Clouds were scudding briskly over the wide-rolling South Cotswold fields as I tramped the old hedge track to Chavenage Green. There was a sea-like look to the long waves of dark upland earth, with the surf of last year’s crab apples scattered in the ditches.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
The ice cold wind nipped fingers and stung cheeks grown pallid with too much computer-watching. It felt good to be striding out through crackling ice in the tractor ruts, following a medieval holloway across fields frozen iron hard by weeks of sub-zero temperatures.
Just beyond Chavenage Green stood the handsome Elizabethan house of Chavenage Manor. I stared in through the gates, thinking of the terrible fate of Nathaniel Stephens, lord of the manor and staunch Parliamentarian during the Civil War. After signing the death warrant of King Charles I, Stephens was cursed by his own daughter for his treachery. Legend says that when Stephens died, the hearse that came to take him to the graveyard was driven by a headless coachman. The traitor’s corpse bowed to the phantom driver and took a seat. As the equipage reached the manor gates, it burst into flames and vanished – but not before the coachman was identified by the horrified onlookers as the beheaded King himself.
I followed a sunken roadway north through the old overshot coppice of Longtree Bottom. Moss lay thick on logs, boulders and toppled stone walls. A pair of buzzards circled mewing overhead. In a tumbledown pump house at the edge of the wood an ancient diesel engine lay in the shadows, redolent of cold dead metal, the air in the shed still faintly spiced with oil. Out in the open fields the silage clamps steamed in the cold air, and clouds of jackdaws rode the wind like acrobats.
From Brandhouse Farm came a barking of dogs and the whinnying of an excited horse. On the ridge above the farm a group of bouncy little girls came bumping along the bridleway on pony-back. ‘I’m going to canter, Jessica!’ the leader called, booting her round-bellied steed to make the mud fly. I went on, huddled against the wind, listening to the conversational cawing of rooks in the leafless ash trees along Shipton’s Grave Lane. This was winter writ hard and bare, the very taste and savour of a walk through the February countryside that would end with tingling hands and reddened cheeks by the fire in Tipputs pub.
Start & finish: Tipputs PH, Bath Road, Nailsworth, Glos GL6 0QE (OS ref ST 845972)
Getting there: 2 miles south of Nailsworth on A46 (M4, Jct 18)
Walk (6½ miles, easy grade, OS Explorer 168): From Tipputs PH, cross A46 (take care!). Follow ‘Restricted Byway’ for 1½ miles to Chavenage Green. Left up Longtree Bottom for ¾ mile. Leave wood by ruined pumphouse; in 350 yards, keep ahead and descend to cross stile (868971). Right along valley bottom to Avening Park (873977). Follow tarmac lane past Vale Farm. In 500 yards (870980), turn right uphill, then left (871983) along bridleway. In ½ mile, opposite barn (863985), left over stile; follow wood edge to Shipton’s Grave Lane (857984). Left for 300 yards to crossroads; ahead over fields to lane (852980) into Upper Barton End. 200 yards past stables, left (848977; fingerpost) across 2 fields to Enoch’s Barn; right to Tipputs PH.
Lunch: Tipputs PH (upmarket, stylish): 01453-832466; www.food-club.com
More info: Nailsworth TIC (01453-839222);www.cotswoldswebsite.com