A Wee Walking Update:
2022 has already been an amazing year of walking!
In addition to the gorgeous walks we do around here on the weekends, I have walked The Cotswold Way in England and The Portuguese Camino in Portugal and Spain!
And the year of walking is not over yet. Next week we are heading to Switzerland to do the Via Alpina and in September, I’m leading a circular walk in the Lake District.
Even though I’ll be walking this week in the Alps, in this space I am sharing my journey along The Cotswold Way from when Kandace and I walked it together back at the beginning of May.
I’ve been reliving it this past month as I’ve written these posts and I’m excited to share them with you. Starting today, they will be published every day for seven days, one day for each day of the walk. I hope you enjoy reading about it and even more than that, I hope it makes you want to go for a walk!
Getting outside continues to be the best way I know of to feel better, both about myself and the world around me.
So cheers to walking!
The Cotswold Way
110 Miles from Chipping Campden to Bath:
Day 1 Chipping Campden to Stanton (10 miles)
So this was our fifth time walking together. 6th if you count when we walked virtually together during the pandemic.
Once we finished the Cotswold Way we had walked over 500 miles together.
So now we are a bit like an old married couple.
Kandace knows I can’t have caffeine or sugar after 2pm,
and I know that she can drink a pint at lunch and still outpace me for the rest of the afternoon.
She will carry more stuff than she needs and I’ll end up being without something I have to buy a sub-standard version of in a tiny shop.
Walking together is familiar. Not at all stressful.
A favorite pair of slippers that you pop on at the end of the day and sigh with relief.
Only instead of slippers, they are hiking boots
Kandace and I both work freelance jobs from home, which means we have the flexibility to work at all hours of the day and to be available to our clients whenever they need us, including weekends and holidays.
That flexibility also means we can schedule walking trips and do work ahead of time that frees us to get out of town.
So frequently we find ourselves texting back and forth that it’s time to put another walk on the calendar.
We both enjoy the countdown to the walk. (Two weeks until I turn my out of office reply on!)
We love getting gear sorted and prepped. (Are you bringing rain pants this time? I bought new après-hike shoes!)
I enjoy the obsessive planning of our itinerary, reading guidebooks, maps and websites to find the perfect places to stop, sleep and eat.
And I go a bit crazy for the challenge of sorting an overwhelming number of miles into manageable day hikes, breaking up a long stretch of trail into sections, trying to accurately anticipate how much I can push myself each day.
I bought a guidebook for The Cotswold Way while I was still living in Illinois, before I had even moved to England! I knew I would just have to box it up for the move, but I was ready to get started on my research.
When the book arrived, I skimmed the sections and elevation to figure out that we could probably walk it in about a week. I imagined what places with names like Chipping Campden and Cleeve Hill would look like. My fascination with the Cotswolds (and its adorably named towns) loomed large for me in the weeks and months leading up to our move.
I googled images and made copious notes. Then I packed away my guidebook along with all my other books to be moved across the ocean and rediscovered in a new place and time.
At some point in late January, I texted Kandace:
Want to come walk the English countryside with me? You stay in pubs almost every night!
By early February, she had her flight booked.
Book those pubs! she texted back.
When winter melted away and spring arrived for us both, we’d be walking together again.
Only the first night we didn’t stay in a pub. We stayed in a darling little shepherd’s hut in someone’s back garden.
We set out on a bright Sunday morning from Chipping Campden. Taido and Simon hiked our first six miles with us to Broadway. We had perfect weather. England welcomed Kandace with lush green fields full of sheep.
It’s so fun to me to see someone else take in these country scenes for the first time. Because I never tire of rock walls, yellow flowers, baby lambs and country cottages, I love for someone else to share in my enthusiasm.
We started our walk with a gentle climb to a tower, a folly actually, which is an ornamental building or something that was built just for aesthetics. (Who knew such a thing existed?)
Then we descended into the charming village of Broadway for a pub lunch at The Horse and Hound.
(Just like the magazine in Notting Hill!)
After lunch, we said goodbye to Taido and Simon, who walked back to Chipping Campden to drive home, and we headed south a few more miles to Stanton, a tiny picturesque hamlet.
We quickly found the cottage labeled The Old Post House and were met by our hosts there, who have set up two rooms for walkers in their back garden, each one complete with twin beds, a tiny kitchen, armchairs and a bathroom. One is The Garden Room and the other room is The Shepherd’s Hut, where we stayed.
We sat outside in the back garden with their dogs, reading and napping before having a picnic dinner and going to bed.
The adventure had begun.
Here we were on our first night after walking past yellow rapeseed fields and baby lambs snuggled with their mamas.
It was exactly as I had imagined it months ago – which things seldom are – but the predictability of how lovely it is to walk from village to village in the UK is precisely what I love about it.
And I am not alone. National Trails in the UK receive 83 million visits every year, and The Cotswold Trail alone attracts 150,000 walkers every year.
May is one of the most popular months on these trails and it’s not hard to understand why. The light is hanging on past 9pm and the rain is not as cold or as settled in. We had lots of sunshine, and were even down to our t-shirts and shorts on some days.
I fell asleep proud that so far the Cotswolds were living up to my vision of them, grateful that I had not oversold their quaint whimsy to Kandace.
We were both ready for more.