All around Stow

Hyde Mill on the River Dikler.

On my numerous visits to visit relatives in the Bristol area each year, I try and do a walk on the way down from Macclesfield or on the return. Over the last couple of years I have walked the entire Cotswold Way most of which have been linear walks by parking the car at the end point of each walk and using buses to get to the start of each walk.
Now, my plan had been to explore some other areas and so perhaps a walk along part of the less known Gloucestershire Way might be an option. The section between Chepstow and Lydney appealed to me but it would be an early start from home to catch the 08.17am train from Lydney to Chepstow.

As the day of travel draws near so the weather forecast is looking decisively bad and on the day prior to my walk the met office warns of a active weather system moving slowly in from the south west coupled with a yellow weather alert. It’s time to re plan and so by heading further northeast I might be able to get a walk in before the weather closes in.

The area around Stow-on-the-Wold appeals for what is planned as an easy circular walk visiting numerous attractive villages with the aim of completing my walk around lunchtime or that is the plan.

I’m leaving Macclesfield early to avoid the Birmingham rush hour and the day dawns with a crescent moon to the south with a pace blue and pink sky. By the time I reach the start of my walk the prospect of a fine start to the day has diminished. The sun is now quite watery and the wind is freshening. I decide to park in the village of Broadwell, a mile and a half outside Stow-on-the-Wold and I am walking by 8am and set out on a steady ascent along a lane towards Stow-on-the-Wold. From the lane, I join an enclosed path, way marked with the Monarch’s Way logo. A minor lane is joined later passing Stow Well where there is a large stone water trough and an abundant flow of clear water. It was once the main supply of water for the town and is reputed to have never dried up.

It is still before 9am as I enter Stow-on-the-Wold and I opt to take a wander around the town despite most premises not yet open. This attractive small Cotswold town has many tea shops and restaurants which appear to be mostly upmarket judging by the prices charged.

I leave the town and take the lane towards the village of Maugersbury then skirt around to the west on a cul-de-sac lane to reach the A429. I have to follow this road south a short distance but at least there is a good pavement. To my left but not visible is the site of St Edward’s Well, named after a Saxon hermit who lived at this spot.

The Dovecot at Bowl Farm.

My route takes me west next following a private driveway and later along a path diversion to reach Hyde Mill. Here, the River Dikler is running high. I head north next on a field path which is initially squelchy to reach the attractive village of Lower Swell. The village has many fine stone cottages. The village once had a spa well rich in minerals but this has long dried up. On the village green I stop for an early break before moving on and taking a field path down towards the River Dikler. Turning north, I follow a good drive, passing the historic Lady’s Well before reaching Bowl Farm. In a field on my left I come across a curious square building with the date 1917 above the porch and from my research afterwards I find that this was once a dovecot. I now continue on a field path to Upper Swell which today seems to be a bit of a bottleneck with traffic queued through the village as the result of a large truck meeting a coach at a narrow bridge. I have no choice but to follow this road through the village but I have to keep standing in so that traffic can pass me. Worse is to come as leaving the village, the intended lane I want to take is closed not only to traffic but also to pedestrians and a map posted on a board shows a lengthy diversion on foot. Rather than cutting my walk short, I opt to extend it as I am making good time and furthermore, the reasonable weather is holding. I therefore set out west along the busy B4077, and fortunately there is a grassy verge which I can leap up onto when traffic passes. I am glad however to divert onto a side lane towards the village of Condicote. This lane passes over some higher ground and in places old snow still lies in the ditches. At the next lane junction it is decision time. I can turn right and follow lanes back towards Broadwell or extend my walk further with a larger loop to take in the village of Longborough. With plenty of time to spare and the weather showing no signs of turning wet I chose the latter and march off to the village of Condicote. The village is set around a circular green and the place has little changed for centuries. An ancient cross stands on the western side of the green and the base dates from the 14th century. On the eastern edge of the village is an Iron Age hill fort but very little of this visible. In a shelter on the village green I take another short break and watch the postman doing his round.

Condicote – cottages are dotted around the village green and the place takes on the feel that nothing has changed for centuries. The base of the ancient cross dates from the 14th century.

Leaving the village, I head northwest and soon join a track which is full of potholes. I stay with this track for about a mile before turning right and descend on a lane to the remote hamlet of Hinchwick. From here, I join a good path running generally east towards Longborough. This path is quite undulating and on the first summit I pass a new slate memorial stone. Later, I cross the A424 and take a woodland track to reach another lane. The view from the end of the woodland stretches many miles. To reach Longborough I now follow a lane north which is lined with old snow drifts. I take a field path east next descending towards the village. I now head for the village church and find a small seat on the south side of the building but this proves a fairly breezy spot to have lunch. Afterwards I briefly take a look inside the 12th century church but the interior is fairly dark, plain and cold. The name Longborough derives from the nearby long barrow which lies on the ridge to the southwest. To reach the next village of Donnington I follow a muddy track and later waterlogged path through the edge of some woodland. To the south of this area was fought the last battle of the First English Civil War in March 1646. It was yet another victory to the Parliamentarians and resulted in the imprisonment of around 1600 Royalist soldiers in the parish church in Stow-on-the-Wold.

A modern slate gravestone at a lonely spot on the path between Hinchwick and Longborough.

St Paul’s Church Broadwell is overshadowed by the massive yew tree in the churchyard which is said to be 1300 years old.

At Donnington, I skirt around the northern side of the village passing the fine manor house. I join a lane here and soon cross the A429. It is just a short walk into Broadwell where I make a detour to visit the12th century parish church. The interior of the church is quite plain, however in the churchyard is an impressive and very large yew tree which according to the church guidebook is 1300 years old. The name Broadwell derives from the numerous springs in the area. To reach the car, it is just a short walk across the village green to complete a much longer than originally planned walk and furthermore I have completed it in the dry.