Walking the Cotswold Way: North Nibley to Old Sodbury

This was the hardest day on the Cotswold Way for me. I woke feelng weary, despite what felt like a good night’s sleep. I struggled through breakfast, not feeling like eating, knowing that I had to put something in my stomach to fuel my legs. We started the day slowly, climbing up out of North Nibley to the Tyndale Monument. As we cimbed shafts of light cut through the trees, lighting us up as we passed.

After a steep climb we reached the monument, erected in honour of William Tyndale, the first person to translate the Bible into English, he fled the country due to religious persecution and was burnt at the stake as a heretic in Brussels for his faith. The monument stands proudly on the escarpment, visible from a long distance.

From the monument it is an easy flat walk across the grassland and through woodland to reach another monument, a small collection of pine trees surrounded by a low, circular wall, the trees originally planted to celebrate victory at the battle of Waterloo and replaced several times in the intervening years. Still feeling tired, slow and fed up with myself, we stopped here on one of the many benches, to enjoy the view and relax for a short while.

We dropped down into Wotton Under Edge, a bustling town built on the wool trade. Today was a Saturday so the town was busy with people and it looked stunning with hanging baskets bursting with rainbow blooms and shop windows full of colourful displays. Unfortunately I was still struggling, so we took the opportunity to stop in a cafe for coffee and cake, and soft drinks. We carried on along the route of the Cotswold Way, exploring the town as we went. I was particularly taken by the Hugh Perry’s almshouses, built to provide homes for 6 poor women and 6 poor men, with strict rules about religious observance,  still lived in by local elderly people, in the centre of the courtyard, a tiny chapel, a beautiful, peaceful place. We passed the Parish church, busy with people preparing for the fete happening that afternoonAs we headed out of town, we passed the site of an old mill, now a tranquil meadow, once a place full of life. A toad warning sign on the road let us know that there was somewhere here who cared, and watched out for the animals that lived here, a great thing to see.

We climbed up on to the escarpment once more, poppies brightening up the parched landscape. It was hot, I was increasingly tired and we bickered as we climbed. After a stop for lunch a the top of the climb, we’d calmed down and made up, stupid argument put behind us, our only one of the walk. We descended through woods and across fields to reach Alderley. We were surprised to see the banners of Lannister and Stark flying gaily on some gateposts and a knight in armour striding by, a Game of Thrones themed wedding in a vineyard, looked like fun!

We passed fields full of horses and Highland Cows relaxing in the shade, then mill ponds and streams on the way to Lower Killcott. I was feeling increasingly unwell, tired, sore, stomach churning, exhausted. We climbed up from Lower Kilcott, initially through woods. I was cheered to find a rock decorated as a tiny bird nestled among moss at the side of the path, it’s come home with us, a lasting reminder of our trip. Passing rearing pens for game birds, we were back into the heat of the sun crossing parched fields. Ahead the Somerset Monument, built to commemorate the achievements of General Lord Robert Somerset, particularly in the battle of Waterloo.

From there it was a walk along the road, heading into Hawkesbury Upton. We had about another 5 miles to go to reach Old Sodbury, where we would be spending the night. I was exhausted, I didn’t have it in me to walk another five miles that day. Instead of carrying on our walk we walked into Hawkesbury Upton, made our way into the pub and ordered a taxi to take us to Old Sodbury. I felt sad, disappointed, upset with myself, but utterly exhausted. There was no way I could have walked another 5 miles that day. I hope we will holiday in the Cotswolds again, we loved the area, and when we do, we will walk those five miles.

We settled in to the Dog Inn, our home for the night, a come down from the amazing Nibley House, where we had set off from that morning. As the evening progressed, the reason for my exhaustion became apparent. I felt very unwell, feverish with an upset stomach and spent the night tossing and turning, freezing cold, boiling hot, up and down to the toilet. Not a great end for a day on the Cotswold Way.

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