17.8 miles – Militant clouds, troublous airs
What a feast of place names!
I was awakened at 6:00 by Archie, a young scots terrier, who took exception to my being bang in the middle of his usual walk. To my surprise his owner could not have been more friendly, and was not in the least put out that I had spent the night on her village’s patch – nor was the postmistress, the other passer by whom I encountered before finishing packing up. I think Uley really is special.
It took me an hour to find my way out of the village, still blinking in the morning sunlight, which is ridiculous considering I had both a map and a GPS! But when I did I was treated to another half day of beachwoods.
Most memorable was this huge beech root structure. My poor photographs, taken in the half-light of that woodland, do not do it justice. The thought occurred to me that, since the nut from which this mighty tree had grown must have been in soil, the fact that there is now no soil beneath the place from which it started implies that there must have been considerable erosion; and hence many of these deep-cut ravines, which I have always taken to be old highways, “settling into forgetfulness, slumbering in the woods,” (see Day 47), may actually be just footpaths eroded by feet and rain.
The Cotswold Way is very fiddly after Wotton-under-Edge. Beautiful though the fields and valleys were, finding, after an hour of twists and turns and steep climbs that I could have got to the same place in 20 minutes along a flattish road was infinitely frustrating.
But respite was at hand. Taking the easiest route into Hawkesbury Upton, I soon came upon the longed-for hostelry, which not only equalled the pub of the day before in friendliness (they talked to me so much I couldn’t write this blog), but served me with glorious Butcombe Original and a massive steak pie with chips and peas for £12.00.
I remarked on the warmth of my reception, both in Hawkesbury and Uley, to a farmer, who agreed how friendly the character of these communities were, but regretted how outsiders so often come in and change them in other villages.
And I had one incredibly kind offer. A young man called James offered that I pitch my tent in his garden – and help myself to tomatoes from his greenhouse – but to be aware that I would be woken at five by his cockerel!