Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Trail report - the Cotswold way (no, not all of it!)

Misty morning on the Cotswold way

This weekend the family gathered in Gloucestershire for cousin Ol's marriage to Becky.  As luck would have it, we were staying adjacent to the Cotswold way; perfect for a weekend long run.

The Cotswold way is a 102 mile trail running from Chipping Camden to Bath along the Cotswold escarpment. Its known to be a bit hilly.

We were staying in the village of North Nibley. Before we left I had a look on Google and mapped out a rough idea of how far I could get.  My only window of opportunity would be to run early the morning after the wedding; however, I was under strict instructions to be back in time for a family lunch so things would be tight. The morning of the wedding I took the dogs for a walk and had a quick reccy of my first couple of miles.  This was handy as I accosted a couple of walkers heading from the direction I would be going.  They assured me the trail was very well signposted and easy to follow.  I also found an OS map in the house should my usual sense of direction impose itself and send me off course.

The wedding went well and Saturday came all too quickly - five hours sleep and a mild hangover weren't exactly the preparations I had intended for my long run but needs must so off I went.

After a massive hill up to the village I gained the Cotswold way, following a path, a short stretch of road and then climbing through fields until eventually breaking out onto high ground adjacent to a golf course.  The next few miles wound around the edge of a plateau, dropping into woods occasionally and repeatedly re-joining the golf course.  Eventually a long steep hill took me into the pretty market town of Dursley. Thankfully the route through town was well marked and soon I was back on track and heading up hill again.  This time a steep climb took me onto a ridge line with some fantastic views in both directions and an undulating path that was a joy to run along.

Looking back along the ridge towards Dursley

An obvious valley lay ahead and one of the steepest descents on the route through farmland and a short stretch on the road before climbing - this time long and steady - up to Coaley Peak and more stunning vistas.

From here the route contoured along the edge of the escarpment, through rolling farmland and cool, peaceful woodland covered in bluebells and wild garlic, for several miles.

Eventually, with a few more ups and downs, I arrived in Kings Stanley.  Garmin told me I had travelled a little over 13 miles so now was the time to turn around.

All in all a great day out.  In contrast to the usual coast path runs the hills were higher and longer but mostly more of a steady gradient and the paths were wide flat and excellent quality so I made reasonable time.  There are not enough superlatives in the English language to describe the beauty of this part of the UK; if you have the chance to run, walk or just visit a little part of the Cotswold way then grab it - you won't be disappointed.

One of the many well positioned signposts 

On the food front I had no wraps available so made a hummus sandwich - big mistake as I couldn't stomach it.  Other than my usual breakfast (muesli, toast with peanut butter and jam, banana, lots of tea) I had just three gels and a litre of Clif energy drink.  Oh, and an ice cream on the way back through Dursley!  This was more than adequate; I'm starting to get a feel for what kind of energy requirements I have for these sort of adventures and it seems I can get by on a fairly limited diet.

There's an ultra that runs the entire distance from Chipping Camden to Bath - The Cotswold Way Centuries. That seems impossible but on the other hand, who knows...

Here's my GPS data for the run:

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