Friday, June 17, 2011

Walking the Cotswolds

What’s your take on the Cotswolds - pretty and picturesque or crowded and commercial? No matter what side of the argument you are on, you’re right. I can say this after touring for two days this week while the Editor was at a conference near Chipping Norton.

Determined to have a No Crowds experience, on Day One, the first thing I did was get rid of my car. That is an easy thing to do in Chipping Norton because this handsome market town has lots of parking. The next thing I did was head for the Tourist Information Centre in the Guildhall and asked the nice gentleman manning the desk for a good circular walk lasting a couple of hours that I would be fine doing on my own. He printed out an annotated map and sent me on my way. For the next two hours, I meandered and explored. There’s a lot to see. A lovely church and an amazing looking factory are highlights. I passed a couple of folks also walking but not many and I had a lovely time. The walk was not at all difficult. On the way back into town, I did pass a couple of traffic jams.

On day two, I became even more adventurous and drove to Bourton on the Water and again, got rid of my car. I chose Bourton because I read they had lots of parking, which they did but I didn’t like the town much. It was packed, and I mean packed, with busloads of tourists who looked a lot like the morbidly obese space refugees in Pixar’s Wall-E. But walking from Bourton-on-the-Water to the villages of Lower and Upper Slaughter was wonderful – meadows, streams and two of the loveliest places I have ever seen. If you are looking for the Cotswolds of your imagination, with the honey-coloured stone houses and delightful views, look no further than Upper and Lower Slaughter. Best of all, there is no place to park a big bus.

So here’s my verdict on the Cotswolds. It’s a lovely, lovely destination as long as you stay out of your car. The villages with lots of parking make great jumping off points. The Tourist Information Centres have lots of useful suggestions about walking and cycling. Now I am really psyched to walk the 100-mile Cotswold Way that runs from Bath to Chipping Campden. But I need a walking buddy. Anyone interested?

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