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The traveler: An expected journey A 2 week return trip to the UK.

Over Hill and by Sheep

UNITED KINGDOM | Tuesday, 10 April 2018 | Views [39]

From Scotland I journeyed to what is probably one of the most beautiful sections of England, the Cotswolds, or "sheep hills". Great former wealth was brought to this area during the wool trade which I believe carried through the late 1800s. When wool lost it's value the Cotswolds were somewhat forgotten and time stood still. Now prices are once again high with largely only the wealthy being able to afford the beautiful honey colored stone houses, and flocks of tourists bringing in the Pounds in the summer, though I was certainly not alone this spring.

To my joy I found an Airbnb in the picture perfect village of Snowshill in the north of the Cotswolds from which I started or ended my walking trips over the following two days. I have found many of my Airbnb hosts to be truly lovely, and rather like staying with friends, while having complete freedom to come and go as I choose. My hosts here kindly picked me up from the train station and pointed me along my hiking routes.
My first day of hiking I was periodically rained on about 4 times in between bursts of sun, while the second day was one of the brightest days of the spring people have thus far seen. With complete joy I looked out over the bright green rolling hills trimmed with trees, and doted with sheep as I slipped and squelched my way along the muddy path through the pastures.

During one rainy period as I past one of the pastures I stopped to gaze at a sheep on its back wondering if it was alright. As I watched I realized I was watching a lamb being born. After many minutes the lamb was finally fully in the world and struggled to find its balance with a few shaking steps before falling down. Despite its bleeding the mother did not rise. I stood there wondering if everything was alright and my only decision being to keep hoping and watching. Eventually I saw a second lamb being born, this one still inside a thin membrane. It wriggled and toppled over after emerging. Still mother did not stand up. At this point I finally found the motivation to walk down the driveway to the closest house, and presumably the farmer's front door. Unfortunately no one answered my knocks. Slipping a note through their letter slot I returned to the edge of the pasture and weighed the consequences of acting or not acting. Finally I decided to climb over the fence by the mother sheep. Gently I picked up the first rather slimy new born lamb and moved it so I could stand behind the mother. I gave her a small push. That was all she needed. Upon getting to her feet quickly moved a couple yards from me and began licking her newborn lamb. Sadly the second lamb was still as it lay in the field. Yet as I left I felt not that, but the joy of seeing the mother and her first lamb now on its feet.

From there it wasn't long to the pub in the next village, but just long enough to miss lunch (served 12-2 pm). Optimistically I looked for a tea room, but quickly realized that dinner back in Snowshill would be my next meal after the snack in my backpack. Nonetheless I soaked up the daffodils, the twisting lanes, stone walls, and little doors in sun colored cottages. Determined not to miss anything I walked every public lane in Stanton over the next hour and a half to imagine life in a place like this. The result was actually wondering what people do when the initial awe of the village wears off.
Eventually I guided my feet back to the path out of the village and up a terribly slippery, muddy slope. As I walked out of one of the fields the skies opened up for about 10 minutes and poured. Thankfully both I, or rather my clothes, and my map were waterproof! At the end of the downpour emerged a stunning rainbow in front of me.
After studying my map and turning it this way and that I gave up and followed an earlier landmark until I found the path I'd somehow accidentally left. As my feet took me through woods and across another field to a lane the adventures of the day began to catch up with me.
Following a plate of hot vegetable lasagne and "chips" (also know to us as French Fries) in the local pub while listening in to the conversation across from me, nothing was more welcome than my comfortable bed.
The next morning I was off again, this time on a linear walk from Chipping Camden (thanks to the lift from my Airbnb hosts) back towards Snowshill. Happily I wandered along the high street in Chipping Camden before starting out. The best shop there by far in my opinion was one offering cards and little plaques. After a few minutes I pulled out my notebook to write some of the best ones down:


Meetings. A great alternative to work.
It takes a lot of balls to play golf the way I do.
Happy wife. Happy life.
There's no one I'd rather sit next to when I'm checking my phone.
You're never too old to try something stupid.
My wife and I had words, but I never got to use mine.
Under a photo with half a dozen men in early 20th century clothing half way up a mountain "If only men would learn to ask for directions".
Behind every woman stands a man wondering what he said wrong.
Sometimes I decide not to wake up Mr. Grumpy.
We're not over the hill, we're only half way up it.
I work hard so my dog can be happy.
There was also one with "Rules for dating my daughter", but it was too long to write down. It did include:
I don't like you.
Set a time to be back, and then be home half an hour earlier.
She's my princess, not your conquest.

As I set out from the 17th Century Market Hall I paused as I passed 2 men examining a map and discussing the Cotswold Way (the long distance walking path). Since I'd been given directions from my hosts I decided to ask if they needed help. In fact they did (owing to the fact that the Cotswold way sign pointed both ways)! They too were starting out on the trail that day, though not going quite as far as I. So we decided to head out together.

The two men were old friends, and now retired had decided to meet up and start hiking the Cotswolds way path in sections over the coming months until they finally reach Bath. After some quick calculation it sounds like they'll be walking into Bath sometime next spring!

The first part of the path from Chipping Camden to Broadway was fairly easy and it was pleasant strolling along and discussing things from gardening to careers and getting lost, and then periodically checking the map. One of them seemed to be very interested in the mapping part of the walk, so I actually didn't worry too much about checking mine. When we arrived at Broadway tower (my guiding landmark from the day before) we paid the 5 Pounds to walk up the narrow twisting staircase to the top. At each of the 3 levels going up there was a small room with information about the tower. Ordinarily I would've spent far too long there, so it was actually an excellent exercise to have the other two with me and only glance at one or two of the boards before moving on. From what I recall the Tower was built by a wealthy Earl during the period of privatization of previously public land for the pleasure of building it rather than for any defensive purpose. At some point in the early 20th century the tower had rather lost its standing and become a farmhouse. I do pity the people who had to go up and down those stairs all day! During WW ll, though it appears it would've made an excellent watch tower for tracking German planes it sounded as though the watch post was actually on a different hill. The Tower is now owned by a mother/daughter pair, who I imagine do very well off of it.
After our dizzying descent down the staircase we made our way down the muddy slope, and after some attempt to knock or wash the clumps of mud from our boots into the bustling town of Broadway. The other two had a pub picked out for lunch and I gladly joined them for another plate of vegetable lasagne rather than the many meat dishes on the menu. From there I parted ways with my temporary walking companions and wondered past a few of the Broadway shops before heading out into the green fields again with a small ice cream cone. This time I successfully remained on the path alternating between field path and farmer's track back to Snowshill. I have a feeling if America tried to create right of way walking paths through farms there would be an uproar, but then again no one in Britain owns guns except for licensed hunting rifles, and a few of the royal guards.
Back in Snowshill at a reasonable hour (quite unusual for me!) I went for a walk with my camera (or rather my iPad, which I multitask with while traveling) through the village to explore every narrow lane. No two places are really the same, and yet they all fit together rather like a family. I've discovered the oldest buildings are usually in the center of the village; some, like the place I stayed as old as the 17th century, while another others date from the 19th century when there seemed to be a building boom. As you wind your way into the lanes on the edges of the village you'll find the rather more modern houses (post WW ll). They are still generally required to use the same Cotswolds stone, and similar design to blend in with the rest of the historically listed village (at quite an extra monetary cost), but the little extra space, and larger gardens around them is a dead giveaway to their more recent construction.

In the local church yard, and around most of the war memorials I came too, I walked along with my notebook jotting down names of the real British people who used to live here. It might seem an odd past time, but it pays off incredibly well when back in America I'm trying to create people in a story, who are accurate enough to be real. Apart from the many undoubtedly young men listed on the war memorials I was quite surprised to see the ripe old ages the people were living to in the late 1800 and early 1900s; 70 and 80s were the norm and some even into their 90s. There goes the idea that people used to die young in years gone by (at least in this little part of the world)!

That evening was a perfectly relaxing one without anything to do. What a treat it can be to find time while traveling to just sit in your room and catch up emails (or story writing) without feeling like you're missing any opportunities, such as visiting, or more site seeing. It's something I must learn to do more often!

Tags: broadway, broadway tower, chipping camden, cotswolds, cotswolds way, sheep, snowshill, stanton

 

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