Woodchester, Westonbirt and other Walks in Gloucestershire, 19 & 20 March 2017

We didn’t need to walk far…

We had arranged to stay on for a couple of days after Scott and Amy’s wedding. The Egypt Mill and Nailsworth generally sounded like a good place. Neither of us had spent much (or in Janie’s case, any) time in that south-western corner of the Cotswolds, so it seemed like a good idea to check out the area and walk off the wedding.

We didn’t need to walk far to see interesting flora and fauna; the gardens of The Egypt Mill were lovely. Only problem was, the gardens were guarded by a badling of ducks.

The weather forecast for the Monday was less than special, so we thought we’d better get most of our outdoor walking activities done on Sunday. After saying goodbye to everyone, we took some advice from the Egypt Mill folk and from Mr Google. Coaley Peak and Woodchester sounded like a very pleasant walk. Almost everyone recommended the Westonbirt Arboretum. We’d aim to visit both of those.

Coaley Peak was very windy and chilly when we got there. Also, the promised “superb views on a clear day” were not forthcoming as it wasn’t clear. The forecast suggested it might be a bit clearer later, so we left the car at Coaley Point and walked to the entrance to Woodchester Park.

There are several walks of various lengths recommended for Woodchester. We planned to walk more than the shortest circuit but less than the medium-sized circuit, making sure we got to see the start of the lakes and see the mansion, but not walk the extensive lakes.

Easily distracted…

The early part of the walk has some man-made paraphernalia designed to keep the easily distracted amused.

Easily amused.

Still, it was a beautiful walk in the main and the weather did seem to be holding up for us. Also, lower down in the park it felt warmer and far more pleasant than it had felt up on Coaley Peak.

…as we approached the mansion, we encountered strange beasts…

The mansion was guarded by wild beasts, the like of which we had not seen for many moons. Fortunately, I was able to emulate their sound (more “maaaaa” than “baaaaa” in reality) to keep the beasts honest. Unfortunately Daisy’s attempts to emulate the sound initially seemed to have no effect and then seemed to make these beasts nervous, so we stopped doing that.

Never really used

The old Woodchester Mansion, which was never really used, looks rather Gothic and splendid. The National Trust does open it up for tea house and mini tour purposes, but not as early in the year as March.

So we wandered back to Coaley Point in the hope of a better view; but up there the view had deteriorated since our arrival and the chilly wind had got chillier.

On a clear day you can see…

The picture I wanted to take is on the Wikipedia entry for Coaley Peak – here.

We took sanctuary in Dumbo (my Suzuki Jimny) and drove to Westonbirt, arriving there before 16:00. We realised that we didn’t have time to do both spring trails and opted to do the Spring Wood one.

The start of the trail was a bit “school-tripsy”; a walkway explaining what wood is and stuff. But once we got onto the trail itself we were in our element. Or more precisely, in Daisy’s element.

I can get all this at home

Lots of Japanese trees with varieties of cherry blossom just starting to show. Of course, as residents of Noddyland, we’re rather spoilt for Japanese cherry blossom trees and felt that “we can get all this and more besides at home”. Except for the number of varieties and the beautiful country trail setting of course.

Daisy got to see her chosen flora.

Not fully sated, we decided we had time to take on the start of the Old Arboretum trail, which promised camellias, rhododendrons, magnolias and (Daisy assured me) pterodactyls.

Daisy got to see her chosen flora…

Daisy got to see all the things she was looking for on the first four stages of the Old Arboretum trail, but we ran out of energy before spotting any of my pterosaurs. No matter.

…maybe behind that tree?…

That evening we had dinner with Tony and Liz, who ventured once again from their glamorous caravan site and dogs (it’s extraordinary how the other half live) to the relatively austere surroundings of The Egypt Mill. We had a very enjoyable evening.

20 March 2017

As promised it rained. Proper, wet rain. We enjoyed our breakfast. I spent some time mucking about with the blog and the pictures we had taken and my baritone ukulele. Daisy read and mucked about with her iPad (other brands of tablet are available).

But later, again as promised, the rain cleared and we were able to plan the local walk for late afternoon; Nailsworth to Stroud.

Perhaps 10-15 minutes out of Nailsworth along the walking/cycle track…

The first part of the walk was lovely, following the Nailsworth stream pretty much. Very pleasant scenery.

Soon enough, we reached a tunnel under the road (A46 I should imagine) which has loads of graffiti art, which we rather liked. Very colourful and some rather good.

We rather liked the graffiti tunnel
Daisy is the thinker…
I knocked up a quick portrait of Daisy (wink).

We continued to follow the track most of the way to Stroud, but then the track seemed to take us to the A46 itself, unless we wanted to loop. So we took to the road, but soon saw a sign which read “public footpath” leading down some steps and back to a rather attractive looking trail by the side of a garden. So we then took that.

A rather attractive looking trail…
…by the side of a garden
The trail continued past this garden…
…which Daisy admired, as the trail led back to the road again.

Just as we were about to emerge back onto the road, a rather strange-looking, frumpy woman accosted us and asked us what we were doing in her garden. I explained that we had followed the “public footpath” sign and stuck to the trail, but she was adamant that we had encroached on her garden.

I pointed in the direction of the sign we had followed and suggested that she report its ambiguity (or indeed its manifest error) to the council, as there was really no choice other than the trail path after following that sign, apart from really walking through the garden. The woman didn’t seem to like my idea of alerting the authorities, she told us that she was in a hurry as she had to rescue her cats. She merely wanted us to know that:

“there’s a cycle and walking track up the top there for people like you”.

I wondered what category of people the weird woman had put “people like us” into. Gentle folk out for an afternoon stroll? Anarcho-ramblers? Pikeys? People whose in-laws stay on caravan sites?

Janie was quite peeved by this woman. We followed a later sign back to the cycle/walking track, but it soon became clear that we would do a big loop round to Stroud that way, so we returned to the A46 and did the last mile/mile-and-a-half by road. Not the most salubrious surroundings for a ramble. Nor is Stroud a particularly interesting or pleasing town to visit, it transpires.

With the benefit of hindsight, we’d have done better to have walked half way from Nailsworth to Stroud and then back again, perhaps a slightly different way.

Still, we’d done some great walking over those two days. The full collection of pictures from those walks can be found here.

One thought on “Woodchester, Westonbirt and other Walks in Gloucestershire, 19 & 20 March 2017”

  1. Charles Bartlett commented by e-mail but then gave me permission to add for him:

    “I also have a story of trespassing onto private land but with a much more pleasant outcome!

    “I worked for a major oil company and was on a two week Manager’s course, they as you probably know are held in expensive hotels in leafy areas. Can’t remember where but there must have been a golf course in the grounds as that Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros was staying there.

    “Anyway 3 of us went for a walk/hike in the grounds one morning and eventually got lost in a large forest – a female voice said can I help as you are clearly lost and you are in my garden!?

    “She was charming, young-ish and magnificently posh. She said, ‘don’t worry lots of people get lost out walking from the Hotel come in the kitchen you can have some tea and cakes before I direct you to the way out’.

    “I did say, ‘why don’t you fence the perimeter’, she replied that the acreage is far too large and it would spoil the view!

    “I also remember a friend of one of the managers paid us a visit one evening he had the unlikely name of ‘Gordon Bennett’. He brought an assortment of films of a very dubious nature and the like I’d never seen before…”

    I think we’d better draw a veil over Chas’s recollections at that point. Many thanks to you, Chas.

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