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…..

Friday, 3 June 2011

Andoversford to Perrott's Brook: Day 10 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).

Francis, Brian & Hilary and Lynne & I spent the night of the 2nd in a B & B in Charlton Kings. We joined Alison in Cheltenham for dinner at the Daffodil, once a cinema, now rather elegantly converted into a restaurant.

Next day, according to the theory, Mike would rise early and drive to the start at Andoversford, those of us in the B & B would have a hearty breakfast before fetching Alison and then proceeding to join Mike. Practice and theory ran side by side until Alison reached Charlton Kings. At that point, it was necessary to take her home again to fetch her boots. Mike had been waiting a while when we eventually reached Andoversford, but manfully retained his good humour. I will not mention that something very similar has happened before, and that Alison found a completely different way of delaying our start last year. To do so would be unkind and ungentlemanly.

Brian, Mike, Me, Francis & Alison
at Andoversford and ready to go

In the now customary sunshine we left Andoversford and walked southwest down a well-maintained lane and past the site of a medieval village – at least that is what it said on the map, there was nothing to see on the ground. We crossed the long, straight Withington road, evidence that the Romans had passed this way, and entered the Thorndale estate.

Up the drive at Thorndale

The footpath sign appeared to be pointing into a field of sheep but Francis was adamant we should be walking up the drive. The field was surrounded by a well maintained fence and right beside us was a metal structure set into the fence resembling a humped cattle grid a metre high. I thought it might be a stile, but Francis is usually right so we followed him up the drive. A little later, a man and a sheep dog passed us going the other way on a quad bike. A cheery wave suggested we were on the right path. Looking back we realised the humped cattle grid was exactly that, impassable for livestock, tricky for humans, but simple for a quad bike.

Despite the sheep, the main business at Thorndale is horses. We passed a set of National Hunt fences, several cross-country obstacles and crossed an all-weather gallop. The whole place was well-maintained with an air of opulence; there is clearly money in training racehorses.
National Hunt fences, Thorndale

Thorndale looked a pleasant place to live and work. A kilometre on, Upcote Farm, sitting in the sun behind its garden and its pond, continued the Cotswold idyll.

Upcote Farm

Skirting the village of Withington we climbed across the site of a now invisible Roman villa and drank our coffee sitting in a field beneath Withington Woods.

Looking back towards Withington
 from the edge of Withington Woods

The usual plethora of forest paths criss-crossing the public right of way caused some navigational uncertainty but we soon emerged into an area of open upland.

The countryside has a reputation for peace and quiet which is not always justified. To the west, two single-engined planes twirled across the sky in a noisy demonstration of aerobatics, while to the south a procession of huge military transport aircraft lumbered skywards from a far-distant air base.

Skirting an agro-chemical plant, we made our way towards a disused airfield above which two small planes were diving and rolling in a mock dogfight. The airfield was so disused that grass was reclaiming the runways, and we quickly realised we were now watching model planes operated by a group of enthusiasts gathered on the only smooth piece of tarmac remaining.

Planes apart, the couple of kilometres after the woods were not the finest walking, but the gentle descent into Chedworth took us back to the Cotswolds at their best.
Down to Chedworth church
We paused for refreshment in the Seven Tuns. The survivors of a ‘full English breakfast’ required only liquid refreshment but Alison felt the need for a BLT bap, which she ate in the most dainty and ladylike manner imaginable.

I would take great offence if anyone was to suggest this photograph is, in any way, revenge for the late start.
 I would never do such a thing

While we were in the pub, Lynne and Hilary were a mile away visiting Chedworth Roman Villa, which unlike the villa at Withington is remarkably well preserved. The only drawback with walking as a means of transport is that anything a mile off your route is too far off for a detour.

Our path out of Chedworth was part of the Macmillan Way, a 290-mile long footpath running from Boston in Lincolnshire to Abbotsbury in Dorset. It is named for and is linked to the Macmillan cancer support charity.

Leaving Chedworth on the Macmillan Way

Broad paths beside fields were easy to follow. Continuing the aeronautical theme, a bi-plane passed repeatedly above us, a ‘wing-walker’ standing strapped in position above the pilot. Well, that is one way to spend a sunny Friday afternoon.

The Macmillan Way eventually crossed the Monarchs Way which we followed southwest into Conigree Wood. This footpath follows the flight of the future King Charles II from his defeat at Worcester in September 1651 until he left for exile from Shoreham-on-sea six weeks later. At 615 miles the Monarch’s Way is England’s longest inland trail; it does not require a geography teacher to spot that he did not take a particularly direct route.

In Conigree Wood

 At the end of the woods, a steep descent dropped us into the valley of the River Churn. This small tributary of the Thames should be a delightful little river, but its waters looked milky and not entirely healthy. It was hot and humid in the valley, and cattle stood cooling themselves in the river. We followed the stream for three kilometres, passing through North Cerney before reaching the end of the day’s walk at Perrott’s Brook House.

Cattle cool themselves in the River Churn

We stayed in a B & B in Cirencester and dined locally. The Wagon and Horses sounds like a traditional English Pub, and in part it is; the other part is a Thai restaurant. The management seemed genuinely Thai, the food less so, but it was still most enjoyable. I shall pass no comment on Francis’ skill with chopsticks.


  1. I have no chopstick skills at all and am happy to stick with knives, spoons and forks, thank you very much.

    On the credit side, I feel my map reading skills are up to the mark and I have never attempted to set off for a decent walk without my boots (or, for that matter, my walking socks).

  2. Hi as a child in the 60's, I lived at Upcote Farm. My father was a farmer. Brought back pleasant memories seeing the house and garden. Thank you!

  3. Thanks for your comment, Vicky. It is a beautiful place, particularly when the sun is shining. That is not always the case, though childhood memories often make it seem like it was!