At what was an unearthly hour, huddled in Winchcombe Library car park an amazing turn-out of over 30 from the Tewkesbury office congregated in the persistent rain to start our 18-mile voyage of discovery over the Cotswolds.
Spurred on by the strong enthusiasm to tackle any challenge, in the usual Kingsbridge-way, and the outside possibility of seeing the start of England v. Argentina game, the team set off with blistering pace. The gloomy conditions were offset by the extremely enjoyable conversation, light-hearted banter and that Kingsbridge camaraderie.
After a relentless and continuing ascent, we finally reached Camp 1 (at Stumps Cross) and were greeted by the very welcome waft of bacon baps. Rounded off by packets of Jaffa cakes and lashings of sugary-drinks to power the team on the next leg of its journey. By now, we were well and truly in heart of the Cotswolds where every vehicle that crawled past us on the small stretch of road was a four-by-four with the driver or horse rider.
At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day in a somewhat appropriate backdrop of a lonely field on the top of the Cotswolds, the team observed a respectful two minutes silence for those less lucky than ourselves who had fallen 100 years ago in conditions far worse than we were momentarily enduring. Lest we forget.
Reaping the rewards of the relentless climb, we finally started the meander down towards Stanton. The rain abated and some view was now just discernible as the mist lifted to reveal a scene that was almost reminiscent of a Hobbit film.
Bang on cue, we slumped into Stanton Village Hall to a wonderful-spread of sandwiches, cakes (and jelly babies) – and an exceedingly welcome rest. Despite the initial conviction that there would be no alcohol-pauses, Stanton Village Hall bar probably had the best day’s takings since 1978 when the sharp rise in fuel prices stopped people leaving the village.
Ignoring the lure of a large television screen (the rugby only being two hours off), warm comfy seats, a bar – and the remaining bags of Jelly Babies – the team finally left the welcome haven and reshod themselves with damp footwear for the return leg to Winchcombe.
The last leg
The team passed the magnificent Stanway House, alas not with time to pause to witness the fountain. 15:00 was upon us and the boys were still distant from their viewing of their beloved rugby match. At this point, there was a clear break in the team as the aforementioned strove on to catch what they could of the game and those others who were resigned to continue at a speed consistent with their flagging ability.
We returned back into Winchcombe to the rude awakening of vehicular traffic which seemed almost a shock after the hours of the silence of the hills. The locals were in awe as the bedraggled platoon, led by our not-insignificant mascot of d’Artagnan, made the last push back through the village to The White Hart.
At last, with objective achieved – and the iPhone App stating 28km (17.5 miles) – we were able to relax and reward ourselves with the odd beverage and sustenance from the wonderful food provided.
We extend our considerable thanks to Jon (our man at the helm) for all the organisation, his prior weekends of reccies – and for getting us safely round.
Likewise, to Janet and Anna who provided a logistical support team that the Tour de France would have been proud of. Never have bacon-butties been so well received. Finally, to both Ross and Tanya (absent thru justifiable excuses) who expended probably as much energy and suffered a much pain as we did in their organising the event.
One must not forget the extremely well-behaved posse of man-and-woman’s favourite friend who also accompanied us on the walk and whose numbers (in my mind) seemed to ebb and flow from two-or-three to what seemed bordering on a pack of 20.
Roll-on the planning of the next sortie!