Slow Cotswolds

  • 'Come on England!' or Come to the Cotswolds to escape

    Swedish 'Lagom'. It can mean many things but a healthy lifestyle and mindfulness kind of sum it up. And, let's face it, watching any England match, devotee of the beautiful game or otherwise, usually needs to come with a health warning.

    If, this Saturday, football simply isn't coming home for you and you'd rather pull toenails than add to the statistician's joy of counting the multi-millions due to watch 'that' match with our Scandinavian friends, I may just have the answer for you. Or, if you're a devoted fan of the footy (Come on England!) but the agony of sitting (or leaping up and down) through yet another penalty shoot-out simply sends the heart-rate off the scale, here are some Cotswold alternatives to bring mindfulness and draw your thoughts away from the game.

    It's going to be a hot one this Saturday so these substitutes for the match are heading into the shade:

    1. Dover's Hill (page 79-80): the top of Dover's Hill, along which runs the Cotswold Way National Trail, is likely to burn your bonce but head downhill towards Lynches Wood where you'll find plenty of shady patches to sit and keep your cool. You could even have bubbles with strawberries and cream (Wimbledon, anyone?)

    2. A stroll along the Macmillan Way from Shenington to Whichford, in the north of the Cotswolds AONB, will take you along Ditchedge Lane, a long, straight and ancient path with spectacular views towards Brailes Hill (p107) and Ilmington Down. There are no yellow or red cards here - the fields are filled with blue flax at the moment and look very striking. Along the way you'll come to Traitor's Ford (p106), where the River Stour crosses the road and where you can peel off sweaty socks for a cool foot dip. Should you feel the need to check the scores, there are pubs in Shenington, Epwell and Whichford, all en route.

    3. One of the most striking properties in the Cotswolds is Sudeley Castle (pages 152-3) in Winchcombe. It was the home of Catherine Parr (widow of King Henry VIII) after he died and she is buried in the chapel within the castle grounds. And it is the grounds and gardens that look at their most colourful at this time of year. Brimming with roses and pungent borders, you can opt to view the Knot Garden here rather than find your stomach tied up in knots with every tackle and dive.

    4. Prestbury Hill Reserve (p156) is close to the highest point in Cheltenham. It's not exactly shaded but there are plenty of trees to stroll among and, with the weather proving celestial, you should find clouds of butterflies rather than puffy white clouds. This is, after all, a nature reserve belonging to Butterfly Conservation. The perfect summer scene.

    5. Blenheim Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for good reason, receives some of the highest visitor numbers of any UK attraction. But you can escape the crowds (yes, it will still be busy, even on Saturday) with a walk around the Blenheim Great Park (directions on p207). You'll find some wonderfully shady spots on the north side of The Lake, particularly the slivery artery that runs along the Evenlode river valley, from where you'll see pretty views of Woodstock Church in the distance. Fancy a drink and catch the end of the match? There's no shortage of pubs in Woodstock.

    6. Immerse yoursefl beneath a cathedral-like canopy of beech trees with a circular walk from Cranham, through Buckholt, Brockworth and Cooper's Hill woods. They're all part of the internationally recognised Cotswold Commons and Beechwoods National Nature Reserve (page 241). Strolling along the well-worn footpaths (including a small section of the Cotswold Way), you'll forget that television was ever invented or that there's a football match going on. Anyway, here, the game is cheese-rolling - chasing after a ball (wheel, actually) of chesse, not leather.

    7. With the exception of the ever-popular village of Castle Combe, the Wiltshire Cotswolds is one of the quietest locales within the region. The Limpley Stoke Valley (pages 293-5) is also one of the most sublime and you can catch a glimpse of the valley with a wander along the edge of Brown's Folly (p294).

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