"A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare" - William Henry Davies
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This walk has made it on to the website after 3 attempts. The first was with my husband when we got lost; on the second attempt I completed the full 6 miles to find when I got home I had accidentally deleted the recording on my phone which I use to plot the walk's twists and turns and to remind me of noteworthy occurences; and so a third visit was required and - ta-da.
1st attempt: very early on in the walk Dave and I put our foot on a stile to look up and see the leery eyes of cows upon us and so decided this route was not for us (I will come back to our bovine friends later). And so having heeded my note to self in the Apperley blog, namely AVOID COWS, I then chose to ignore the further good advice I gave myself in the same Blog, ie don't wing it. Winging it with style, we opted for an alternative path further down the road which we decided would bypass the field and get us to the same point; and it certainly bypassed the field but to such an extent that 4 miles later we had no idea where we were on the map. Part of the problem, as I have learnt from experience, is that my good husband doesn't like to follow instructions ie whilst driving, despite going to the trouble of inputting the postcode into the Satnav and listening to her irritating voice the whole journey, to just about every instruction you can hear him shouting "what's she talking about? why would I go that way?" completely ignoring her directions. Similarly, despite having a map in his hand, he likes to "follow his nose" whilst walking and from the moment you set off annoyingly keeps trying to work out where the car is from where we currently are. So despite strolling through the most tranquil and beautiful of settings, he will be sticking his nose in the air and pointing saying "I think we should be going in that direction, that's where the car is". There is a serious problem in having a walking companion who does not seem to understand that you need to, nay desire to, walk away from where you have parked the car for a good few miles before you start worrying about heading back to it.
The positive about having taken this detour is Pitchcombe Wood. This would not have featured in my walk had we not deviated from our path, and I have to say, I think this is my favourite woodland walk to date. For this reason I have included a walk that just encompasses Pitchcombe Wood and another that tags it on to the Haresfield Beacon walk.
Out of the woods and climbing towards the Beacon, you will come across a stone monument of note if history is your thing. This is described in the walking notes and certainly focuses your mind on days gone by and how many feet have walked this path over the years.
And so to the walk proper. When you set off out of the car park you quickly encounter the quirkiest, most adorable looking one-headed push-me-pull-yous; I absolutely love them and we nearly ended up shaking hands with one of them. I shall name him Nigel. On the third walk I also heard Skylarks in and around the same field so keep your eyes peeled.
Every time I have visited this place, the car park and surrounding area has been buzzing with dog walkers, hikers and young families, but you don't have to walk far to leave these noises behind you.
Just beyond the alpaca fields there is a busy road to cross, so your dog would need to be on a lead very briefly after which you are into the countryside proper.
On each walk Pitchcombe Wood has filled me with joy, only spoiled somewhat on the first occasion by the ramblings of a man separated too long from his automobile. Rolling eyes emoji inserted here.
It is a woodland walk that offers more than most. The tall trees ahead and to the left are stunning; the sun seems to be just in the right place and offers such glorious light, especially at this time of year, bouncing off the tree trunks and flickering in between; and as you are walking along the bottom edge of the woods, you have the added bonus of views to your right across the rolling fields. There are a couple of wooden benches along the way where you can sit and soak it all in. Tranquil doesn't come close. I have never seen so many squirrels leaping across the path ahead of you, up trees, over fences, across fields; I heard an owl but don't know what flavour and didn't get to see it; and I saw a nuthatch pecking at the bark of a tree - but didn't manage to get a picture as, in my rush to capture the moment, I grappled with my glasses and managed to poke the arm of the spectacles in my ear twice before successfully negotiating them on to my face. Then as I clutched at my camera my American walking app companion announced loudly "DISTANCE 4 KILOMETRES, TIME 1 HOUR 10 MINUTES" at which point the nuthatch made a quick exit. As I swore loudly at her, every other living creature in the vicinty ran for the hills. Ah well, on with the walk. Hopefully these pics offer a flavour.
In comparison, if you do the full Haresfield Beacon walk you will enter Stockend Wood. My voice recorded narrative went as follows: "this part of the wood just exemplifies how glorious the other one is. The trees are a bit meh, twiggy looking, there isn't as much light coming through, you don't have the views of the countryside around you. In fact you're just trudging through a load of sticky trees" - so there you have it in a nutshell. I personally wouldn't do this walk without making sure I visited Pitchcombe Wood.
The 2nd time I did this walk I did not come across the stone stile that takes you out of Pitchcombe Woods and across fields. I instead left the wood by retracing my steps back up the path to the main road that I had initially walked down. Here I turned right, deciding I would possibly brave the field of cows that had deterred myself and my husband first time round. Either option is offered in the walk instructions and is the start of the Haresfield Beacon section. My courage on entering the cow-infested field was strengthened by the sight of 3 walkers ahead of me, all kitted out with maps, rucksacks and those long walking poles. I therefore crossed the field in their wake keeping a watchful eye on the herd of cows located this time at the far end of the field. To be honest they couldn't have cared less that we were sharing their patch. I ended up chatting to my fellow walkers who it turns out are "Lead Walkers" for a group called "Cotswold Lion". I received a magazine and a business card with the suggestion that I contact them as they are always looking for lead walkers, and a tip-off that there should be a path out of Pitchcombe woods into the field we were in. And so on my 3rd attempt I discovered the stone stile. I thanked them for the card but told them I was ploughing my own furrow!
At this point we entered further woodland and I considered fighting them for their walking poles because to be honest there is a small section here that might deter mountain goats. I have oft before scoffed at these poles, but to be fair to me, it has been when I have seen people striding across our local park, arms swinging purposefully backwards and forwards, poles in hand striding past the local football teams playing Sunday league. Tres amusant. But not laughing now am I. Anyhoo, I tiptoed down with a sideways shuffle and made it successfully down to the bottom without winding up on my derriere.
For anyone with small or big kids in tow, the next section being the afore-mentioned maligned Stockton Wood, offers a number of tree swings, which, although appear to deteriorate in quality as you go along, do increase the jeopardy factor. First the classic tyre swing; albeit I did note that the cottage in sight had a look of the one in Hansel and Gretel so wondered if this might be a lure of some sort. The next was a makeshift sticky affair that looked like it could be quite painful if not used with care. And finally 2 further simple ropes slung over branches. Whichever you choose a rope swing is always good for maintaining the interest of the youngsters and the husbands missing their cars.
... and a little further along the path history gives way to one of the weirdest sights I have seen out walking. To start with your eyes are not sure what they are focusing on. Is it a girl waving at you? Is she OK? She's very still. Until you realise that the owner of the farm has put a life-sized doll dressed in a flat cap and pink leggings in the barn's open doorway waving at oncoming walkers. I had thought they might have dressed her up for halloween on my last visit, but no still in the same outfit, cobwebs and all. Really freaky.
Leaving Chucky quickly behind, you now embark on the next steady climb. If you want the views you needs to pay your dues. On my second trip as I climbed the incline I suddenly encountered 3 cows that had escaped the neighbouring field and were literally blocking my path. They had also chosen to inhabit the only bit of path that had a barbed wire fence to the left and a steep drop on the right. At this point I was too
committed to the walk to turn back and resolved that I would simply have to push my way through them. A good deal of jostling and repositioning between cows' carcasses and I made it through. I could of course have ended up rolling down the embankment, which I realised was a darn sight steeper than I had remembered on my 3rd visit. And this is when I decided that the cows of Haresfield are a good deal more chilled than those at Brimpsfield. And I surmise that this could be because of the unwelcoming nature of the inhabitants of Brimpsfield with their numerous, KEEP OFF, KEEP OUT, NAFF OFF WITH YOUR DOGS type signs. Not to mention toffy-nosed folk rolling up in their 4x4s to tell me I shouldn't be walking on that piece of grass. Either it is something in the water over there or they have trained their cows to attack unwelcome visitors, which would not surprise me.
Whatever the reason, Haresfield has gone some way to aleviate my fear of Daisy.
Onwards and upwards and prepare yourself for some stunning views! It is just beautiful up here on a sunny autumn day. A nice spot to park yourself for a while and enjoy the fruits of your labours.
And all that is left is to make your way back to the car. As soon as you climb (yes unfortunately another short climb for your tired legs) away from the view point and start approaching the car park, the sound of people begins to increase. It seems most people park up and mill around the near vicinity of their cars. Ah! Perhaps my husband's malaise is more common than I thought.