"A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare" - William Henry Davies
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This is actually a walk that begins its life at a viewpoint at the top of Crickley Hill. Take the A417 up past the Air Balloon and then take the first right on the B4070 followed by another right soon after which loops back round and takes you to a free car park where you should park up. The walk takes you to the extremely picturesque village of Cowley (literal meaning cow pasture), home to St Mary's church, dating back to Norman times which sits in the very splendid grounds belonging to Cowley manor, once owned by the Horlicks family and now a country hotel. These are both worth a visit. There is pedestrian access to the church and as you walk past the graveyard attached to the church you enter the glorious 55 acres of grade II listed gardens attached to Cowley Manor. They are jaw-dropping.
Once you have parked at the top of Birdlip leave the car park by crossing the cattle grids and bear left.
1. A short climb up and away from the car park and you will see a metal gate on your right with a stile alongside. Hop over and you're off.
2. A lane stretches out before you, thankfully gradually moving away from the very busy A417. Carry on down this track for circa 1.5km at the end of which you reach a tarmacked lane where you bear left. No cars when I walked the walk.
3. A couple of hundred yards along this lane a footpath begins running parallel with the lane. Move onto that and it leads directly to a wooden gate, with footpath sign into and down a field. Please make sure you close the gate mechanism behind you.
4. At the bottom of a reasonably steep descent there is a 3-way split. Take the middle option straight ahead keeping a row of trees on your right.
5. Just past a stone water trough there is a footpath sign pointing to the left and straight ahead. The footpath you need to take however is to the right and up the steep hill. If you cast your eyes upwards in a north-easterly direction you should espy a post halfway up the hill which is the footpath sign. Head for this. This is a very steep climb.
8. Onwards past the post you will see a gate. Pass through and proceed through the next field keeping the row of trees and delapidated stone wall on your left.
9. On your left in the distance you can see Coberley. Ahead of you there will be a gap between trees and fences; pass through here and carry on in a straight line with a row of trees on your right and you will soon see Cowley ahead.
10. Another gate to negotiate leading to a path with stables on the right down to a stile. Over the stile onto a lane.
11. Cross the lane and walk up the road straight ahead which winds its way through some rather lovely looking properties. Follow this road around to the left, after which there is a steep descent, at the bottom of which bear right. Dog on a lead for this part of the walk.
12. Further along this road on your right you will see a signpost for the Green Dragon. This is the next part of the walk, but if you have the time and the inclination you may want to visit St Mary's Church and/or Cowley Manor which are a hop and a skip further down the road. I believe you can enjoy a cream tea at Cowley Manor. Equally if you so wish you could make a pitstop at the Green Dragon, which is a super country pub I have visited many times. Whatever you choose, the next instruction is leading you on from point 11.
13. Take the turning towards the GreenDragon. As the lane bears sharply to the left ahead there is a stile over a fence on the right. Cross the stile and carry on in the direction you were going up the lane; sort of straight ahead.
14. Before you reach the end of this field you should see a stile over the fence on your right which takes you on to a lane. Hop over. A short way up this lane you will see another stile on your left that takes you into the next field along. Hop over that.
15. The sign and the map point straight down the field so this is the way I headed. You reach the edge of a wood and I had to scour up and down to find the gate that led through into it. It was slightly to my right. Go through this gate when you find it and bear right. You follow the edge of the wood.
16. You will reach an opening with a left and right option and you go straight ahead onto the grassy track where up ahead you should see a wooden gate that leads through to the lane on your right. Go through and bear left.
17. This lane follows the edge of a field containing sheep at the end of which it bears round to the right leading to a gate onto a tarmacked lane where you bear left and carry on straight down this lane.
18. You should be able to see Stockwell Farm in the distance. Part way down the lane there is a Restricted Byway sign over a stile into a field on your right. You want to cross this stile and walk straight actross the field with the fence on your right until you get to the stile at the other end. Cross this, bear left and then immediately right which takes you back on to the path you began your walk with and back to your car.
This is a circa 6 mile circular walk that took me about 2 hours and 30 minutes not including my visit to Cowley Manor. There are a couple of pretty steep climbs involved and I would therefore suggest that this and the distance make this a slightly more strenuous walk than the others listed thus far. It was also extremely muddy in many places when I did the walk, there having been a good deal of rainfall early this year. You could shorten the walk somewhat if you walked to Cowley and then back whence you came. It took me about 50 minutes to get to Cowley Manor, about 2 miles. I would certainly recommend a pit stop at either the Manor or the Green Dragon at the halfway point whichever route you take.