We started our hike at the Chipping Campden end of the Cotswold Way, mainly because it is the end closest to Coventry where we had been staying with relatives. Chipping Campden has been a town since 1185 when King Henry II granted a market charter. Its name illustrates its origins: Chipping is derived from cepean, an old English word meaning market and Campden is derived from the Saxon “campa” “denu” Saxon for valley with cultivated fields ringed by unfenced hill pastures. The official start of the walk is next to the 16th century market hall, but we found it difficult to drag ourselves away from the picture perfect town filled with tea shops – this is clearly not a walk for anyone on a diet.
The path headed along Foo Lane past a residence where Graham Greene once resided and up to Dover Hill, named after the lawyer Robert Dover, architect of the “Olimpics” first held in the natural amphitheatre created by the hill in 1612. Held in May of each year, the sporting tradition continues to this day and is open to anyone who wants to compete in athletic endeavours like tug-of-war and shin kicking.
The path descended to a bridle way and fields before reaching Fish Hill. Made muddy by recent rain, we didn’t think to put on the gaiters until it was too late. From Fish Hill we climbed a short hill through an area of humps and hollows, the remnants of an Anglo-Saxon burial ground. From here we had our first glimpses of Broadway Tower, designed in 1798 for the sixth Earl of Coventry in an apparent desire to impress his second wife. Rob’s excuse for not building a tower to impress me was that I was not a second wife.
Just before the tower was an old World War II bunker which had been used to spot enemy aircraft and was later converted to a nuclear fallout shelter from which three hardy souls were to monitor radiation levels in the event of a nuclear war. The notion that this part of England may survive sufficient to enable radiation readouts to be taken was probably overly optimistic given the close proximity of Cheltenham and GCHQ.
From Broadway Tower it was a steep slippery descent to Broadway, another quintessential Cotswold village. Popular with tourists, the tea houses were overflowing, but that didn’t prevent us from stopping to enjoy a Cornish pasty for lunch. Once lunch was over we headed out of town through a meadow before a muddy ascent up a hill where we joined a farm track to continue up to Shenberrow Hill. From Shenberrow Hill it was a steep descent down to Stanton, a group of 16th century farmhouses and cottages. Smaller than Broadway and Chipping Campden, it does not have the facilities or the hordes of tourists that descend on those towns. It is, however, equally as charming, having been rescued from neglect in the early part of the 20th century by Sir Phillip Stott who lavished money on its restoration.
Distance: 10 miles (16km). The slippery mud made for a relatively slow day – 4.5 hours walking time.
Accommodation: We stayed at Shenberrow Hill B&B, one of the first buildings as you hit the tarmac in Stanton. The room was large, clean and luxuriously appointed and the hosts extremely helpful – even going so far as to wash and dry our muddy clothes.
Food: There are numerous tea houses and eateries in Chipping Campden and Broadway. In Stanton there is only one place to eat – the Mount Inn, a traditional 17th century pub with a well deserved reputation for good food.