but with a bright blue sky, minimal white clouds and the early morning sun was lighting up the autumn colours in the trees and wider landscape brilliantly – enough to make your heart sing and add a spring to your step – Superb! and we hadn’t even had to go up hill yet, the hardest thing we’d been tasked to do being the crossing an old ridge and furrow field; crossing the ancient farming system at 90-degrees to the ridges, making it seem you were going up and down a series of waves frozen in perpetuity.
After about a mile and a half, we entered and walked through the next village on our route – Stanway (almost a twin of Stanton) with it’s impressive church next to the old Manor House. I’d have taken some pictures, but I was in conversation as we passed through and it would have been rude to break off from our chat so you’ll just have to look elsewhere on the WWW to find some images of the pretty village. Being Remembrance Sunday/Armistice Day (11th November) there was a service in full voice going on inside, an echo of similar services in churches the length and breadth of the country.
Once we’d followed the lane through the village we met the B4077 where we turned left on a narrow footpath by the side of the road and started on the first climb of the day. The word climb suggests some hard work was now necessary, but it wasn’t really, so maybe first RISE of the day would be better suited to the story. A few cars sped past as we rose past a few cottages until the road bent round to the right and we carried pretty much straight on, on a rough drive, at a small group of buildings. After regrouping, from here we picked up a path/track heading up into some woods (Lidcombe Wood) still rising, this time a little steeper and rougher under foot now. The colours in the trees were absolutely lovely, spectacular even when lit up by the sun, both on the tree branches and those that had succumbed to time and gravity and now littered the woodland floor. After a while we took a left hand branch of paths and came up to a small building housing some information about the area and commanding some nice views into a valley below. This became a coffee stop for a few minutes and a place where we could stand for a couple of minutes to observe the Remembrance Day two minutes silence at 11:00 am. There was a perceptible change in mood, as our predominantly jolly demeanour became a little more subdued – and quite rightly so.
We then returned to our earlier path up through the woods, turning left to continue the rise up the hillside and after a while took a right to climb more steeply up through the trees. We’d become a little spread out during the climb, so a regrouping was necessary at the top of the rise, just where open countryside was regained.
The way ahead was now pretty much on the level, heading down the left hand side of a ploughed field and with the woods on our left until we reached the corner of the field. We now had a series of field boundaries to follow (ploughed ones at that) to follow, at first to the east and then almost due north. Although on the level, the route wasn’t all plain sailing though, and that was due to the conditions under-foot – MUD and then some more MUD ! I’m probably exaggerating a little, but it was quite grotty, especially where one field crossed into the next, funneling all farm traffic through a restricted gap and so churning up the ground. There’s also something particularly sticky about mud that’s been frozen and then just thawed, walking boots just double in weight in next to no time – YUK.
Eventually (it was probably less time than it seemed) we emerged out of the mud onto a minor road, where we turned right, almost doubling back on ourselves, walking on hard flat tarmac almost seemed like heaven to my knees which had been feeling the strain in the muddy conditions.
We now had a different area of woods on our left (Littleworth Wood) and after a short time we branched off to the left into these woods descending gently as we went; once again, the colours were superb..
Now, the reason we endured the muddy fields (rather than take a possible shorter route) became apparent – As we emerged from the woods into a grassy field (with sheep grazing) a lovely view opened up ahead of us looking over green fields, woods and hedgerows to the village of Snowshill, nestled into the hillside; a gentle scene, but beautiful none-the-less, especially with a lovely blue sky as a backdrop. Snowshill was our destination for lunch, which meant crossing diagonally down the grassy field to join another minor road.
Almost directly opposite in another grassy field, were three life sized “fake” sheep in different patterns, the artwork advertising a local guesthouse. We turned right on the road to reach a tee-junction, where we turned left, downhill, and then followed this minor road for quite a way. I liked the dappled light on the earth banks to the side of the road, although my knees weren’t enjoying the descent on the tarmac, I’m pleased I’d taken walking poles with me – I really need to build up my muscles around my knees again!
After a while, we entered the small village of Snowshill and soon found ourselves outside the pub (The Snowshill Arms), near the church and next door to The Manor House (National Trust). We were given an hour for lunch; enough time to eat our packed lunches (on the small green) and purchase refreshments in the hostelry. There was also time for me to take a little wander in the village to take a few pic’s before we all met up again.
Unusually, we now had to back-track some of our earlier route, following the road back up the hill on the minor roads, all the way to the place where we saw the three advertising sheep “sculptures”.
From here we re-crossed the sheep field, up into and through the woods still heading uphill until we regained the earlier minor road. After the longish climb we had become a little spread out again, so another regroup was required before turning right along the tarmac to again reach the place where we’d exited the muddy ploughed fields. Thankfully we did not need to re-do the ‘orrible mud, nope, we carried on, on the road, for a short distance before branching right down a driveway heading towards a farm, but ignoring a further branch going completely down to the buildings. The fenced track started to swing round to the right narrowing now; as we moved on wide views to the north opened up over the lowlands of The Vale of Evesham.
We were now following a section of The Cotswold Way and we had to descend down the side of a grassy field. The gradient was not overly steep but proved to be quite awkward for me (and I think others) because of the very wet and slippery conditions underfoot. My knees were now feeling rather tired and they really didn’t enjoy the extra strain, feeling like they could give way beneath me at any moment. But I took my time, overcoming the discomfort (well pain might be more accurate) using my walking poles as an aid – They really do help! – and soon reached the far corner where we walked into a rather scruffy farmyard with various trucks and the like, and a smoky fire in the distance. Luckily we only had to skirt the edge of the farm picking up a track still descending but much easier than before and again heading pretty much due north.
There isn’t much to say about the immediate surroundings here, with fairly boring fields either side, but the view over to the right is worth noting as the attractive hillside rises up to Broadway Tower, with a good smattering of hedgerows, lone trees and woodland adding an orange tinge to the green pastures all offset against a brilliantly clear blue sky. After a final drop, passing by/through Broadway Coppice/Pye Corner Coppice the path swung right to cross a minor road (West End Lane) and then headed over a grassy field towards a church tower on the outskirts of Broadway Village. The earlier descents had dropped us off the Cotswold Scarp, with Broadway sitting down on the edge of The Vale of Evesham (Evesham town is only about four or five miles away along the A44) and we soon reached Snowshill Road just south of the church.
It now felt like we’d finished the walk, but we still had a fair way to go; into Broadway along Church Street; then, at the green at the bottom of High Street a turn left along the A44 (Station Road) and then another left turn into Cheltenham Road and then a further right turn into Childswickham Road to find our coach waiting for us in a coach/car park. Here we got ourselves changed into clean clothes and normal footwear and then promptly headed all the way back into Broadway to find a tea shop for final refreshments before the journey home.
A super days walk, well led (thanks Jan and Jenny) with plenty of interest all helped of course by no rain and a lovely drop of sunshine – it really makes a difference. All in all a good day and pleasing that on the whole my knees stood up to the rigours of ten miles with some hilly bits, the most I’d put them through since my op’s almost a year previously.
Well, I hope you enjoyed my scribblings …. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome. I’d love to hear from you.