"A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare" - William Henry Davies
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So, it turns out I hibernate; who knew? Whilst I was working I did suffer from a general winter malaise, symptoms of which were a grey demeanour, hiding behind a grey pallor, swathed in grey, suitably sombre clothing. However, this being the first winter I have spent without work to occupy me and distract me from my melancholia, it turns out that my go-to strategy is to simply hibernate. This is no natural hibernation, born out of a need to slow down my metabolism to conserve energy over months when food is scarce, but a self-induced, I have to say sulky, withdrawal from the grey, cold, wet and windy exterior. So, now that I have cast off my winter mantle and feel more like myself again, I have decided I need a new strategy for next winter and am thinking I might try migration rather than hibernation. Unfortunately, unlike the birds I don't just need a good head of steam to reach sunnier climes, but a very full wallet, so we shall have to wait and see.
In the meantime this year opened with a miserable January and although February looked promising, Doris came along and wreaked havoc. And so it is that March has offered me my first opportunity since October to venture out further than the local dog-walking field and attempt a new walk. True to form, attempt one wasn't a flying success. I walked 10 kilometres, 5 kilometres of which were racked up retracing steps and trying to find my way out of fields I should never have ended up in. I wound up in Cowley, believing I was in Coberley, which I only discovered by complete fluke whilst talking to a lovely local lady. She did kindly suggest in my defence that the local footpath signs were terrible and maybe you will back me up on this if and when you do the walk. Or maybe you will simply wonder why someone so seemingly devoid of any kind of map-reading skills would embark on a project such as this. I am nothing if not determined and I do so enjoy exploring unchartered territory, unchartered that is as far as I am concerned, so I will not be deterred.
I have to say, I am quite excited about revisiting this walk as I got good vibes about the feel of it: Cowley itself looked very pretty, its houses enjoying the most beautiful of aspects and the views from atop the nearby hill were fine indeed. I will also very much enjoy completing the walk when the trees are in full colour as this will transform the landscape. Below shots give you a flavour.
Another beautiful sunny day presented itself only a few days later. The only trouble was, I had spent a whole day on Sunday assisting the RSPB in my capacity as volunteer at Highnam woods. The task had been to build coppice fencing to prevent muntjacs from destroying vegetation needed to encourage nightingales to occupy the woods and is hard labour indeed. I had followed this with my 11 kilometre trek around Coberley and Cowley just the day after and wasn't sure me auld pegs would hold me up if I endeavoured another trek. However, I had got the bug again, and my afore-mentioned excitement at the prospect of completing this walk spurred me on.
As I set off once more on the first leg of the walk, the hum of the incessant stream of cars rolling along the A417 gradually diminshed to be replaced by the piping of the elusive meadow pipits. I can hear them alright but I never seem to be able to follow the sound to where it is they are hiding. The lane leads you gradually away from the busy road and into the fields shown above and you are quickly surrounded by birdsong. As I descended into the first field, my arrival was heralded by Great Tits, Chaffinches, Blue Tits, Robins and Blackbirds with the occasional strident call of a pheasant up ahead disturbed by my footsteps. And this is where, between the maps and the signposts, it all went wrong for me on my first outing. As you reach the bottom, there appear to be 3 choices, left, straight and right. On checking the map, there are definitely 3 choices of left, straight or right and I clearly wanted to go right. So I took the right and hit a hedge; not literally, obviously, but there was no way over it, I couldn't go under it and unfortunately, even if I had been on a bear hunt, I couldn't go through it. My only choice was to rejoin the path at the bottom which was the straight ahead option at the split. I later discovered that this 3-way split is not the one shown on the map. When you do reach the signposts indicating the actual 3-way split, I can only imagine that the individual responsible for erecting them had taken a few on board that day. The signs offering the left and straight ahead options were erected as you would expect on the footpath from which you need to make your choice. I imagine he/she then staggered a few hundred yards to his/her right, fell over, fell asleep, woke up to find he/she still had a post to erect and stuck it in the ground there and then, because if you look up and to your right at about 2 o'clock you will spy a wooden post halfway up the hill. That's the one you want - fancy missing that on my first walk! So between the map and the piddled post planter, the odds were stacked against a successful first run.
It's a very steep climb here, so take it easy, and when you stop to catch your breath at the top it's worth taking a look back over your shoulder at the view. I will look forward to walking this way again in the summer and autumn to appreciate the changes in the colours of the trees.
In no time at all you are entering the streets of Cowley and I am once again afflicted with my house envy issues; it's quite an idyllic corner of England. But nothing quite prepared me for the view that greeted me as I pottered past St Marys Church wondering whether there was anything worth mentioning in my blog. WOW and WOW. (See also the photo on the WALK page.)
Unbeknown to me St Marys Church sits in the grounds of Cowley Manor. For this reason and because of its jaw-dropping 55 acres of parkland, woods, meadows, waterfalls and lakes it makes it a very popular wedding venue. I did a quick search and believe you can take afternoon tea sat out on the terrace overlooking the grounds if you fancy.
For my part, and when I completed this walk for a third time within 1 week accompanied by my husband, we chose to enjoy our pitstop at the Green Dragon. So not only do these lucky folk enjoy picture postcard houses nestled in the most gorgeous countryside, they have a fabulous pub on their doorstep...................anybody got any counselling for my house-envy hang-up?
And on my third attempt I tweaked the final stretch which had originally taken me through Stockwell Farm and back on to the lane leading to the car, and I was so glad I did. I followed a "restricted byway" sign instead and as me and hubby wandered through the fields leading us back toward the lane, we spied what we thought were buzzards up ahead above a long stretch of trees. However, they were far too nimble to be buzzards, with 2 of them actually dancing together right in front of us - it was beautiful. They were red kites, and we counted at least 5 of them. Below are the best pictures I was able to take.
This is a longer walk than any of the others I have put to page yet but is my favourite so far after Miserden. A pitstop at either Cowley Manor or the Green Dragon definitely helps to rest your weary limbs but also means you would have to set more time aside for your walk. You could shorten the walk by walking to Cowley, which took me about 45 minutes, and then retracing your steps if time is not on your side. Either way I will certainly be revisiting this one again soon.
My faith in my map and my skills in reading it were restored once I set off on the highways and byways leading away from the Green Dragon. Every twist and turn was exactly as shown on my map. When I played my recorded dialogue back upon returning home I heard "Look Ma! I'm map reading!"
4.4.17 - another visit and fields previously empty were filled with sheep and more lambs than I have ever seen, including this cute fella. It was such a lovely sight - lambs skipping, playing and lying together in bundles of white cotton. They were all numbered like this one and we thought afterwards we should have collected a bunch of numbers for our lottery tickets.
We also caught sight of sky larks at the very start of this walk above the path leading away from birdlip, so keep your eyes peeled.