On the morning of our 7th day on the Cotswold Way, I waited in reception for Kate and Emma, contemplating my damaged feet but pleased with the freshly laundered socks which would assist me, hopefully, to reach Bath.
Top tip: Drying socks (always a problem if you’ve washed them out in the sink). Shove them on the end of the hotel hair dryer at full power. Ensure a full watching brief of course to prevent overheating.
Ron and Sue said farewell. We agreed that we had shared an experience. One of those spiritual long distance lifetime bonds had been formed. At random moments.. in years to come…thoughts of a meeting at Crickley Hill in the rain would link Queensland with Wiltshire.
The girls arrived.. and our Australian friends said that if ever we were passing Gladstone.. We smiled, shared some more about our lives and families and said goodbye. Their planned progress would now be slower and they would gradually fall behind us on the trail.
Another town another Tescos. More provisions and then up the slope and we were back on the Cotswold escarpment.
Newark Park an 18th century overlay of a 16th century lodge
We crossed onto National Trust land again at Newark Park. The house rises three stories high over a basement. Close to the edge for wonderful views. It was originally a hunting lodge, built in the mid-16th century for the Poyntz family of Acton Court near Bristol. In 1600, it was sold to the Low family who in 1672 extended it to make an H shaped building. The Clutterbuck family bought it in the 18th century and James Wyatt, architect, transformed it to its present form..encasing the earlier phases which lie buried within. The building currently has many of its floorboards lifted for repairs. Ian is recording the hidden archaeology of the building that has now been exposed.
A few years ago, Ian’s archaeology shook up what we thought we knew of Newark’s history, when a service trench was dug between the mansion and the escarpment. He found new walls and basement rooms containing earlier 17th century pottery. It seems that the Low family redesigned the house when they first bought it and then later in the century thought better of it.
Newark beside the escarpment: Archaeological recording in the snow as a service trench reveals backfilled basements dating from the early 17th century
We walked past Blackquarries Hill long barrow, Newark’s scheduled monument. Michelle, the NT ranger, along with the Cotswold Wardens, have recently conserved the site and now it is preserved under grass with a new information board. There are no records of excavation but if it is a Neolithic site, it would have included a community burial lodge where bones were placed and curated and perhaps brought out for ceremonies at special times and then replaced in the burial chamber. This was the way of death around 3,800-3,600 BC
A warm and sultry day, drifting through the countryside: our target was the pub at Hawksbury Upton. We arrived late morning, had drinks and moved back into the outdoors.
This was our way of life now.
Emma said. This is good… We could just keep on walking’
‘Turn left at Bath, click onto the Wessex Ridgeway, down to Lyme Regis and take the coast path to Land’s End’.. I chipped in helpfully…’we’ve got the summer’….
but we hadn’t really.
‘I haven’t heard the news for days… It doesn’t matter…. We’re just travelling in a bubble of beauty’
‘Pass me a snicker bar, I think there’s one in my rucksack’
‘We ate the last one an hour ago’
‘Broadway seems like a dream to me now’
‘It took us four days to foot hike from Leckhampton’
‘We’ve all gone to look for….’
I don’t know….What did we set out to find? Whatever it was..we had become charmed by it. Sinking into a field of oxeye daisies and buttercups, we rested. The girls made flower chains and wove garlands to place in our side pockets.
And the sun rose over an open field.
We next encountered Horton Court, nestled at the spring line below us. An ancient place. The oldest roofed building owned by the National Trust. The 12th century hall beside the parish church. From the hall, the house developed over the centuries. Layers and phases of building..constructed and reconstructed down to the 21st century. Now, newly refurbished for new tenants and surrounded by the medieval remains of its deer park, rabbit warren, string of fishponds and the footings of the old village visible as slight terraces in neighbouring fields.
Horton Court: left is William Knight’s loggia, to the right is Horton Court and behind the parish church tower.
This was where William Knight lived in the early 16th century. He was educated in Italy and was sent by Henry VIII to negotiate his divorce so that the King could marry Ann Boleyn. We glimpsed the garden loggia behind the trees, built by Knight to a renaissance style. perhaps copied from memories of his time in Florence. Very ahead of its time for England. We found out that it dates from 1517 (the date given by the tree ring pattern in the roof trusses).
We walked up to Horton Camp, one of 30 National Trust Iron Age hillforts in Wessex. It consists of a single rampart and ditch. One of a string of such fortifications along the escarpment but this one has never been dated by excavation.
The Cotswold Way then took us to Little Sodbury. A quiet little village with a large comfortable bench-seat beside the parish church. The church has been rebuilt since William Tyndale’s time. A large noticeboard records his achievement, and later we walked up to Sodbury hillfort, past the site of the church he preached in. His first translation of the New Testament into English, commemorated by the tower over North Nibley we visited yesterday.
This hillfort was more impressive than Horton. Two ramparts rather than one. Kate was not impressed: she’d seen enough hillforts and long barrows and it was late afternoon.
A pause for a shandy at Old Sodbury and then a trek across Doddington Park. A high status place, our access was allowed …as our common right.. but we were reminded to stay on the path. A helicopter landed in the distance ..with guests for the Duke.
One more, poppy filled field in the dusk as we approached the hotel at Tormarton.
We dined in a glass covered courtyard with a fountain, surrounded by trailing vines. Kate said that this was one of the nicest parts of each day and we thought back through the meals along the way to Chipping Campden…sad that this would be the last of our evenings together.