Statistics: 10.2 miles, ascent 916′, descent 1073′.
John Fogerty, the other host at New Forge House B&B and also Claire’s husband, returned us to Stanton to begin our day’s adventure. The weather was still a bit drizzly, but not unpleasant. Upon leaving town we entered a lovely park-like terrain, walking through fields dotted with huge oaks and chestnut trees.
Shortly, we arrived at Stanway, a very tiny community consisting of the Church of St. Peter and a few delightful homes including Stanway House and its outbuildings. Stanway House had at one time been a grand Jacobean manor. For the past 500 years, it has been owned by the same family which now is slowly restoring it.
The 12th-century Church of St. Peter, adjacent to the manor, has a curious decoration in the wall surrounding the church. After Cromwell’s troops destroyed nearby Hailes Abbey in the 16th century, the locals retrieved many bits and pieces from the ruined abbey and gathered them in a portion of the church wall.
Beyond Stanway we noticed long furrows in the countryside. We stopped to ask a local, who turned out to be a town historian, about the furrows. He told us that they were made by medieval farmers who were given strips of land to live on and farm. Later the landowners replaced the farmers with a more lucrative business, sheep. The farmers were gone, but evidence of their toil remains. These tidbits of local history are one of the things that make hiking in England so enchanting.
Our one big climb of the day then began and soon we were on the escarpment of Stumps Cross. Again, we were walking through fields, where we found a sign telling us of a possible obstacle to wary of, a bull in the field!
Having made it through that field with no bull in sight, we saw a much more friendly grouping – sheep.
The Cotswold Way is riddled with Iron Age (before the Roman occupation, AD 43) hill forts. The first that we encountered on this trek was Beckbury Camp hill fort. Being located up on the escarpment, this area would have provided a good view of possible intruders. The fort is surrounded by a high, man-made berm.
Continuing, our history lesson jumped back to Oliver Cromwell. We reached the spot known as Cromwell’s Seat where it is said that he watched the destruction of Hailes Abbey.
The earlier rain had left the trail a muddy mess as we descended towards Hailes Abbey‘s ruins. Along the way, we were delighted to come upon a tea shop, Hayles Fruit Farm, where they kindly welcomed us, mud and all. We quickly downed a pot of tea and a delicious cake before resuming our walk.
Just down the road from the tea
Across the lane from the abbey was another 12th-century church, Church of St. Nicholas. It was musty and was showing its age, but frescos that had been covered over during the Reformation have been restored and were amazing.
Throughout the day we often noticed an unidentifiable whistle in the distance – unidentifiable until we noticed the plumes of steam in the valley below us as we neared Winchcombe. It was the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Train on one of its many daily runs.
Upon seeing Winchcombe across the way on the nearby hillside, we knew our second day on the Cotswold Way was about finished. Medieval Winchcombe is a picturesque town with more of a blue-collar feel to it than our previous villages. Small shops line the streets and rows of restored almshouses are a sharp contrast to the beautiful Sudley Castle just up the hill.
We soon arrived at our B&B, Blair House, where we were warmly greeted by our hosts, Nick and his mother. As planned, my mother, June, was shadowing our oath through the Cotswolds, travelling by car to enjoy the countryside, then meeting us for the evenings. She caught up with us again at the Blair House.
We were even greeted by the four legged host!
A short walk from the