"A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare" - William Henry Davies
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A former colleague used to sing the praises of Snowshill and the Snowshill Inn in particular whilst I was working and, although I have visited Snowshill Manor before with my father, we literally drove to the Manor, parked up, visited the house and the gardens and drove away again, never wandering further afield than the confines of this National Trust site. So I decided to find a walk local to this most idyllic of Cotswolds villages and make a return visit.
It may be worth combining the walk with a visit to Snowshill Manor. As I recall, the gardens were lovely and we were slightly bemused and more than a little amused by the bizarre home with its eclectic collection of "junk", aka memorabilia, piled high in every room, accumullated by Charles Paget Wade. If it had been around in his time, I do believe he would have been a star on "Britain's Biggest Hoarders".
Whether you visit the Manor house and gardens or not, it is here that the walk begins. The drive to Snowshill takes you up some pretty steep inclines and so, albeit there is a short, relatively steep climb in one section of the walk, because the car has done most of the ascending, you get to enjoy the feeling of being on top of the world without having to strain your legs too much. It really is quite breathtaking in places.
Below is one of the first views to take in. This is after the first steep climb and I do suggest in the walk instructions you might want to stop at the top, catch your breath and look back over your shoulder.
Back to the walk. As mentioned in the instructions, there were a number of butterflies in the fields leading down to the stream. I spotted a Green-veined White, Meadow Browns, Small Skippers, Gatekeepers and Commas. Further along the walk a Painted Lady alighted on the footpath ahead and I got a couple of good shots. I haven't seent a Painted Lady in a long time so was quite pleased to have captured this one.
Once I had managed to work out the fiendish latch-covering-bolthole gate mechanism, allowing me to pass through this and another gateway, I walked on a short distance down a thistle-edged path to be met by the most glorious panoramic views with what I thought was a flock of swifts dancing in the sky below me, only to discover later that they were in fact swallows. In the distance I could spy a purplish grey field which I decided must be lavender. My suspicions were confirmed when the breeze wafted the unmistakeable scent my way adding smellovision to the glorious view. I later discovered from a signpost in the village that these are the Cotswold Lavender Fields, where there is a shop selling gifts and the like, together with a tea room. Another option for a pitstop.
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The second one had me baffled for ages - I definitely would not have made it on to the Krypton Factor. I could see the bolt needed to be pulled back but it seemed to be stuck. It took me ages to discover that they had a diabolical little catch that you simply needed to swing to the side in order to slide the bolt back. This one makes a comeback later in the walk but it didn't catch me out twice. And then there was one that looked like it might open Fort Knox, but flattered to deceive and was the most straightforward one of all.
When you read the walk instructions it may occur to you that there are a large number of gates to negotiate; and oh my do they like a fancy gate opening mechanism in Snowshill. So much so I became a little obsessed with them and need to share them with you. The first one grabbed my attention, not because it was difficult to work out, but because I had never seen its like before - a sort of hook and eye affair.
Below was my attempt to capture the flock of swallows. I think you might be able to just about pick out a couple of them, but in the end I simply loved the dramatic sky and I felt it captured to a degree the sensation you had on this walk of being up in the sky with the birds.
Onwards, and I was very pleased that my map was telling me to ignore a stile on my right where a sign warned that a bull would be there to greet you if you chose this route - who in their right minds would? The lane followed the edge of a field where 2 large horses were grazing right alongside the path. I am not a fan of this livestock either so was very pleased that the grass they were ripping out of the ground was clearly darn good stuff because they did not even blink as I passed by. If horses are your thang you might want to take an apple with you to try to distract them from their usual fare.
The lanes that follow are lined with very pretty Field Scabious as pictured here and Clover and more Gateways flutter past. After which the landscape opens up somewhat and you find yourself passing a rather handsome looking farm and as you look back the view below greets you. I am always a sucker for a picture where the eye is led away by a fence or a path to the horizon beyond.
Well it's been fabulous so far but I am just getting to my favourite section of the walk. Just past the farm the views to your right are really special and I look forward to revisiting this walk when the meadow flowers are in their full glory. The meadow stretches away from you and a carpet of wildflowers create a pretty border beyond which is a scene of hills with a patchwork of hedgerows and fields. I half expected Julie Andrews to come flying over the crest of the meadow, arms flung wide in full voice - the Hills Are Alive la la la. ha ha.
And believe it or not, as I turned back from having taken this photo, I saw a doe, a deer, a female deer dash across the path in front of me, bound across the nearby field and leap majestically through the air over the fence into the woods. It was bloody marvellous. Then to cap it all I saw a juvenile swallow sat upon the fence lining my path and as I approached it stayed put, completely unfazed by my presence. I got 2 or 3 shots before it flew off and landed in what I have called the bird tree. It seemed to be moving and as I looked closely I could see it was full of swallows. When I got home and checked my photo it transpires that there were also meadow pipits chilling out with their swallow buddies.
The walk takes you through a wood with its path lined with lilac and pink Penstemons before emerging into fields where Snowshill village once again comes into view. Upon entering the narrow country lane that meanders through the village the Cotswold stone houses make you drool, well me anyway. The first house has some rather interesting garden sculptures. We were quite pleased with our 2 foot high Heron that stands proudly by our pond in the garden. It pales into insignificance next to the 10 foot high giraffe dwarfing a nearby sheep, which although not of the same stature, makes up for it in its colourful garb. Show-offs.
And that's it really. A lovely walk that finishes up in an idyllic village setting. Here is a collage of the village together with village Inn. Hope you enjoy.