The Cotswold Way is a 101 mile walk in one of the most beautiful areas of England starting at Chipping Campden and ending in Bath. More details about The Cotswold Way can be found here
For the last few years we have tried to incorporate a Long Distance Walk into our annual holiday plans. Previous hikes have included the Cumbria Way, Dales Way, Cleveland Way, South Downs Way and, last year, the Coast to Coast. For this years marathon jaunt we planned the Cotswold Way a 100 mile (or thereabouts) stroll from Chipping Camden to Bath.
Of course, there was a slight difference this year we had discovered geocaching.
In the weeks leading up to the walk, scheduled for eight days in late June\early July, we realised that there was every chance that this would also coincide with our 100th cache. Perhaps I should qualify that last statement. Diane was indifferent to this huge ground-breaking target while I was horribly enthusiastic, desperate to get within touching distance of three figures before we embarked on the walk. It must be a bloke thing.
With the walk imminent, we reached 90 after a second attempt at Is Alice Home? and two days beforehand I started to investigate potential caches on the route. There was nothing scientific about searching for the likely suspect, I just logged on to the UK site and with the aid of the Cotswold Way strip map printed off all those caches I thought were achievable bearing in mind we were carrying 35 litre rucksacks and our only means of transport was foot power. As with all our caches there is no advanced technology, just a Garmin Etrex and a few sheets of paper.
A few hours on the website brought up 17 likely targets (including four in the centre of Bath itself). There were no multi-caches, we had to keep it simple, but there was plenty of margin for error.
We started the walk on a Saturday lunchtime and after a quick equipment inspection, waterproof gear check, maps check, accommodation list check, big bag of finger monsters check, we were off!
Day One Chipping Camden to Broadway 6 miles
A short day to get us into the rhythm and just one cache planned:
1 – Broadway Base Well I thought this was going to be near Broadway Tower but not for the first time, I was wrong. I turned on the GPS as we approached only to discover we were still some distance away. Obviously this needed to be saved for day two.
Day Two Broadway to Winchcombe 12 miles
1a Broadway Base (second time!) An uphill walk out of the popular village but the nearest we got to the cache was 0.24 mile. With the GPS pointing down the hill we decided it was too far off course to wander on our first full day.
Day Three Winchcombe to Charlton Kings 13 miles
2 Belas Knap I had always been confident about this one and it proved a straightforward find close to the trail with no extra uphill or downhill to worry about. Took a Christmas Card from this cache just in case the walk took longer than expected!
3- Aerial Views – On track. This was a pleasant surprise as my rudimentary search on the map had placed it nearer to the village of Cleeve Hill. It took a few minutes searching and, as with many of the caches we searched for, the undergrowth had been trodden down indicating earlier attempts to find it.
Day 4 Charlton Kings to Painswick 17 miles
4 – Leckhampton Hill – Perfect. Lovely views and a cache near a seat with no extra effort involved. Retrieved the Complete Book of Bollocks which kept us amused while eating our mid-morning banana.
5 View to the Hills – Another ideal cache for Cotswold Way-ers and a convenient spot for lunch. Pity about the insects got bitten by horse flies.
6 Glorious Gloucestershire My initial analysis had put this well off the track so I didnt expect to be able to bag this. However after reading the comments in the log for View to the Hills I became a bit more confident. At the closest point to the cache from the Cotswold Way I left the rucksack with Diane and went the short distance to find it. The actual location proved slightly trickier to get to than I anticipated and I was glad I found it quickly because it certainly used up a lot of extra energy. Im also glad I didnt attempt it with a rucksack!
7 Barrel Makers Hill. On a roll now for the fourth of the day.
As we approached the location my heart sank when I saw the almost vertical hill there was no way I was going to climb that!
However, just as I had written off the cache the path doubled back on itself and we had the dubious pleasure of struggling up the hill anyway, admittedly on a slightly less steep route. Once again Diane stayed with the rucksacks while I did the search. I was lucky to find this straight away and was just leaving the ubiquitous finger monster when four kids came rocketing along the path on bikes and almost collided with Diane!
8 The Lost Hare A cache too far. Although this was only about 0.12 of a mile from the Cotswold Way it was uphill and after 16 miles my enthusiasm for caching had waned dramatically admittedly not as much as Diane who was beginning to get blisters.
Left this well alone but after 6 caches out of 8 I was still confident of reaching 100!
Day 5 – Painswick to Dursley 16 miles
9 – Tump, in hidden here – Most frustrating. We passed within 270ft of this cache but unfortunately we were on a path contouring around the hill while the cache was at the top. Faced with the options of:
- a)Risk life and limb ascending the hill the direct way.
- b)Take a potentially long diversion further along
- c)Ignore it
There was no doubt that c) was the correct answer!
10 Zero One – Another didnt attempt. This time we were on top of the hill while the cache looked about 250ft down it. Faced with similar choices to Tump, in Hidden Here this turned out to be another option c). Could probably have managed this but it was near the end of the day (a poor excuse I know).
Day 6 Dursley to Hawkesbury Upton 15 miles
11 Tyndales Stump – A fourth didnt attempt in succession although this one was always questionable. Tyndales Stump is almost a multi-cache and although I knew we would be able to do the first part (which was on the Way) I had no idea where the clue would take us. After finding the cache we put in the cache co-ords and discovered that it pointed us in totally the wrong direction.
With 4 out of the last 6 caches to find, we were starting to cut it fine.
12- Somerset Monument – At last a successful find and much closer to the path than I thought. Didnt let the warnings about the undergrowth put me off and waded in anyway as Diane had a rest on the convenient seat and looked after the rucksacks. Found easily.
Day 7 – Hawkesbury Upton to Pennsylvania 13 miles
A no cache day
Day 8 – Pennsylvania to Bath 10 miles
13 Bath Twin City Cache –
The final day and we had to find 3 caches out of 5 to reach the century
so it was a disappointment when I realised that this cache was way off track as I considered this a banker. Contented ourselves with the views of Bath as a substitute.
14 Royal Crescent – Into Bath now and a pleasant spot for a sit down before the grand finale. This took a while to find even though we had a good idea where it was hidden. Nice one. An advantage of geocaching with rucksacks is that you can get away with searching in awkward places because most people think you are eccentric anyway and are perfectly happy to ignore strange behaviour.
15 Eyes Looking Up – Dropped off our rucksacks at our Bath accommodation and made a short detour to this, our 99th cache, so that the 100th would coincide with the end of the walk. A straightforward virtual.
The end of the Cotswold Way and our 100th cache. An easy virtual. A perfect ending.
17- Great Pulteney Street – A bonus cache close to the centre of Bath which proved surprisingly easy to find.
So, our Cotswold Way expedition revealed 11 easily retrievable caches. Anyone attempting the walk should be able to manage these without too much extra effort. It should also be possible to find some of the others especially if you have arranged for your bags to be transported from location to location with a company like Sherpa. We would probably have attempted some of the others if our starting and ending locations had been different. For instance, Im sure Lost Hare was easily accessible and would have been ideal if it had coincided with the start of a day.
Next year we may well attempt Offas Dyke Path. But a word of advice to anyone placing caches on this route. Spare a thought for long distance walkers for whom even a diversion of a few hundred feet can be too much effort!
by The Kelsborrow Wayfinders