Last night I was still processing a hot, hard, tiring day, too tired to blog, so I’m catching up tonight after an easier day’s walking.
It was already hot when we set off from Stanton a little before 9am, the sun bright, making us warm before we’d even got to the end of the road. The golden stone of the pretty Cotswold houses of this charming little village glowed brightly, beautiful against the clear blue sky.
Soon we were out of the village and heading out across parched fields, the first field rolling up and down, waves in the earth from the ploughing of ox carts in earlier generations, redolent of pre enclosure agriculture.
Next we passed through Stanway, edging around Stanway house, the gatehouse indicative of the grandeur hidden behind the stone walls, picture frame like openings too high to give a peek inside. Another beautiful golden church beside the gatehouse for us to gaze upon, then, after passing the old water mill, we were out into countryside again.
We were slightly disconcerted on entering one field to see warnings that it contained a bull, but the cattle seemed as hot as we were becoming and stayed in a docile group under the shade of the biggest tree in the hedge line while we passed by.
Soon, we began to climb, stopping halfway up to gaze avariciously at a swimming pool, perched beside a yurt on the hillside, a cool swim a keen desire. The views opened to below us as we climbed, the long grass buzzing with crickets, butterflies dashing here and there, rarely still. At the top of the slope we came across a welcome bench, respite after the steep climb, dedicated to the wonderfully named Pinky Dickins.
On across byways edged with wildflowers, along through the hot, parched landscape, sheep peering out from shaded spots to watch us pass by. High on the escarpment we came to Beckbury Camp, our first hint of the prehistoric landscape, more of which we were to see later in the day. Below, marching out through the landscape and reaching up the hill behind us too, an avenue of young trees.
Shortly afterwards on an old monument we saw a spectacular creature, a purple emperor butterfly, known as his imperial majesty to their passionate fans, last year we made a pilgrimage to Knepp Estate in Sussex for a Safari dedicated to these beautiful butterflies, but today’s chance encounter gave a much closer view and had us smiling from ear to ear!
The monument itself was etched with graffiti, some dating back to the nineteenth century, neatly carved in stark contrast to the scrawled modern inscriptions.
Climbing steeply down and across fields, we headed closer to Wynchcombe, through fields so parched that the ground beneath our feet was crazy paved, deep fissures separating one clod of soil from the next, a wonder that anything was growing. Lush gardens were filled with flowers and even a small vegetable patch, bursting with crops, clearly carefully tended and watered well.
As we walked along a shady hedge lined track, we came across a mole, sadly expired on the path. Having never seen a mole before, at least not so close up, we took the opportunity to examine the little creature, before placing him carefully in a final resting place beneath the flowers that lined the route. His digging paws were fascinating, like little scoops or shovels.
Soon we reached Wychcombe, a pretty little town full of interesting old buildings. We stopped in a shady beer garden for cool drinks and a welcome respite from the hot sun.
Soon we were leaving town, climbing again, up through fields and woods, up and up, heading for a special place, the scheduled ancient monument of Belas Knap, a Neolithic site where ancient peoples buried their dead in ceremony.
Stopping for awhile to take in this peaceful, beautiful site, slightly awed by the long history of the site dating back over 5000 years, we were grateful to be there.
Shouldering our packs once more we headed on, the heat punishing, we were beginning to tire. We entered blessedly cool woods, travelling steeply down through the trees, the descent making our already tired legs wobbly. Not too long to go now, we kept telling ourselves. On we went, out of the woods, back through fields, reaching Postlip, almost there… hot, tired, doubting myself, exhausted, tears were shed before I pulled myself together for a final push up onto Cleeve Common, wine gums a burst of sugar to keep me going, glad of the water in the bladder on my back.
We reached the golf course club house, nearly there, disappointed when we realised that the final stage of our journey was to be along a busy road, more so when we realised that we could have walked further along the common avoiding the road altogether and drop down to the back of our accommodation. Filthy and weary, we’d done it, day 2 complete!
Showered, clean, weary we wandered to the local pub, disappointingly poor service but an OK meal almost made up for by the amazing sunset and views.
Back at our home for the night, the Cleeve Hill House Hotel we were glad of a cool, tasty cider each from the honesty bar and a seat outside in the cool evening air to watch the sun continue its descent, sky afire.