An Ultimate Cotswold Tour
Everything in the UK is small in comparison to those vast countries where epic journeys are made. Nevertheless, the old adage that the best things come in small packages applies very much to the UK, particularly when it comes to its landscape. A crowded little island we might be, but there’s still much that is unspoiled and utterly beautiful.
The recent – current even – patch of unbelievably clement autumn weather coincided with a Pennine Cycleway tour reunion which was held in the Cotswold Hills, these being close to where our volunteer reunion co-ordinator lives. The Cotswolds, for the geographically uncertain, is a small area of high country situated between Oxford, Gloucester and Worcester, to name three towns that many will be familiar with. Whilst disappointing as hills – it’s more of a plateau, hence my term ‘high country’ – there are, nevertheless, hills to be reckoned with in a cycling sense, so the area is not without its challenges. The climbs come about from having to ascend to the Cotswold plateau from the surrounding countryside and are also created because of the deep river valleys which dissect the region. These valleys are attractively wooded, but what makes the Cotswolds so special are the villages, built almost exclusively from the local stone. As a well-known picturesque area, it does heave with visitors at weekends, the worst place perhaps being Bourton-on-the-Water, but as cyclists we can simply stop briefly to enjoy tea and cake and be on our way before the average tourist has found somewhere to park!
Information for visitors to the Cotswolds is abundant – just Google for it. If you would like to tour it on a bike, here is the ‘ultimate Cotswold Tour’. Starting and finishing in Winchcombe the route makes for Charlbury in a clockwise direction, via the Slaughters, Bourton, Stow, Enstone and Dean. After spending the night there, it returns to Winchcombe by a more southerly route via Burford, Northleach and Andoversford. Approx 140kms and surprisingly few big hills. An added bonus is that you can pick up several British Cycle Quest checkpoints on your way round. CTC members can view the route and download the information from http://www.ctc-maps.org.uk/. A map of the route can be seen below, together with links to the very satisfactory accommodation we used. Finally, to view some photographs from the weekend, follow this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/markw48/sets/72157627746086051/show/ (With the usual thanks to my two best models, Carol and Karen!)