Having grabbed a packed lunch in Stow, I headed out of the north end of the town through The Square, where I paused to observe the Two Minutes’ Silence along with the rest of the residents and visitors on Remembrance Day, a very moving moment marking as it did the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
There is a cluster of roads to choose from but having hopefully selected the right one, you head out on the tarmac in a slightly exposed position until the verge opens up wide allowing you to walk in safety along the line of a long dry-stone wall.
As in Yorkshire, these walls are a real feature of the Cotswold landscape and their construction requires a great deal of skill, now happily being preserved in courses locally.
The pale Cotswold stone, as you will observe as you travel through the villages, reacts with the light to offer a host of colours and hues, some simply stunning and the whitish hue of the stone walls too benefit from a burst of sunshine and really light-up against the green of the vegetation.
The earliest example of dry-stone walling apparently dates to 3000BC near Winchcombe, our destination for today but we have a way to go just yet.
Leaving the road near Stow and countryside beckons
Autumn colours near Donnington Brewery
Some gentle walking in the fields near Stow
We leave the road briefly before the village of Upper Swell but rejoin it again, which is a feature of the early part of the day, which features long stretches of country lanes, though these are so quiet, they are more like well-laid footpaths.
There is quite a nice stretch in the area around Donnington Brewery, which was sadly shut on the Sunday I walked or I might have stowed a bottle in the backpack for lunchtime. As it was, I was able to drink in some lovely autumn colours on the trees lining the road just beyond the brewery, which were in the last stage of golden before turning to yellow and falling.
Despite the lateness of the season, the weather was exceptionally fine after a wet start and the sun when it appeared carried genuine heat as I pushed on through the lanes to the village of Condicote.
This is a rather picturesque little hamlet, largely set around a central green oval and featuring a very comfortable covered bus stop, where I stopped for lunch, having been rather late on the trail. Early risers will find it too soon but at any rate, it is good to rest your legs for five minutes or so before pushing on along a substantial farm track bordering wide fields.
This ends abruptly at a road, which you join for a short stretch and then head off along a woodland track to access more fields along a route shared with the Diamond Way.
Looking at the OS map, you will see a collection of odd-looking shapes, which resolve themselves into Jackdaw Castle when you get there. Some impressive metal gates welcome you to the estate, which is a substantial and impressive racehorse facility.
The village of Condicote is a good place for a breather
Metals gates welcome you to the impressive horse-racing facility at Jackdaw's Castle
Alongside the gallops at Jackdaw's Castle are a remarkable feature of the walk
On the day I walked, the place was eerily silent but I expect if you are lucky enough to see horses being exercised, it would make quite a sight. You will finally emerge out of the facility and are faced with a pub, which I resisted, and here the Gloucestershire Way splits off from the Diamond Way and the Winchcombe Way, the latter of which will become very familiar from now on.
After a nice section of field walking, we reach a roadway again, which is followed for a good stretch before the route veers off to hug the edge of a long, thin strip of woodland. From here, you get some lovely views over the valley towards Hailes, which in the Middle Ages was a major centre of pilgrimage to the now ruined abbey there.
It is a good little section this and it was with some regret that I made the turn at Monk’s Hole for a steep little climb up and around the corner, signalling the last stretch of the day.
Coming down the hill to Winchcombe is pretty steep and, in the muddy, wet conditions of autumn, devilishly tricky so it was a case of picking your way down rather than striding out.
Concentrating on that rather than the map, I missed the turn for the Gloucestershire Way and instead carried on down the roadway and ended up picking up the Cotswold Way instead but it really did not matter.
Winchcombe itself is a very pretty town and a nice place for a stop-off and I broke for the day at the Plaisterers’ Arms, where a pint was very welcome after what had been quite a tiring though enjoyable stretch. Tomorrow – the finish!
The countryside rolls a bit more today, as seen on this stretch near Winchcombe
There are some fine long-distance views to be had as you near the end of the day
Winchcombe, like Stow, has its fair share of individual-looking buildings