Walking the Cotswold Way Trail: Journey with the History Guru to England and Spain

Posted on Dec 29, 2011 in category

4 OCTOBER: The Cotswold Way Walking Trail

Chipping Campden has another claim to fame – the Cotswold Way Walking Trail. It starts from the town and winds its way down to Bath. A fair hike of 164 kilometres! Enthusiastically, we set out from the Volunteer Inn to experience a small section of the trail up to Dover Hill. On reaching the summit, we found that it was actually the town's 'Common' where the first 'Cotswold Olimpicks' was held by Richard Dover in 1612. Shin kicking was one of the more painful sports practised by competitors.

1636 Woodcut of the 'Olimpicks'

Chipping Campden's thatched homes


On track to Dover Hill


Spot the sports?

The 'Cotswold Olimpicks' were held on Dover Hill for 250 years until banned in 1852 because festivities became too boisterous.

Descending Dover Hill, we surprised a flock of pheasants in the field, climbed over a stone stile and used the common walking track across a farmer's field to get back to the town. Again, highly recommended!

Here is a map of our walk:


Leaving the Volunteer Inn behind, we loaded up the VW Golf for our next destination in the Cotswolds, Stratford-upon-Avon. Anne Hathaway was the daughter of a well-to-do yeomanry farmer. This rather substantial house is where she was raised. Her brother inherited the estate with Anne gaining a booby prize of a little over 6 pounds once she was married. Anne collected her inheritance 12 months later by marrying William Shakespeare who was 8 years her junior (she was 26 and pregnant; he was 18). Opposite the cottage is Shottery's Cottage Lane stream and park. Despite aggressive ducks that are obviously well fed by tourists, we enjoyed a very pleasant picnic lunch with Anne's house across the road. Quaint!

Anne Hathaway's Cottage A pretty good setting for a Shakespearean picnic

After finding a spot on the Avon River and discovering the last chain ferry in England (a hand ratchet is used by the operator to move the ferry – a 1930's design!), we decided to forgo Stratford-upon-Avon's traffic and instead head for Great Tew.

Great Tew is a throw back to 16th-17th centuries with buildings like the 'Falkland Arms Inn' (only traditional ales served here). Most houses in the village are built of local 'ironstone' and are thatched.

Viscount Falkland was another supporter of the Stuart kings fighting and dying for King Charles I. The present owners are doing a great job in encouraging the village's conservation.

The Falkland Arms Inn

A tick for thatched Great Tew!

Tonight's accommodation was at Burford, a town within easy reach of Oxford (tomorrow's target before we return to London). Burford gained a merchant guild charter in 1088 and a supplementary one in 1107. The wool trade from the surrounding Cotswolds, the associated leather industry and the increase in coach transport (brewing gained from these weary travellers!) ensured Burford's prosperity in medieval times. Missing out on the railway line hurt the town in the 19th century.

Burford's museum, Tolsey Museum, is situated on top of the town's medieval tollhouse. Luckily, we arrived just before closing and we were able to see some of the town's famous charters and even a Roman artefact. A small stone statue of the god 'Silvanus', god of the woods, was tucked away in one of the busy cabinets. It was discovered in a gravel pit near Lechlade Station. Little is known of the town's Roman past except for some Roman villas that have been excavated around the town's periphery. For a report on a fairly recent villa discovery near Bath see: "Huge Roman Villa Discovered". Chedworth Roman Villa, that was discovered in 1864, is reasonably close too.

'Silvanus', god of the woods


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