There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Upton on Severn to Andoversford: Days 7 to 9 of the South West Odyssey (English Branch)

The South West Odyssey is a long distance walk.
Five like-minded people started in 2008 from the Cardingmill Valley in Shropshire and by walking three days a year have now (April 2018) reached Ringmore on the South Devon Coast (almost).

Day 7 03/06/10

Francis, Brian, Lynne & Hilary, Tiltridge Vineyard
Upton on Severn
Francis, Brian & Hilary and Lynne & I travelled down on the 2nd and spent the night at the Tiltridge vineyard. Sadly the vineyard shop closed before we arrived and although it was a very comfortable and welcoming B & B we gained no advantage from it being a vineyard. We had dinner in the White Lion in Upton on Severn, a pub of some antiquity. Prince Rupert drank too much there during the civil war and Henry Fielding's stay resulted in a mention for the inn in 'Tom Jones' where appropriate use is made of the bedrooms.

Mike and Alison T drove down the next morning and we were supposed to meet them and Alison C, now living in Cheltenham, at the Upton car park where the previous walk had finished. As we were about to leave Tiltridge, Alison called to say she had missed her connecting bus and needing rescuing from Tewkesbury.

Tewkesbury is not a long detour and we were only a little late at the start. Had I driven like Nigel Mansell, who was born in Upton, we might have arrived on time, but I chose not to.

In what had become the almost traditional sunny weather we set off down the High Street....

Francis points out the White Lion
High Street, Upton on Severn
...and crossed the River Severn.

Crossing the Severn at Upton
Our morning's walk across the eastern half of the Severn Valley was similar to the afternoon we had spent in the western half the year before - except this time we had to cross the M5 and, more pleasingly, the River Avon...

Crossing the river Avon

...before arriving in Eckington for a glass of lunch at the Bell Inn.

We had now crossed the valley and stood at the foot of the Cotswolds where we would spend the rest of the 2010 walk and all of 2011.

Refreshed, we left The Bell and headed for Bredon Hill.

To Bredon Hill
Bredon Hill offers enough of a climb to raise the heart rate and loosen any limbs that had stiffened up at lunchtime, but as a hill it has featured more in literature than in the annals of mountaineering. We reached the top where A E Housman had been before us.
Here of a Sunday morning
My love and I would lie,
And see the coloured counties,
And hear the larks so high
About us in the sky.

The 'coloured counties' or at least the Severn Valley
as seen from Bredon Hill 

Having climbed the scarp, the descent was more gentle, passing through fields of barley; the healthy grain destined, according to the signs, to be wasted on the production of Carling.

Carling, what a waste!

The old buildings of Eckington were black and white, but now we were in the Cotswolds the main,and in some villages only, building material was Cotswold stone. Passing through Overbury..... 
House in Overbury

...and continuing to the end of the day's walk at Conderton we had plenty of opportunites to admire the mellow honey-coloured stone.

Lynne, Hilary and Alison T met us at Conderton and transported us to the Tally Ho B & B in Alderton. 

Day 8 04/06/10

We returned to Conderton after a substantial breakfast.

A couple of kilometres of relatively flat farmland brought us to the surprisingly redbrick village of Beckford. Despite having only 600 residents it has the air of a larger and more self important place.

Marching through Beckford
As we crosssed into Gloucestershire our route became more typical of the Cotswolds; gentle climbs up wooded hills followed by long descents into fertile valleys. Up and over Alderton Hill took us to lunch at Gretton.

Descending Alderton Hill
It was descending Alderton Hill that I noticed the sole of my right boot was splitting from the upper at the toe. The boots were hardly new, but I didn't think that ought to be happening.

Wildflowers, Gretton
The afternoon started with the ascent of Langley Hll accompanied by the slow, inexorable disengagement of right sole from right boot.

Nearing the top of Langley Hill

By the time we started on the descent into Winchcombe the sole was flapping with every pace. Soon it became so detached that a careless pace would fold it under my foot.

Down towards Winchcombe

Under normal circumstances the long and gentle descent would have been a very pleasant walk, but hampered by my flapping sole, and a little concerned I might have to hop the last mile or two, I was relieved to make it to make it to the town on two feet.

I went in search of duck tape, Mike and Francis went off for a cup of tea and a cake and others sought out a beer. All quests were successful - actually I got duck tape and a beer.

For a town that has been continuously inhabited for over a thousand years Winchcombe has few notable landmarks. Buildings of different eras jostles elbows, but as they are all of warm, weathered Cotswold stone they come together to form a pleasingly harmonious whole.

The Old Almshouses, Winchcombe
We returned to Alderton for a shower and then back to Wincombe for dinner in the Wine & Sausage restaurant in the White Hart. The evening ended with more beer at a table outside the Gardeners Arms in Alderton, the warmth of the evening lingering even after the sun had gone down.

Day 9 05/06/10

After judicious application of several metres of duck tape I was reasonably confident my boots would see out the day. We returned, again, to the delightful town of Winchcombe and after a brief altercation with an elderly dog walker who seemed to believe that people from out of town should not be allowed to use the street parking, we set off up the Postlip Valley towards Cleeve Hill. We traversed a small and ugly industrial area before reaching the wooded valley - even in the Cotswolds, it seems, people have to work.

Up the Postlip Valley

We emerged on the grassy lower flanks of Cleeve Hill where butterflies flitted through the short grass. One Holly Blue obligingly sat still long enough to be photographed.

Holly Blue, Cleeve Hill
Unlike other Cotswold Hills, Cleeve Hill is a bare grassy dome....

Nearing the top of Cleeve Hill

...the top offering excellent views over Bishop's Cleeve and Cheltenham racecourse beyond.

Bishop's Cleeve
The hill is also crowned by a couple of telephone masts, which might be unsightly, but at least Mike was assured of a good signal.

Mike takes a phone call, Cleeve Hill

The rest of the morning was spent on a long descent down a wide valley which grew wider as we went.

The descent from Cleeve Hill
It was several, maybe even many, kilometres to the village of Brockhampton and it began to feel something like a route march. Eventually we made it and found Lynne, Hilary and Alison T wating for us at the Craven Arms. We were soon joined by Matthew and Heather, the 'Crane offspring', who would join us for the afternoon walk.

The weather had not been up to the standard of the previous two days and it rained while we were having lunch. As we were sitting round a large table under an even larger umbrella, we just stayed there and let it rain around us. It was a passing shower and we left Brockhampton in renewed sunshine

Francis strides out of Brockhampton
The lush, flower-filled valley that leads from Brockhampton to Sevenhampton and on to Andoversford (brevity in village names is not a quality much admired in these parts) provided a short but very pleasant afternoon's walk.

Passing Sevenhampton
We reached Andoversford and the end of the 2010 walk fairly early...

Andoversford - The End (for 2010) we could all sit in a car for  an hour or so on our way home while our legs stiffened up. I felt a little sympathy for Mike and Francis, who had to be in work the following morning, but not enough to spoil my Monday of relaxation.