Fifty Shades of Green

Thanks to the housing development north of the railway at what they call ‘Woodshaw Meadows’, my early morning walk with the dogs is a bit of pot-luck: how will they block my path today? This morning there was a severe constriction in the footpath passing southwards through the site. It seemed too small to squeeze through, but we made it.

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20170419_070048-001I’ve won one minor battle: a few weeks ago, a sign had appeared on the security fencing stating that the footpath was a “Private Permissive Path; use at own risk” – only it was a public right of way. Today, I noticed that it had finally been removed.

Another scrawled notice with a couple of arrows claimed that the path was a diversion, even when it was on the original line. There have been no official notices announcing that there would be a temporary diversion and that we can object within a specified period: the diversions have simply been imposed.

One of the contractors told me that they are putting in a proper footpath “soon”. Let’s see.

Meanwhile, back home, I prepared for this week’s Tuesday ramble. I’d told that this would be something special; it would certainly crown a week of walks.

Last Tuesday’s walk was around Axford, a new one to me. It turned out to cross Savernake Forest and skirt the east of Marlborough on a surprisingly high ridge, with the town spread out a long way below. We’ve seen some quite spectacular bluebell woods in recent weeks, but those above Axford were bluer, denser and more widespread than their counterparts. The crystal-clear infant River Kennet was the perfect climax.

On Thursday my brother and sister came to stay overnight before tackling a walk on the Friday. They needed stretching in readiness for a Rambling holiday based on Mont Blanc. We managed to fit in a one-way walk in the evening, being dropped off at South Cerney and making our way along the Thames & Severn and North Wilts canals via Latton Basin to arrive at the Red Lion in Cricklade before darkness fell. The big one on Friday was a repeat of a walk I’d done in March, with lots of long climbs, around the hill-fort at Uley Bury in Gloucestershire. It didn’t disappoint, thanks to very clear weather; this time I could tick off the distant peaks beyond the Severn into Wales shown on the viewing point at Coaley Peak. The afternoon plunged us into the treescape of Woodchester, providing us a kaleidoscope of fresh colours – and the pungent aroma of wild garlic swamping the more delicate perfume of the bluebells.

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Back in March, we had to forego tea at the forever-uncompleted Mansion, but this time it was open and worth a visit. The building looked well-equipped to deal with rain, with cast-iron animal sculptures ranged around the roof ready to gurgle with rain-water, but over recent weeks there’s been almost zero rainfall to test them.

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We caught our breath up the hill opposite the Mansion – it was also carpeted in wild garlic – and looked back at the building way down below us, as seen here in its setting of so many different shades of green.

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The last couple of miles through Nympsfield and back to the village of Uley deep in the valley gave us quite a work-out. I just about had enough puff to give the dogs their late-afternoon exercise.

Today’s itinerary started at Cleeve Common, just outside Cheltenham, right beside a golf clubhouse. The car park was in an old limestone quarry next to the first tee. Heading off north-westward, I had no idea what was in store, and I wondered whether I’d brought warm enough clothes – I could have done to remember to pack my hat. Ah well.

We emerged near to Bishop’s Cleeve, nestled in a valley and echoing to the sound of a steam whistle. I was surprised to find that the Gloucestershire-Warwickshire Steam Railway was in operation mid-week in mid-May. It runs from Cheltenham Racecourse to within a mile or so of the Cotswold village of Broadway, and I’d read recently that funds had been raised to complete the line to a new station at Broadway. I look forward to trying out the full journey. We spent our lunch stop on a hill overlooking Bishop’s Cleeve – but it wasn’t at the top. This came soon after we started the return journey, and we looked back at the town down beyond the trees.

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The landscape changed markedly as we made our way around the hill, with an absence of trees and hedges. It opened out to reveal Cheltenham with the racecourse in the foreground, just like a toytown. Cleeve Common is on a plateau shared by grazing sheep and golfers impatiently wanting walkers to get out of their way.

20170509_143318We finally made it to the top beside a clump of gorse bushes in full bloom. From this vantage point, I couldn’t see where we were heading, but it was only half a mile downhill to the golf club house – and the  car park hidden away in its quarry.

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