Saturday 16th January 2016
It’s been seven-days since my most recent walk – one with the walking group for the second successive week running (a good start to the new year, I say).
We were headed to the tiny village of Cam in Gloucestershire, for the start of the walk. Only a thirty-minute drive from Bristol, we left the M5 at the same junction as the previous weekend. Back then, we turned right. This time, we turned left and on towards Dursley.
If you live outside of the UK then you may not be aware that we’ve just had one of the coldest spells of weather for a rather long time, with sub-zero temperatures in the wake of an unusually mild winter. Frost was awaiting us when we came to set off (I do enjoy walking along frozen grass) but with the sun shining bright overhead, it wasn’t set to last for very long.
From the car park, we headed up to circumnavigate the contour of Cam Peak; saving a climb to the top until the very end.
We’d stepped on to the Cotswold Way and were soon rising up to follow Cam Long Down – an area that seemed somewhat familiar to me, having walked through here about this time last year.
It was as if we were leaving the cold and the frost behind.
Because on the south side of the down, the sun had already set to work.
Over to the west, we were treated with views across the River Severn and Wales.
Not unlike those seen on the previous walk – but today, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and there was an absence of rain clouds.
We could also see the North Nibley Monument, distant and south-west of our location. You can see this from the M5 motorway and, for the past year, I’d been wondering what that towering silhouette actually was…
This would be the walk where I’d get to discover the truth for myself!
To the south, we could see Downham Hill – a significant feature of the walk from last year.
We had a good turnout as well. I’d guess there was eighteen of us but it certainly wasn’t far from the twenty-two of the previous week. Again, a good beginning for 2016.
At the eastern-end of Cam Long Down, the Cotswold Way leads you downhill on a route that was slippery and challenging to climb a year ago… It was somewhat fortunate then, that we were this time heading down it so early in the day.
I think only one person completely lost their footing – and for once, it wasn’t me!
Downham Hill, Gloucestershire.
We weren’t going as far as Uley on this occasion and so turned west, to follow one of the few remaining frosty paths and soon after that, the muddy walkway beside a stream.
Reaching a road, we spotted this unidentified wooden sculpture that looks like a surrealist’s take on a gate post.
Cam Peak began to fade from our sights, as the North Nibley Monument edged closer.
We stopped for a mid-morning break before continuing across further fields.
Whilst frequently admiring the sky above.
We had some tough climbing ahead of us. Some of which would follow roads – which wasn’t a particularly bad thing, after weeks of wet weather.
But my biggest challenge became my camera, where the shutter would cease to open and close correctly.
This has happened in the past and the simple action of ‘turning it off and on again‘ usually works. But not on this walk; I was just wasting my battery power. So, I had to switch to my smartphone for the remaining photos.
My camera has been okay since but I’m still uncertain over what to do… It was repaired about a year ago at a cost of £90. I’d rather not spend the same again but I’ve also been thinking about a series upgrade to a compact system/mirrorless camera, if not a DSLR.
Somewhile later, we climbed up through Westridge Wood to reach the monument at Nibley Knoll.
This was be our lunch stop and I hope that my phone’s images don’t serve too much injustice to the westerly views.
Even though we sat on the ‘wrong’ side, somewhat sheltered from the cool breeze but lacking in views beyond a hedge.
Also known as the Tyndale Monument, this tower is now one-hundred-and-sixty years old and was built in honour of William Tyndale.
There’s a topograph near by and the Cotswold Way, should you ever walk it, leads you straight here.
Most excitingly of all was that you can climb the tower while it’s open on weekends!
A majority of us did this; following the narrow and tightly winding spiral staircase all the way to the top (one-hundred-and-twenty-one steps in all, or so I’ve read). There is no entrance fee but donations are welcome. I should add that one section of the climb near the top sees you walking in pitch blackness – thankfully, I had a torch but most people have apps on their smartphones as well.
It was quite scary, heading up through the darkness; hearing voices but unsure of whether they were heading up with us or down… There aren’t many places to step aside and give away, unless you can tuck yourself in to a window opening. It’s very much like climbing Cabot Tower in Bristol – except the stairs are much narrower (maybe a single person’s width) and it feels even more confined.
It’s worth it for the views, though. Just try not to pick a busy, bright and sunny day… If you are visiting on a weekday, you may need to visit the village shop to borrow the key with a deposit.
We then descended down to and passed through Dursley, reconnecting with the Cotswold Way before that anticipated climb to the summit of Cam Peak (also known as Peaked Down).
I recall momentarily losing my footing on four occasions, yet clinging on to my balance and relative stability, thanks, in large, to my walking pole. On the way up to the peak, one of our group lost his footing and slid a good ten-feet back down the hillside, hands, knees and all.
Tyndale’s Monument seemed so far away now. It was close to 16.00 and yet it was a Saturday, meaning there was no rush or urgency to get back to Bristol. I don’t think any one of us was concerned with thoughts of having to get up early and return to the grind on the following day. This is why I enjoy walking on Saturdays, even when it’s a struggle to climb out of bed.
That structure is used to hold the cross during the Easter weekend.
Here’s a group photo of us all, taken by James (and stolen by me, thanks to Facebook). I look forward to my next walk with the group and hopefully it’ll be soon.
Thanks for reading.