Friday, 25 February 2011

Fossebridge and The Inn at Fosbridge - 2 Mile circular walk

Fossebridge - The Inn at Fossebridge - 2 mile circular walk

The Inn at Fossebridge, as its name suggests, nestles besides a bridge in a dip on the A429 (Fosse Way) that passes through  the Coln Valley, just three miles out of Northleach, four miles from Bibury or 6 miles north of Cirencester. Its close proximity to Chedworth means it is also but three miles away from one of the most spectator Roman Villas in the country.

The Inn at Fossebridge

It's no wonder that the Romans chose to settle in this area - even during the winter months the Coln Valley displays a breathtaking and haunting beauty, which remains gloriously unspoiled.
The Inn dates back to the Georgian period and stands in 4 acres of a mature garden in which a small lake sits in the centre.  The river Coln acts as one of the garden's boundaries.

The Inn's glorious garden and lake

 Describing The Inn at Fossebridge without resorting to superlatives is impossible. This remarkable inn is not only one of the most friendly establishments I have ever visited, it is professionally run too. It is indeed a true country retreat, offering  guests a chance to step back in time, enjoy old fashioned hospitality, and fine food. Auntie Liz and I were much amused to note that there is an old sign above the main bar DATING BACK TO 1945 advertising DAVID CAMERON BREWERS! I wonder if our esteemed leader knows that there was a brewery of this name?
David the friendly barman

It goes without saying that Pythius was made really welcome, and that a large bowl of cold water is placed by the side of the bar for visiting canines.  He was allowed to roam the inn's lovely grounds too. If I was award wining stars, this inn would get five out of five.
The  walk was so easy - having walked round the grounds and admired the swans, with our back to the inn, we used the left hand side exit from its grounds that led to a minor road.  Having crossed the road we followed the directions of a waymarker and climbed a wooden stile that led to a large field. This is really all a walker needs to know.  This two mile walk is well signed throughout, not just with waysigns but with well worn paths that suggest hundreds of feet have walked this way often.
Strangely, although we were passing an undulating terrain, the walk seldom presented an uphill challenge, nothingwas strenuous, which means that providing walkers can manage to climb the wooden stiles (some of which are quite high) it is an easy walk.  When the roofs of a few houses finally come into view, you will arrive at the last stile on the way out. Having climbed it, you find yourself in a grassy passageway which suggests you are walking through someones garden.  Worry not, you are simply taking a short green lane that leads to a minor road. Place the dog on the lead at this point and on reaching the road, turn left, walking but a few yards to a waysign on the left which takes you back the way you came, but on a quite different path, and this time  alongside the small stream that trickles through the valley.  Gosh how the dog loved the stream, with its crystal clear bubbling water.

Unspoiled countryside
As with the first path, so many feet have travelled this track that waymarkers are not really necessary.
The path eventually leads you to a large meadow and a stile in the far left hand corner which takes you onto the A429 and just a stones throw from the inn, which stands on the left.
There were no livestock in the fields the day we walked, but I am told that sheep graze here during the summer months, which means there will be times when the dog must be kept under close control.
Pythius - Border collie - having fun

Pythius says:
What can I say?  Like Helen I rate both the pub and the walk amongst the best ever.  The pub was so friendly, the grounds simply glorious and the walk - well that was out of this world.  I was exhausted when I got home, but I was also a very, very happy dog.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Lechlade River Walk - aprox 3 miles (perhaps a little less)

Lechlade River Walk

Lechlade is one of those idyllic little Cotswold towns that is still firmly set in the middle of the 20th Century. It is also a gloriously watery place as its here that the River Coln and Leach join the Thames and where tourists can make river trips on the luxury Thames launch Inglesham throughout the summer season.
The launch takes its name from a nearby hamlet where the 13th century Church of John the Baptist can be found.
I mention this church because by making a short  detour you can incorporate a visit to this remarkable unspoilt building, which I promise is well worth the effort. 

Look at the layers of wall paintings! Aren't they amazing?
 This is the church that William Morris saved from decay, and which is now in the care of the Churches Preservation Trust.
It was the layers of wall paintings that date from the 13th to the 19th century,that intrigued me most - the 17th century box pews and pulpit are pretty impressive too.

We were also  thrilled to discover a Saxon carving of Madonna and child. The fact that this church has remained virtually unaltered since the early 16th century makes for a never to be forgotten experience. Pythius sensed it was a special place that had to be respected too.

But you don't get to the church until you are half way through the walk which begins by taking a path to the right, having walked along Thanes street past the Black Cat Tea rooms and the amazing Christmas Shop that remains open throughout the year. A sign on the left hand side of the road indicates that you have reached a path that will take you to the Round House, River Thames and Canal, all reached by taking this narrow secluded little path that runs alongside a small stream, and into a series of meadows, linked by some of the wackiest wooden stiles I have ever seen.

One of many wacky wooden stiles along the way
Having passed through the meadows we followed a track to the Round House, which as its name suggests is in fact round! By turning left having reached the river and the Round House, we were able to cross a delightful little wooden bridge spanning the Thames.
Unfortunately Pythius did find the exit from this bridge rather difficult. He did eventually  manage it, but only because Uncle John encouraged him to do one of his impressive doggie jumps that have got him out of trouble many times.
This is where we made a detour across the meadow to the right and visited the church, before returning to the river, where Pythius was able to run up and down the bank and dive in and out of the water as we headed back to Lechlade and the Riverside pub where we stopped for lunch. And yes Pythius was allowed to join us for lunch. This pub is very busy during the summer months as you are able to sit outside enjoy all that the River Thames  offers, including swans, ducks and loads of boats.
One of the most memorable things we encountered on this walk were snowdrops.
An abundance of snowdrops decorated the river banks, the church yard and several other places along the way. They filled our hearts with joy as they signified the beginning of Spring. A truly wonderful sight.

The first signs of spring

Pythius says:

Yes, Spring is on its way, I can feel it, smell it even.  This lovely walk enabled me to run free, dart in and out of the water and visit a very impressive old building, without bumping into a single hazard, for there were no sheep, horses or cows in the fields and the river bank offered loads of places where I could jump in without finding myself in deep water.  BUT (Yes, there is always a BUT) during the summer months much of this changes as livestock can be found grazing several of the fields we walked this week.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Pythius has booked a holiday!

                                                         Pythius has booked his holiday!

Pythius has already packed his suitcase
Now that Pythius and I have completed 35 chapters of our next  book Paws Along the Way, which will be published late Spring, we decided to organise our 2011 holiday.
Obviously we had to find a dog-friendly place where Pythius could run free and enjoy all the doggie activities he has come to expect over the years, which include dog-friendly beaches, wood and river walks and a garden he can run around in before going to bed.

We finally decided to book a luxury dog-friendly cottage at Helsbury Park, North Cornwall, which is close to Bodmin Moor and a spectacular South West Coastal Path, that will turn "walkies" into a real adventure. The cottages stand alongside a 100 acres of back garden, so there is space in abundance for everyone.
As the accommodation has a five star rating, and provides me with the chance to kick off my shoes and put my feet up  in front of a roaring fire, or wallow in a steaming bath after a long dog walk to the river and back, it offers absolutely everything that humans need too.
Spacious kitchens and dining areas make these cottages special.

As this holiday will mean I have time to enjoy some real cooking in a  farmhouse kitchen using fresh local ingredients - I'm really looking forward to creating dishes that call for a generous garnish of Cornish cream.  I am also looking foward to cooking with  freshly caught local fish.

Pythius says:
What can I possibly say, except that I am really, really excited.  We won't be going on holiday until  the autumn, but that doesn't matter, it gives me something wonderful to look forward to.

Look at that wonderful space!
Imagine being able to  open the back door onto all that space, with a river not far away. And the food too - apparently I can order special doggie food if I want to - though I doubt that Helen will allow that as she insists I stick to my Butchers Superior dog food, which I must admit is delicious.
As the cottage can accommodate quite a lot of people I am hoping we can persuade Auntie Liz, Auntie Kate and perhaps Uncle John to come too.
Gosh isn't this exciting, particularly as Dog Walkie maps are supplied, which means that the girls won't get lost (as they usually do) when we begin exploring.
Apparently Helen got the information on Helsbury Park by going to: