My first walk of the year, last weekend and it was a little further from home than what I’m used to. It’s always nice to visit new places (especially those you’ve never heard of) and, in my search for a walk that might be ‘slightly-less-wet’ than many of the others available; I decided to take a chance on this.
It begins in the village Sherston, which is actually only a couple of miles south from Westonbirt Arboretum and later takes in the discreet village of Easton Grey. This walk is one of many available in Geoff Mullett’s Walk West 3 eBook [sorry, I cannot find a link to these right now].
I couldn’t think of the last time I’d visited a rural high street with so many available parking spaces on either side of the road! There were two pubs, no more than 100m from each other and you know you’ve arrived in the Cotswolds when you’ve parked next to a “Chelsea Tractor“, as a friend of mine likes to call them!
This is described as quite an ‘easy’ and level walk, for all of its seven miles.
I’d almost call it the definition of leisurely.
This was the first route I’d taken away from the stone steps, tarmac and pavement. To simultaneously discover my first obstruction was a bit of a concern – but then, I remembered that we’d been experiencing severely high winds for much of the past week.
Little House in the Country…
I wondered whether a fallen tree could’ve caused this dry-stone wall to partially collapse but it looks more likely that something (quite possibly a moving vehicle) could’ve hit it.
How along ago did this happen? Clearly, a temporary fence has been erected but does that imply that this area is lacking in the wealth of tradesmen with such traditional skills necessary for its repair?
Looking over the other side of the road-bridge up ahead, you witness the River Avon for the first time, which later almost accompanies you towards the halfway point in Easton Grey.
But we’re not there yet. You follow a road uphill (it’s a little steep but short-lived) and then turn off to pass through the grounds of Pinkney Park.
I was surprised to learn that this is actually part of Wiltshire, with the National Arboretum (in Gloucestershire) so very close. That was, until, I came across this whacking great gate, below!
This route peaked at its ‘most-boggiest’ just around the corner but the cows were no bother; enjoying a rather wind-chilled but relaxing Sunday.
The Cow Whisperer?
You then have to negotiate your way across this patch of private farmland. There is a right of way but I found it quite deceptive at first…
There’s a waymark on this gate but, with the chain wrapped around, I assumed it was pointed further along the track…
Which I followed, bracing the bog and water, to climb a larger, locked metal gate and possibly trespassed for about 50m before I decided that it didn’t feel right.
Well, it definitely was not me!
Doubling-back on myself, I noticed a temporary fence had been erected around the perimeter of the field – the kind of boundary landowners will often position to permit public access, whether permissive or otherwise.
That was when I knew I was supposed to go through the gate (the chain unlinks very easily) and contour the field edge.
I hope the landowner fulfils his duty to resurrect this line of fencing.
I was relived this wasn’t an electric fence, or I’d have suffered some difficulty in negotiating sections further along here it had been battered by the recent winds. Neither horse payed any attention to me, either – which was nice, considering a pair of horses went ‘a bit nuts‘ on a small group of us two-years ago and that was only three miles north of this location!
Following the river more closely now and Easton Grey House moves in to view.
This building was apparently the summer retreat of former-Prime Minister Herbert Asquith during the early 20th Century. I could certainly see the appeal, as I then stepped in to East Grey itself.
It had the feel of one of the smallest villages in the country. It was so quiet it was almost silent. I doubt you’d even find a local newsagent there. But I didn’t have time to explore before marching on with my walk.
Across the next couple of fields, I noticed a waymark stating that I was following an architectural trail known as The Palladian Way.
There were no fancy bridges along my stretch of this walk and I’m quite confident in saying that there may only be two or three Palladian Bridges in the United Kingdom but, as far as long-distance walks go, this could be one to rival the Cotswold Way, among others.
After a right-turn, I was looking to drop down through the hedge and towards the wooden footbridge (below) but I did not see the opening the first time and almost wandered off on a non-permissive route. My OS map would’ve put me straight and urged me to continue on but, when you see footsteps worn in to the mud, it can sometimes feel wise to trust someone else’s treadings.
There’s a lot to explore within this tiny area and, close to the halfway point on the seven-mile circuit, it’s probably a good place to stop for lunch, if you have company.
It looks, to me, as though they built this bridge out of cedar?
Nope, I am not the artist, here!
From a time-forgotten mill to on grandparent’s warnings of the dangers that lurk beneath the rushing water.
I was expecting this note to carry a more sinister scribing, seeing as there’s a rope noose suspended from a large branch to the side…
Next, you reach the Fosse Way; an ancient Roman Road that supposedly once connected military bases of Exeter and Lincoln, stretching right across the country.
It looks very much like a decent cycle path today – not unlike my local Strawberry Line.
I noticed a stile in the fence opposite and climbed over to explore a little more of the riverbank, before following the Fosse Way on a distinctly Roman-like and linear route back towards Sherston.
It was only after continuing a little way up the hill (another short but steep one) that I realised my previous act was actually forbidden…
Although, they could’ve made it clearer by positioning this sign a lot closer to the stile, where there was no such warning!
I then noticed this stumpy and uncharted trig point at the top of the brief hill. Maybe it was built for an entirely different purpose, since there are no markings on top of around its base?
To top even that, I spotted a pair of deer in the distant field just over the hedge!
Although, I think they heard of spotted me long before I go my camera out – as always is the way.
There isn’t much to say about the Fosse Way from here on. It’s gravel-covered and dry underfoot but that’s not such a bad thing for a walk in early January. Follow it too far and you’d soon end up crossing the M4 motorway near Castle Combe. This walk departs via a wooden footbridge, with the path from here on pretty well defined by wooden fencing.
This then meant that I would have to pause and pay some attention to these friendly horses (possibly hungry ones, too).
I wasn’t entirely confident that I was heading the right way or still following a public right of way. But the distraction was nice and it didn’t invite the attention of any lingering land-owners, either!
Eventually, I saw a large gate up ahead. But to gain access, I had to scramble under the white fencing you see above. Where as, Geoff’s text suggests that this is supposed to remain on your right… I’m no clearer as I sit here, staring at an OS map, either. But a little further along the route I took, which was very muddy; I soon found another path adjoining from the left and the other side of that hedge.
Reaching the next series of quiet country lanes, I could see Sherston quite clearly.
Churches are great landmarks for small villages. This was also the point at which I passed another pair of walkers – and for the very first time on this walk; as it almost came to pass!
I crossed a couple of fields and made my way down towards another section of the same river.
A family of walkers were making their way along the riverbank, further ahead. I was returning to some form of civilisation.
I found this quote on a sign beside the entrance to Grove Wood.
This building almost reminded me of a place where I work… But for its daylight-emitting windows and the river running beside it instead of noisy motorway traffic.
One last look at the River Avon before returning to my car and a well-earned but long-overdue lunch stop.
Thanks for reading. I might consider submitting this one to lead the local walking group closer to the spring. If you’d like to see the complete set of photos from my album then please click here.