Christmas Five Valleys Walk – Stroud – 15 miles.
After a very enjoyable but hectic week attending end of year work parties and old school friend reunions, from here to as far away as London, it was time to meet up with our walking friends to celebrate the start of our Christmas holidays. A big thank you to Chris Cowcher and David Grant for organising this local route which takes in the amazing beauty on our doorstep of the Stroud five valleys.
We met at Wallbridge in Stroud at 9:30am. It was a bit of struggle to get Graeme out of the door on time but after a view grumbles and mumbles and a brisk jog we arrived rosy faced to meet up with our jolly friends who were ready and dressed for the occasion Andy, Mike, Clare, Greg, Olive the black lab, Dave the Elf, Tim & Chris aka Santa Claus!
We set off at a brisk pace along the Thames & Severn Canal path heading east towards Chalford. A few diversions off of the path had to be incorporated due to the ongoing canal renovation work which will see this wonderful piece of engineering from the industrial revolution in the late 1700’s once again open up for boats to pass through.
We headed up to the hidden gem, Toadsmoor Woods and valley. We love this area, it reminds me so much of my youth and many happy hours spent riding my pony through the tracks and trails. The ford and lake are beautiful in all seasons and the Author Jilly Cooper has written about the area in her books, even though she refers to it as Frogsmoor! J The very mild and wet December conditions meant that we had lots of mud to wade through – WHOOPS Greg slipped over, to everyone’s amusement!! Olive the black lab enjoyed a swim in the ford whilst we all lined up for a photo.
We took the lower route and then at Eastcombe climbed up through the low cloud and mist to Lypiatt and then made our way across to Swifts Hill. The panoramic views out towards the Severn estuary are just spectacular.
In fact, the perfect place to stop and enjoy a seasonal toast of port and a mince pie compliments of Chris to celebrate. We were joined by some very inquisitive ponies looking to share our food.
A walk to this area is never complete without a ramble down the hill, across the Slad Brook to visit to the best watering house in the area, The Woolpack at Slad for a pint of local Old Spot Uley ale. You would never believe in December we could all sit outside Laurie Lee’s favourite ale house, it was so mild. We were joined by our old running club friend Terry for a quick drink before we set off again making our way up the other side of the valley to top of Folly Lane on the edge of the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust Frith Wood. The views from here across the Slad Valley to Swift’s Hill look out towards Stroud town centre. We decided to take the field route dropping down into town through Uplands to our final destination the Ale House for our final refreshment stop of the day. A very enjoyable day walking and chatting was had by all.