The Tao of the Way

September 23, 2012

Peter, Julia and I achieved a milestone today with the completion of the Cotswolds Way.  We started this back in August 2011 when a weather forecast promised doom and dire prognostications for the Thames Path and so we headed west.  The Thames path then consumed our attention until work on the Olympics and the approach of summer motivated us to move to a less urban walk.  So in April we did the Stumps Cross to Cleeve Hill section .  The merry month of May saw us reach Leckhampton Hill followed by three sections in July and the final three this month to end up at Bath Abbey.   Nine sections in all: one hundred and eight miles and fifty two and a half hours.

During the whole this my ViewRanger App replaced maps and kept me honest (the track is recorded) while allowing the nerd in me to keep the statistics uptodate.  Other key Apps in use included the Good Pub Guide, the Good Beer Guide, various public transport apps and the Met Office.  The DMD panorama app produced some great tweets but the utility of the the UK Tides will have to await the South West Coastal Path, targeted for an October start.  For completeness all clothing used came from Paramo the boots from Merrill (light) or Solomon (heavy) with energy bars and gels from Torq.  I have a general opposition to lunch on walks as I prefer to just keep going but a gel shot before a climb and the bars to keep energy levels up prevent muscles seizing up.

Now I can't help commenting on the differences that have emerged over the ages.  When at the age of 11 I ventured on a YHA walking holiday from Llangollen to Harlech I had an old framed and heavy canvass rucksack.  New boots took some weeks to wear in and you soaked your feet in Potassium Permanganate every night for two weeks as well as anointing them with surgical spirit; the net result was a purple staining.  You always carried a two penny piece to use on a phone box for emergency and the only maps were 1:50000 carried in plastic wallets.  Using the camera was a major decision as film was expensive so every shot was chose and taken with care.  In contrast for this walk the boots were worn from day one, the iPhone provided 1:25000 maps along with GPS and other features.  The camera is a Nikon 7000 and I take on average 400+ shots then winnow them at the end of the day.   The camera itself is carried like a gunslinger on the BlackRapid sling which also allows a water bottle to be attached and a rucksac dispenses with for most walks.  These days its all super light weight technology enabled and to be fair technology enhanced.

Despite all of the technology the beauty of country remains unaltered.  The Cotswolds way takes you along lofty ridges with multiple panoramic views over the RIver Severn to God's own country, it plunges through beech woods on the escarpment edge and allows you to wander through wonderful cotswolds stone villages with an amazing set of Churches from multiple ages.  It also has its own particular perversity.  Everytime you reach a summit and you an see what appears an airy ridge walk ahead of you, it will not last.  Within minutes you will be plunging to the foot of the escarpment again.  

I think we did it the right way.  OK we were walking to the prevailing winds, but walking through the streets of Bath at the end of a walk is a lot better than at the start.  Also east to west keeps your nose pointed at Wales which is no bad thing.   Its also been good to do this walk with two companions whose conversation is always interesting and whose knowledge of the origin of place names is intimidating!

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