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, 4 June 2011

Perrott's Brook to the Round Elm Crossroads: Day 11 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).

Cirencester was an important city in Roman times when it was called Corinium. It may be less important today, but it is still well worth a visit. Sadly, it is the lot of the Odysseyist to be forever moving on; Lynne and I will return one day and ‘do’ Cirencester properly [We did, in May 2013 and you can read about it here].

Heather and Matthew, Francis and Alison’s offspring, joined us for the day. Matthew will be representing Great Britain in the world Orienteering Championships this summer, while Heather has run a half marathon or two, so we judged they should be able to keep up with an over 60s walking group – to be precise only 40% of us are over 60, but all must travel at the speed of the slowest (and oldest and heaviest).

Setting off from Perrott's Brook
Some years ago when he was young, and indeed alive, we shared many walks with Dino Crane. Dino would bound off to left and right of the route chasing any squirrel, rabbit or pheasant he saw, smelled or imagined. When he was not doing that he would run up ahead and then come galloping back. In the time we walked 10 miles, Dino would run 50. I had the feeling Heather and Matthew might have been capable of doing the same but, being intelligent human beings rather than a somewhat half-witted dog, they chose not to.

A kilometre after the start we passed through the hamlet of Bagendon. One of the delights of the Cotswolds is the way the buildings are so much part of the landscape they seem to have grown organically from it. The tiny church at Bagendon was a perfect example, and also an embodiment of two thousand years of Cotswold history.

Bagendon Church
Although the earliest parts of the building are Saxon, Roman votive artefacts have been found in the churchyard suggesting the site was of religious significance in pre-Christian times. The tower is Norman, but the nave was rebuilt in the late fourteen hundreds. The enormous wealth brought to the Cotswolds by the wool trade at that time resulted in many churches receiving a Perpendicular Gothic makeover. Nineteenth century restorations and the addition of a porch in the 1960s were so sympathetic it is hard to tell what is new.

Two kilometres later we passed Daglingworth quarry. Quarries are scars on the landscape, but if buildings are to be constructed from the beautiful Cotswold stone, there must be ugly Cotswold stone quarries.

Daglingworth Quarry

Moving on through Duntisbourne Rouse ....

Through the churchyard at Duntisbourne Rouse
we stopped for coffee by a field margin covered with bright red poppies....

A field margin full of poppies
...before crossing part of the Bathurst estate and passing Pinbury Park, a Tudor house largely reconstructed in the 17th century for Earl Bathurst.

Pinbury Park
We found ourselves again on the Macmillan Way and followed it into the village of Sapperton. Where the route turns south we turned west, to the bottom of the valley and reached the Thames and Severn canal at the mouth of the Sapperton tunnel.

Cottage garden, Sapperton
At 3817 yards, Sapperton Tunnel was the longest tunnel in England when it was opened in 1789. It is no longer navigable and the kilometre and a half of the canal we followed is dry and overgrown. The railways destroyed its commercial viability in the nineteenth century and although there are plans for restoration – part of the canal nearer the Thames has already reopened – a great deal of work would be required to restore this section.

The overgrown remains of a lock on the Severn Thames canal
We stopped at the Daneway Inn for a glass of lunch, the whitewashed eighteenth century building sitting at the top of a sloping garden laid out with picnic tables.

It was my round, and I emerged from the bar to find three of my companions perched the ‘wrong way round’ at a picnic table, and the others sitting on the lawn facing them. With the bench full and not wanting to sit on the grass I picked up a chair and placed it beside the picnic table facing uphill. It was a flimsy plastic chair and I was aware the legs were buckling as I lowered my weight into it. Mike shouted, ‘No, David!’ which was sound advice and would have been useful, had gravity not already assumed control of the situation. The back legs collapsed completely and I was tipped out down the slope. Having little choice in the matter I completed the backward roll and landed nimbly back on my feet. I should, perhaps, point out that ‘nimbly’ when applied to a man of sixty who weighs over 16 stone (100 kilos, 225 lbs) and is falling out of a chair, does not quite have the same nuance as when it is applied to, say, an Olympic gymnast. One of the differences can be measured on the Richter scale.

Fortunately, I had put my full glass on the picnic table before sitting down so I was saved a cold beery shower. Nothing was damaged except my dignity and I would like to thank Mike for attempting to help. Everybody else just laughed.

Eighteenth century bridge over a missing canal
We returned to the Severn Thames canal passing a bridge that was in much better repair than the canal, before leaving the cut and turning north to climb through Oldhills Wood and re-emerge on the plateau north of France Lynch. A long straight path took us to Eastcombe, a substantial village where a brief ice cream halt was called.

Alison, Francis and Heather arrive at Eastcombe
The descent into the Toadsmoor Valley was down a steep single-track road. The bridge at the bottom had originally been intended as the end of the day’s walk, but we had made a change, partly to shorten day twelve and partly because it looked a difficult place to find by car. We had not realised it would be such a difficult to place to access once it had been found.

From the bridge, we followed a zig-zag forestry track up through the wood. Above the trees it became a lane, and from Ferris Court Farm to the end of the walk at the Round Elm crossroads, where Lynne and Hilary were waiting for us, a single-track road.

There is a sign nailed to a tree at the crossroads. It says of the route we had just walked. ‘No Through Road. You cannot drive to Eastcombe this way, regardless of what your Sat Nav may say.’ Wise words.

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