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LOST AND FOUND IN THE COTSWOLDS
 
(2023 - Spring/Summer Issue)

Writer: CYNTHIA DAVID



For someone challenged by maps and technology, a solo walk in southern England’s Cotswolds region may seem a surprising vacation choice. That thought crossed my mind as I walked back from Broadway Tower along a well-marked path and suddenly emerged onto a country road. Surely I’d find a gate through the woods on the other side, but no luck. At that moment a young couple out for a stroll wandered into view, the first of many friendly locals who stopped to chat and set me on the right path. They, too, were heading back to Chipping Campden and showed me the trail marker I’d missed about two metres before the path ended. I happily joined them and learned they were both actors. At the edge of town they advised me to follow the church spire to reach my hotel, a useful tip in these parts.

The next morning I stood in a green pasture surrounded by sheep and the remains of grand Campden House. After missing a gate on the map I came upon a field of poppies in full bloom alive with chatty skylarks. Just then an older couple strolled into view from the direction of Broad Camp-den. The tall lean man, a local landscape artist who’d moved to the area from Yorkshire, said the pub was closed that day but I should continue walking to view the hamlet’s thatch-roofed homes. “No need for a map,” he added, seeing my worried face, “just turn left at the puddle, watch for a gate closed with string and walk uphill through the apple orchard.”

“You can’t miss it!” his wife chimed in. And she was right.

Orientation

With more than 4,800 kilometres of footpaths and bridleways spread over five counties, the Cotswolds offer plenty to explore on foot. Longer routes include Monarch’s Way and Heart of England. The most famous, however, may be the Cotswold Way, an eight-day, 164-kilometre trek from Chipping Campden—home to honey-coloured limestone buildings, glorious gardens and the Arts and Crafts movement—south to beautiful Bath.

Follow the Warden

I arrived in Stow-on-the-Wold by taxi, the quickest way to get around as buses are infrequent, to meet Ian Macpherson. Clad in a yellow high-vis vest, hat, backpack and walking stick, the tall Brit introduced himself as a Cotswold Warden, one of many volunteers who lead free guided walks. Before each walk the Warden informs his charges they’ll need to bring snacks, water and TP if the day’s route doesn’t pass through a village.

We set out on a three-hour hike through leafy paths and rolling hills. At the entrance to Broadwell Church, the history buff showed me a faint circle with a dent in the centre used as an ancient sundial. By inserting a stick in the middle and watching where the shadow fell, a parishioner could tell what time the priest would hold mass. In the churchyard, shaded by a giant yew tree, he pointed out cylindrical bale tombs carved for rich wool merchants.

As we approached a farm in Donnington, Macpherson began opening and closing gates to keep the animals in. After fiddling with latches on my own for several days I was thrilled to have a guide who understood how they worked, who knew the area well and could confidently lead the way. I felt like I’d been found at last.

Tea Time at Huffkins

For the ultimate post-walk reward, order the Cotswolds Cream Tea at Huffkins in Stow. The bright, airy tearoom has baked for British royalty since 1890. Wheat for the flour is grown and milled by a fifth-generation miller in Skipton under Wychwood, while milk, butter and Billy’s eggs are all sourced locally. After admiring the warm, generous scone, puffed on the sides with a top of burnished gold, I smeared the Tiptree strawberry preserves on one half, as instructed, followed by a spoonful of Rodda’s clotted cream. It paired perfectly with the bakery’s house blend: Margaret’s Hope Darjeeling tea blended with Orangajuli Assam.

Travel Planner

For trip planning in the Cotswolds, see VisitBritain.com, Cotswolds.com, and for walking and exploring visit Cotswoldsaonb.org.uk

 
 
 
 
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