Day 5 - Cockleford to Cold Aston
THIS stretch is dictated by the availability of accommodation, which is hard to come by in this thinly populated section of the route but that necessity has provided a wonderful day’s walking, one of my favourite of the whole path in fact.

You will have had to divert off the path to reach accommodation at the Green Dragon so the first job of the day is to get back onto it again.

I rather dislike retracing my steps, especially as the diversion along the road was not unpleasant but, then again, not exactly thrilling either so I am proposing what I am calling the Edwards Loop by way of an alternative, rejoining the Gloucestershire Way at Upper Coberley.

As you walk out of The Green Dragon, instead of walking straight ahead the way you came last night, turn left instead and follow the road (towards Cockleford Farm on your OS map). Just before the farm, there is a left turn which leads over a footbridge to the main road, which you cross. Then you go straight ahead along the edge of a small patch of woodland at the splendidly named Tomtit’s Bottom.

This climbs gently past some barns and then onto a wide hilltop, being very easily followed and offering some lovely views. It is here that we experience the first sense of what will be a theme of today – a lovely feeling of quiet isolation.

The sky is wide, the world feels empty, it is just you and your environment and there are none of the compromises which you experienced in the bouts of urban walking the previous two days.

I have said it before but one of the strengths of the Gloucestershire Way is its variety and this is another example of that, very different walking experiences following one after the other and each one bringing their own pleasures.

The Edwards Loop allows you to enjoy a lovely bit of countryside as you rejoin the path from The Green Dragon

A pleasant countryside scene just after leaving The Green Dragon

The short uphill section at Pinchley Wood near Needlehole

After this diversion, you rejoin the path at Upper Coberley and follow the roadway through the scattered houses before veering off to skirt Hilcot Wood to Needlehole.

On the map, today’s route looks on the long side but the terrain is very much in your favour because long stretches of the route are on graded farm tracks or quiet country roads so you can bound along without really realising it.

Your progress will be checked slightly just after Needlehole when there is a steep tarmac section uphill near Pinchley Wood, which requires a bit of puff but it is not a long stretch and suddenly it is time to swap maps – always a feeling of accomplishment – from OS Explorer 179 to OL45.

It is a bit of a shock to realise how far you have actually covered because you suddenly find yourself not far from Foxcote and on a line with the Kilkenny Inn, a landmark for drivers aiming to reach the A40 by the back road from Gloucester.

The countryside here is suddenly rather neat – another signature of today’s walk – and there are clearly managed estates in the vicinity bringing a sense of order to the landscape.

In my early autumn walk, the abiding memory of this section was the pheasants, of which there were large numbers, not the brightest of birds but somehow very endearing and with a high-stepping, slightly panicked walk which always makes me laugh.

Navigation today was pretty easy though I did come unstuck in a small patch of woodland near Foxcote when offered three ways to go (take the left) and had to stomp back when I realised I had gone wrong.

By Foxcote you are entering a more managed countryside

Pheasants were an ever-present on my autumn walk near Foxcote

Shipton Church proved a nice spot to break open the flask for a cup of tea

After Foxcote, you start to lose that feeling of isolation and there is an awareness of the buzz of traffic away to the left as you close in on the A40 but progress is good and it is all rather pleasant. Approaching the Frogmill Hotel, just be aware that you need to actually reach the road before picking up the path over an old bridge – don’t go through the enticing gate into the council playing field.

Walking behind – and getting a nice view of the very lovely hotel – you then arrive at the junction with the A40, which is a very busy road at this point. Real care is needed because there are no pedestrian crossing facilities and you need to keep your wits about you.

That negotiated however and you are very soon back in a quieter world as you reach the village of Shipton. The day I walked this section, it was the aftermath of a storm which turned Wales into a shambles and there was still a very strong wind gusting.

My insurance was a flask of tea and I can recommend a bench outside the porch of Shipton Church as a nice spot to rest your legs and regather your strength though it was a mark of my progress that it was still too early to break into the sandwiches.

From here, you can start ticking off the landmarks to Cold Aston from Hampton to Salperton to Notgrove and so on. The area around Salperton Park falls into the neat category again and I broke for lunch here, perched by the side of the road, before pushing onto Notgrove, which took no time at all.

Navigationally, Notgrove was a bit of a challenge but I seemed to fluke it and climbed a steep uphill out of the village which brought me to Cold Aston in double-quick time. The open fire was lit at The Plough and I quenched my thirst with a pint of cider, bringing to a close a really lovely day’s walking.

My progress was keenly observed by the local residents around Shipton

A storm in Wales had wreaked havoc but here it was a perfect autumn scene

This picture at Salperton is characteristic of the countryside you will encounter after Shipton