|Wotton-under-Edge to Stroud||Back to Cotswold Way index||Cranham to Leckhampton Hill|
It can be a tad tiring, though, and what seems like a relatively modest eleven and a half mile walk will feel longer, especially after a similar marathon yesterday. Many walkers will feel they have had enough on reaching Painswick, and in truth this gem of a village provides a more natural ending to the day than does Cranham Corner. It depends ultimately on how you wish to split up the Cotswold Way into manageable days, for a trek on the following day between Painswick and Cheltenham would be far too long for most walkers to enjoy.
|Length:||11.1 miles / 17.8 km|
|Total ascent:||2068 ft / 630 m|
|Total descent:||1511 ft / 461 m|
|Estimated time:||4 hrs 15 mins|
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A Stroud scrapbook
Stroud is a pleasant and vibrant little market town with a population of around 25,000. Its town centre is an area of narrow and occasionally steep streets in a slightly chaotic layout, and features a pleasing jumble of architecture. The railway station lays immediately to the south of the town centre; the bus station is a tad difficult to find but lies behind a modern shopping mall. The town has extensive suburbs that fan out along the Frome valley and several side valleys thereto. Stroud is nominally on the line of the Fosse way, although little trace of its course can be found hereabouts. I tackled a couple of sections of the Cotswold Way using Stroud as a base and it is a pleasant enough place to stay, although like many such towns on and near the route throughout Gloucestershire and the West Midlands it has surprisingly few places to stay or to eat out in the evening.
King's Stanley road at Stonehouse; the Cotswold way pointer
The Cotswold Way leaves the Stroud valley road from just east of Stonehouse, a small town west of Stroud and nominally separate from it although the built-up area is continuous. There are two lines of approach; if you disembark at Stonehouse railway station then all you need do is follow a footpath along the north side of the railway track for a kilometer to the east, where you will pick up the route of the CW at a footbridge over the track. If you're starting from Stroud itself then the best bet is to get a bus to Stonehouse (they run every 20 minutes), and get off at a prominent white concrete bridge spanning the road near the King's Stanley turn - this is where yesterday's walk finished. Walk back along the road to Stroud for about 200m. You will spot a Cotswold Way sign pointing north along a narrow path beside a suburban house, near a school and opposite a garden centre. The path runs almost due north for 200m after which it crosses the railway track by an overbridge.
Path out of Stonehouse; footbridge over railway; pastures on Doverow Hill.
You're now on the southeast shoulder of Doverow Hill and the Cotswold Way tracks generally northeast from here towards Westrip, an outlier of Stroud situated high on the hill. The path runs through a succession of pastures. There are plenty of waymarks to guide you across the various stiles and gates.
Looking back at King's Stanley; pastures between Stonehouse and Westrip
The path gains height pretty quickly (in fact this is one of the day's two major ascents) and you ascend through about 300ft by the time you hit Westrip. The views to the south across the Frome valley and to the west into the Severn vale are pretty extensive, and you will no doubt cast an eye back to the woods that were the scene of the last few miles of yesterday's long walk
Looking back from Westrip; Westrip; Stroud from Westrip
Westrip lays on the very edge of Stroud and has the air of a small country village, which is probably what it was until Stroud expanded to engulf it. Once you hit the lane turn right and walk east for 200m. The Cotswold Way leaves on a footpath to the northwest, sandwiched between cottages and climbing steeply to the pastures behind the village. Cross the pasture and then the one beyond, following the waymarks, to head for the corner of a small patch of woodland.
Pastures and woodland north of Westrip
You reach the corner of the wood at the end of a narrow road coming up from Westrip. Follow the CW signboard into the wood. The path passes quickly through the small plantation and then runs inside its northwestern boundary alongside a stone wall.
The path running inside the woodland boundary
View of Stroud; track to Standish Wood
At the northern apex of the little wood the path breaks out for a short field crossing. The route now turns right onto a vehicle track that runs uphill, along the spur of Maiden Hill, towards the substantial plantation of Standish Wood. There's another excellent view of Stroud from here, as well as a good view westwards into the Severn vale.
Approaching Standish Wood; Standish Wood
You cross a narrow lane coming up from Townsend, another locality of Stroud, just before you enter Standish Wood. You've reached a pretty impressive elevation of 198 meters (something around 550ft) here, and in fact you're on the top of the Cotswold scarp here once more.
The route through Standish Wood is a long one, a distance just short of two miles. The path climbs still, reaching an elevation of 224m as it curves gradually to the right. The wood is initially quite thick but soon it becomes a little more open, and the path is broad and easy to follow. The wood is a delight on a sunny day, though under dull weather it tends to be a rather gloomy place.
The Cotswold Way, Standish Wood
After about 800m the route of the Cotswold Way doglegs to the left. It's easy to miss this turning; if you come out into the open at the tiny village of Ruscombe then you've gone the wrong way. Should this happen retrace your steps for about 300m and seek out the turning to the right. The second bend of the dogleg is to the right, this new path running roughly parallel to the one that emerges at Ruscombe but gradually diverging from it.
The path runs due northeast for another kilometer or so before running around a very wide curve to the left. The curve just keeps going and you run through north, then northwest. You're heading almost west before a clearing appears to your left, heralding your arrival at the northern extremity of the wood.
Standish Wood and the arrival at Standish Beacon
The Cotswold way at Standish Beacon
The path finally emerges from the wood at a car park. Just as you reach the road, turn left again through a gate and head across a flat vee of downland towards the viewpoint indicator.
Strictly speaking this vee of downland, and the viewpoint indicator or topograph thereon, doesn't have a name. The map gives no clue, and all the guidebooks tell you is that there's no name on the map. I've called it Standish Beacon just for convenience.
The beacon stands atop a spur of land jutting out from the Cotswold scarp and the view is pretty impressive. You're at an elevation of some 250 meters here, or around 800 ft, and you can see much of the southern half of the Severn vale, and across it to the Forest of Dean and perhaps Wales on a good day. The towers of the Severn bridges should be in view again. The topograph points out other places of note - intriguingly these include Dunkerey Beacon on Exmoor, a whole 14 days and 186 miles ago.
The route from Standish to Haresfield beacon
Once you've tired of the view take the path along the other (west) side of the vee, which doesn't quite reach the road but instead turns half left to run through a ribbon of woodland. Initially it runs smartly downhill but just as you think you've gone the wrong way and are dropping off the scarp, a stile gives access to a rising path. Once again you find yourself curving around to the left.
The Cotswold Way running out to Haresfield Beacon
The route approaching Haresfield Beacon
It's quite a long way - perhaps more than a mile - from Standish Beacon to Haresfield Beacon. Haresfield is less accessible than Standish and the terrain is lumpier and rougher. There is no topograph here - a pity, for this is a superior viewpoint to Standish - but there is an OS trig pillar, which the map tells you stands at an elevation of 217 meters.
You will have to hunt around for a suitable gap in the vegetation to see it, but for the first time there is a significant view northwards along the general line of the Severn vale. The town of Gloucester is prominent about six or seven miles away, with the wooded height of Robin's Wood Hill just before it. Beyond Gloucester to the northeast is a similar height, Churchdown Hill, which lies roughly between Gloucester and Cheltenham.
View north towards Gloucester; route off Haresfield Beacon; approaching Ringhill Farm
View north; Ringhill Farm
Haresfield Beacon turns out to be a considerable spur off the line of the main Cotswold scarp, and the route now tracks along the northern edge of this spur to give some excellent view of the environs of Gloucester. The initial line is a little confusing but it's best to keep more or less to the edge of the scarp as far as you are able - things soon sort themselves out and you reach a path heading fairly steeply downhill (the map gives the name King Hill at this point). You come out briefly onto a surfaced road - the same one that you met a couple of miles back at the exit from Standish Wood. Follow this downhill for a short distance to Ringhill farm then turn right for a track through a wood.
The Cotswold Way among the woods of Haresfield Hill
This latest woodland track is following a fairly level course about halfway up the scarp slope of Haresfield Hill. At a kink in the path you will see "Cromwell's Stone", which commemorates an incident during the English civil war of the mid 1600's.
The path runs through the wood - which takes on the name Cliff Wood in its latter reaches - for about 1300m. Eventually it comes out onto a road at Cliffwell Cottages. Follow the road southwards (i.e. to the right), between thick woodland on either side.
Road at Cliff Well
Turn left here; Halliday's Wood
The road is narrow and there is no footway, but fortunately traffic is very light. After about 400m a track diverges to the left, heading initially downhill a little. Here the Cotswold Way enters into another of its long curves as it tracks around the lip of a coombe-shaped valley drained by Daniel's Brook. This stretch, through Halliday's Wood, lasts for about 2km and during its course the Cotswold Way will turn through a good 150 degrees, ending up on a northeast track once more.
The Cotswold Way at Stockend
There is a bit of a "shut-in" feeling as you walk through Halliday's Wood; there is literally nothing to see until the trees thin to your left and you pass an open cluster of buildings that look very much like a stud farm. This is Stockend, and here the track improves. There is a steep slope, thickly wooded, to your right; keep an eye open here for the CW marker that will direct you into the wood.
Entering Maitlands Wood at Stockend; Track through Maitlands Wood; road on Scottsquar Hill
The path runs diagonally up the scarp through the thick tree cover of Maitlands Wood. This is a very short section but it does seem longer than it is. You break out of the trees on top of the scarp, known locally as Scottsquar Hill, pretty much on the 240m contour. You hit a road running from Edge to Stroud via Whiteshill. It appears to be unclassified but obviously carries a bus route, for there is a bus stop nearby.
The Edge - Whiteshill road; Scottsquar Hill quarry; first view of Painswick
Go straight across the road for another path disappearing into the trees. You're now in the environs of an abandoned quarry that has been re-seeded and landscaped to some degree. The terrain is a little confusing but stone steps have been provided in one or two locations and the path is reasonably well marked. From here you look into the Painswick valley, yet another example of the confused topography that the Cotswold scarp exhibits; its quite an effort to work out where the actual scarp is sometimes. The Painswick valley appears to be a deep incursion into the dip slope. Painswick itself appears, about a mile and a half away, looking very inviting.
Descending the quarry slopes from Scottsquar Hill
Follow the line of the CW downhill, just south of east. The terrain is slightly confusing and unkempt; this is a mixture of ungrazed pasture and clusters of thorn and shrub, which will surely become woodland in a generation or two if left to its own devices.
Down the slopes towards Painswick; woodland; Edgemoor Inn
The terrain is confusing enough for you to get momentarily lost but an obvious line of approach is to follow a pathway southwards for a couple of hundred meters, into a small section of woodland, there to find an obvious path heading smartly downhill to the east. You should pop out of the wood onto the A4173, right by the Edgemoor Inn on the southern outskirts of Edge. Watch for traffic! (I really mean that about the traffic - your arrival on the road surface is very sudden and there is no footway on the west side).
From the Edgemoor Inn go south for about 50m and then turn left down a dark little lane.
Jenkin's Lane; Jenkin's Farm
Jenkin's Lane, as this little road is called, runs fairly smartly downhill under light tree cover. After about 350m you should turn left over a stile into pastures immediately west of the buildings of Jenkin's Farm. Head along the field boundary to the northwest and in another 100m turn right to cross a stile into the adjacent pasture.
The environs of Jenkin's Farm
It's easy to go astray here and a few more waymarks would be a good idea. Generally, the route of the CW is following a shallow depression on a bearing of about 60 degrees. There is an obvious and inviting path running up through pastures diagonally to your left, but this is the wrong line; if you find yourself looking at the view in the centre image above then you've gone the wrong way! Keep fairly near the field boundaries to your immediate right, and you should soon spot the stile that gives access to a footbridge over a stream in a dark little copse.
Once over the stream you're within the grounds of Washbrook Farm. There's a couple more pastures and then you hit a vehicle track. There's an intricate route around the farm buildings themselves, which on the whole are kept to your right; the waymarking is good here and the best advice to give is to keep following the arrows. Washbrook farm gives every impression of being on the edge of Painswick but this is not the case; there's about 600m of pastures to cross, and they are largely ungrazed, and they lie on a sharply rising gradient.
The route from Washbrook farm into Painswick
Eventually you arrive, probably a little out of breath, at the country end of a little suburban road.
A Painswick photo album
The line of the Way is supposed to cross a pasture to the east of this suburban road on the diagonal, but it's more straightforward - and possibly less disruptive to the cattle grazing there - to walk up the road instead, turn right into Edge Road, and walk along into the village centre. Besides, you might want to call in at a coffee shop or a pub and you don't want cow sh*t on your boots at this stage. Painswick is one of the many villages that are described by guidebook writers as "the gem of the Cotswolds". There are a whole string of such villages, of course, and that's a major part of the charm of the Cotswolds, but there is no doubt that Painswick is lovely.
Scenes in Painswick
From Edge Road you turn left and head along the main street. A splendid churchyard lies to your right, and the church itself has a graceful 174ft spire featuring a rather splendid clock. The churchyard itself can be appreciated as a garden, and features quite a number of yew trees as well as an ornate lych gate that features wooden seating. Behind the churchyard are the town stocks; of iron rather than the usual wood, they look surprisingly modern. North of the churchyard is a little maze of lanes, which add much to the character of Painswick and invite exploration. They sweep generally downhill towards the Painswick brook.
More scenes in Painswick
If you wish to end the day here you will find the bus stop and shelter just by the church's lych gate. Service 46 (Cheltenham - Cranham - Painswick - Stroud) runs once per hour Monday to Saturday, and once every two hours on Sunday. (Unfortunately the timetable I was given in Stroud's tourist information centre in July 2001 proved to be out of date).
Cotswold Way north of Painswick
The Cotswold Way turns left at the crossroads at the north end of Painswick's main street and runs along the B4073 Gloucester road for about 500m. After this it turns left to pass a small reservoir then crosses a lane into the environs of a golf course. A regime of mixed woodland / pasture / golf course continues for much of the next two miles. The route runs generally northwards at first, bypassing a nameless hill of 262m elevation to the right; shortly afterwards the route crosses another unclassified road on a diagonal and then kinks to the right, passing the 283m Painswick Hill on its eastern side. The hill begs to be climbed, if you have the time, though the only right of way is up its southern aspect and you would have to retrace your steps again to regain the route.
|Wotton-under-Edge to Stroud||Back to Cotswold Way index||Cranham to Leckhampton Hill|
This page last updated 8th February 2004