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Paul and Midge

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Cotswold Way
Those of you who read our last trip report will remember that Midge was having problems with his vision. We went to see one of the top canine ophthalmologists when we returned from Cornwall and were given the devastating news that Midge is going blind due to a progressive and untreatable degenerative condition of his retinas. The vet said he was blind in his right eye and perhaps had only 30% vision in his left. This effectively means Midge can no longer go into the mountains and must keep to easier trips from now on. I am deeply upset for him but Midge is not a dog to be inactive just because he cannot see. Being a collie activity is everything to him. If I put myself in his shoes (paws) would I want to stay at home or get out into the hills again? The answer is obvious.

One easy walk I had considered was the Cotswold Way. I had previously thought this the kind of walk you do in your dotage when you have exhausted the other possibilities but it seemed to be just the right trip for a newly blind dog. There are few campsites along the way so this would have to be a trip by B+B so I booked up and we decided to go in July – when the weather would be nice- so we could get the best out of this trip. I was not reckoning for the lost summer of 2012.

This was to be a short trip. I had intended to do it in 4 days to complete the 102 miles but The Missus said she fancied a weekend in the Cotswolds so we extended it to 5 days – this would give us a couple of easy short days but that did not really matter. We had a relatively uneventful train journey to Bath to start our trip. The only minor glitch was that a women and I had both been booked into the same seat – how can an automated train booking system get that wrong? However she wanted a table to sit at so she sat in another seat. The only thing of note was the number of people who admired Midge and how quiet and well behaved he was on the train. He is the epitome of good behaviour in a dog.

Bath was grey a drizzle when we arrived at nearly midday. We visited the Abbey to get Midge’s photo taken at the start of the way just as a herd of schoolchildren descended on him to fuss him. Midge gloried in the attention. I am a little wary of people coming up to him now he cannot see but Midge is so well tempered he just sits and accepts all the fussing and stroking.

Midge tries to attract the attention of a party of school children

We progressed up to the Royal Crescent where Midge had his picture taken again just before he was mobbed by a group of even younger children – Midge heaven! It is surprising just how much Midge enjoys this attention especially in towns where he has never been comfortable and is less so now he cannot see much.

As we reached Penn hill the rain started in earnest and full waterproofs, high humidity and high temperature ensured that I sweated as we ascended. I had been suffering from a cold before we started and this added to my sweaty state. I am sure there are some lovely views of Bath from Kelston Hill and Prospect stile but the rain and mist ensured we did not get to see them.

The Cotswold way is 102 miles long and snakes its way from Bath to Chipping Campden. It could be much shorter. I am sure they originators of the route were determined to produce a walk that was over 100 miles by making as many hairpin detours as possible to lengthen it. Some of these are justified, others are not and are pretty pointless. The first detour was around Bath racecourse and the first of many golf courses. However, Midge was enjoying being off the lead and sniffing a new area.

I was relaxing and starting to enjoy the walk, if not the rain and humidity, and  I promptly went wrong after leaving the civil war battle field by Landsdown. I realised this after a couple of hundred metres but could not be bothered to traipse back up hill so continued down and thus added a bit more to the day’s walk. I had a pork cob in my rucksac calling to me so I stopped to eat it which, anyone who reads these trips will know is unusual for me. I don’t often eat during the day. We had just had our village fete and hog roast and the hog was so big there was a lot left over. We the organisers divvied up the hog between us and the succulent meat was a real treat as I sat in the rain scoffing it.

We saw only two pairs of people doing the way. We exchanged mutual recriminations against the weather and the mud. “You have far worse ahead of you” one old Jonah said to me. Midge was already covered in red mud. The fields were sodden and there was scarcely anywhere where there was not a couple of inches to a foot of mud. The rain had flattened the hay fields where the wild flowers were struggling and a few brave Meadow Brown butterflies attempted to eke out a living between the heavier of the showers.

No one is going to let a scruffy collie into a stately home Midge - Dyrham Park

We crossed through Dyrham Park National Trust area and met our first cattle who fortunately ignored us. If cattle get feisty I have always relied on sending Midge into a different field and directing him around them with whistled commands – he is a sheepdog after all and well trained. Since he lost his sight I can no longer do this. Firstly he does not like to be very far away from me and secondly I rely on him finding his own route subject to my general instructions and he can no longer do this. We would have to see what we can do to address this if we find awkward cattle.

I found a small stream before to our B+B in the village of Tormarton and cleaned Midge up – no mean feat after 17 miles of filthy mud. On arrival at the B+B, some 3 and a half hours after setting off I towelled him dry (ish) and he looked reasonably respectable. The lady of the house was smitten with Midge, she had a Labrador but previously had a Border Collie and loved the breed and Midge was her idea of a perfect dog. The room Chestnut farm B+B was small and there was nowhere to dry our stuff but it was better than camping. All the guests that night were doing the Cotswold way and we would meet them later in the pub.

After numerous cups of tea, a rest I feed Midge and we went to the pub, the Major’s Retreat. A friend told me on hearing that I was going to the Cotswold that I could expect plenty of traditional, lovely pubs and excellent food and beer on the trip; well we shall see. The Major’s Retreat is an old stone pub in a typical stone village by the M4, so hardly quiet as the road noise intrudes considerably. The landlord is a pleasant, bluff old chap who enjoys giving advice to all. Both the beer and the food were very good the steak and black pudding pie was right up my street.

I chatted to two Canadians who were doing the way N to S and they told me of the dreadful mud they had encountered. Two retirees now living in Cyprus repeated the warning of mud and they were doubtful that we would get to Kings Stanley the next day. That section of their trip had taken them two full days and they estimated it as over 30 miles. I somehow doubted their mileage, but 30 odd miles in this mud would be a challenge.

A Dutch couple were much taken with Midge, they had 6 dogs at home in Spain where they now lived. They were doing not just the CW but were incorporating it into a Land’s End to John O’Groats trip – doing it all by B+B and having their luggage carried for them. I dreaded to ask how much that was costing them but I admired their determination to complete it.

At 9.30 Midge and I called it a day and retired to the B+B.

3rd July.

It rained most of the night but at 6am Midge gave me the cold nose treatment to tell me it was time to go for a pee. I persuaded him to wait half an hour and then we went out into the drizzle for 10 minutes until it turned to rain and we hurried back in to feed Midge.

The lady’s husband a cheerful Italian chap was on breakfast duty and being an Italian he obviously would hate to see people go out of his house underfed so the breakfast was huge and very enjoyable. Not only do you get home produced eggs here but also jam and honey. I am a new beekeeper so he and I exchanged beekeeping chat and he complained of how the dreadful summer meant he was having to feed his bees and getting no honey in exchange. I went to pay the bill in his kitchen which looked like a farm house straight out of Tuscany with hams and salami hanging from the beams.

It was straight into full waterproofs for the trip. Although it was only drizzling we had to cross fields full of crops and hay which had fallen over the footpath and we were sure to get a soaking.

A wet start

We had the first of a number of death defying road crossings to perform. This area of the UK has a relatively high population density with large places like Bath, Bristol, Stroud, Cheltenham and Oxford nearby and the whole population seems to commute in the morning. The busyness of the roads and the thoughtlessness of drivers for people walking was a real black mark against this footpath – a theme I am bound to return to later. We made it safely into Doddington Park and were soon joined by a young chap exercising his spaniel who we walked and chatted with for a mile or so until Old Sodbury.

After Hawksbury the route gives you a taster of what is to come. Having already slipped and struggled in the mud across the fields you enter a muddy, gloomy forest. There was little light today, if it had not been for the leaves on the trees I would have thought I was walking on a gloomy evening in March rather than a morning in early July. The tree canopy made it extra gloomy. The mud in the forest was even deeper, thick and black.

Gloomy wet forests and mist.

On reaching Wotton under the Edge the rain had stopped but we did not dally in this attractive town but pressed on up the hill and back into more gloomy muddy wood – but only after stopping to look at the view above Wotton – there was not really one – too much mist. We nearly got another view at the Tyndale monument a couple of miles further on. I am sure the views over the Severn are excellent but there was little to see today.

Back in to the gloom of the forest once again. This one seemed darker and even muddier than the others and I was getting pretty fed up when the route took another of its pointless detours to Stinchcombe hill to ensure maximum disappointment at no view and a tedious circumvention of a golf course. Even the golfers were not so stupid as to be out in this.

We nipped through Dursley town centre and were greeted by the local loony with his old dog. He wanted to chat but we had not time so he went off and accosted some other unfortunate person who could not out-walk him. More forest, more obscured views led us to another slip-sliding forest where the route very neatly misses out the Neolithic site that is Hetty Peglar’s Tump. I was disappointed by this; surely this actually did merit a slight detour? However the rain had stopped and we very nearly got a view from Coakley Peak. Here I was able to put Midge through his sheepdog paces sending him left and right in and out on an area of grass free from obstacles he might crash into. He loved it, it is what he was born to do. After about 10 minutes we continued towards Coakley Long Barrow with me still calling Midge his instructions. A couple had been watching Midge and commented on what an impressive sight a working collie is. I did not tell them he was blind – I had sort of forgotten, or perhaps I wished it was not true. I was still not over grieving that the poor lad was almost completely blind.

Nearly a view!

Iron Age dog

True to form we descended back into the gloom and as we left the road a stone stile and some steps proved a problem for Midge. He hopped over the stile and missed the steps and fell about 6 feet. I must remember to be more careful of him.

As we entered Kings Stanley where we were to stay at Orchardene B+B I found a cattle trough and Midge dutifully hopped in and I cleaned him up. We sat in the bus shelter (only drizzling) while I cleaned him up further with his towel. I had got him almost spotless which was a good things considering the colour scheme in the B+B.

The lady who owned the B+B was a local counsellor as was her husband who was also a beekeeper (again!). Our room was very nice; in cream! Cream carpet, walls, bed spread etc. I was glad Midge was clean but I would have to be careful of my muddy trousers. I had removed by boots fortunately.

The lady of the house invited me for tea and cake in the kitchen so after I had left my rucksack I descended the stair in my stocking feet, slipped on the polished wooden stairs and flew down them. The stairs were steep in this ancient cottage with a turn at the bottom. Fortunately (?) my hand wedged in the bannister and I stopped my rapid descent but was suspended by one trapped hand my feet about a foot above the stair. At this point the owner came out to ask me if I was alright. I made little of it as if hanging by one hand was my usual method of coming down stairs.

A shower after copious amounts of tea and a read of my book while Midge relaxed on his blanket, listening to the rain fall outside was a nice way to spend the afternoon before we looked for food. I measured the route on my GPS – 27 miles not over 30 as the two chaps in the pub had said. However, I admit I forgot to switch the GPS on until we got into Doddington Park. It had only taken us a tad over 6 hours despite the mud, so I was obviously getting over my cold.

The folks I had talked to in Tormarton told me I would not get anything to eat in Kings Stanley. Surely this could not be true. Traditional Cotswold village, old pub, there is bound to be excellent food on offer. Looking for excellent food we went to the Kings Head in the village. It boasted a coffee house (closed) and a restaurant (closed) and bar food – “no we don’t do food”. But this is the Cotswolds renowned for its’ traditional pubs with great food and beer! Not in Kings Stanley. This was a real bone of contention with the locals I talked to – a mixed group with nearly a full head of teeth between 6 of them. They gave me the history of the running down of the pub by the company which owned it, appointing managers who were not up to the job and, they feared, were running the pub down so they could close it and sell off the car park for housing. All thought it absolutely ridiculous that a large pub with a fully equipped kitchen bang on the Cotswold way could not offer food. So did I. After a chat with the bar man I persuaded him that I could go to the Chinese chippy and get some food and bring it back. So this I did and he even provided me with a plate and knife and fork. Fortunately the beer and cider was very good but the fish and chips were not – greasy with that taste that tells you that the frying oil has been in there too long.

Midge enjoyed the pub. One of the local had a collie cross who apparently was not too good with other dogs but he loved Midge and Midge, who is never really bothered by other dogs, also wanted to play so they rolled and wrestled with each other on the floor – something that is very rare for Midge and so rare for the other dog that his owner took photos with his phone to record the event.

We left the pub at 8.45pm as did all the locals except one. It is a shame this pub is not better run, it could really make a handsome living for someone.

Back in the B+B Midge was all in after the long day, the mud and the wrestling. I was feeling decidedly upbeat – perhaps it was that Black Rat Cider which I am told is 7.5% - good job I only had the one.

4th July Kings Stanley to Coberley

Midge was so tired he did not wake up until my alarm went off at 6.30 but he instantly ran to my bed to give me the cold nose treatment. I soaked his dried food and we went CAREFULLY down the stairs and out into the drizzle so he could have a pee then raced back once again as the rain fell.

The breakfast was excellent as I thought it would be, these people seem to have an attention to detail and I recommend Orchardene to you. The bacon was very good and the lady of the house expressed her desire to make her own after I had told her I made my own bacon, sausages, black pudding etc, so I left her with a recipe and web address for bacon cure.

We set off at 8.30 and once again we had to negotiate dreadfully busy roads and the first hour was accompanied by the growl of traffic. This was beginning to be the soundtrack to this walk, not the Elgar or Vaughan-Williams I imagined and which accompanies the images of the Cotswolds on the telly – perhaps they should use Stockhausen to accompany it.

The steady drizzle prevented me from taking off my jacket and the vegetation ensured I kept my overtrousers on so I sweater up hill into Standish Woods and once again into the mud. I went to take a picture of Midge, it being dark the flash came on automatically, the resulting photo was completely obscured by the density of the moisture in the air. The humidity was almost 100% making wearing any Goretex pretty pointless. Fortunately the rain stopped by the time we reached the hill at Shortwood and once again I was able to give Midge a sheepdog exercise session. As we were in mid flow two horrible little pugs ran up to Midge yapping and snapping at him, racing in at him from different directions. Poor Midge could not see them as they ran up behind him intending to, but too scared to bite him. I could have kicked these ugly little b*****ds around the field. Midge became scared and confused unable to see his tormentors. They with their deformed heads and bugged eyes with perfect vision and my beautiful blind boy scared of their stupid asthmatic yapping. Their owner eventually came to collect these travesties of man’s infliction on the canine world and we continued.

The mist prevents the use of flash

It is better without

My mood did not improve as we had another pointless detour in muddy woods once again. The rain stopped as we went through old quarries with lots of sensational wildflowers until we crossed the road near the Edgemoor Inn and followed the path into Painswick.

Painswick looks like a very prosperous and attractive town but we did not take time to look around. Any town or big village is a source of anxiety for Midge now he cannot see. All traffic makes him nervous. We continued on to yet another golf course and the sun came out! I decided to stop on a seat near a wide mown area to have a drink and let Midge play with his ball. I have a bright fluorescent yellow ball for him which is new and smells strongly of rubber so he can find it and we spent a while throwing it. I have to throw it low to the ground ahead of him. He can still see some movement and loves to chase his ball but if I throw it too far ahead of him he cannot see it. Then we must switch to me directing him towards his ball by his sheepdog commands until he finds it by scent.

The sunshine did not last long and by the time we had reached Cranham Corner the drizzle returned and we plunged back in to the gloom and mud we were now accustomed to in the woods. This section made we wonder why I was doing this walk at all. The mist obscured what view we might have got had the trees not been in leaf and the mud sucked on our feet (paws) and we slipped and skidded our way. One could see the tracks of others as they had skidded in the mud and the occasional impact crater was visible where some poor person had been unable to keep upright. It is not as though there was any different mud to provide a diversion or interest, just more and more of the same, thick cloying mud. Perhaps worse than any of this was what happened to Midge. We were walking along when I heard a loud plopping sound I looked around and saw a pigeon, pheasant or ostrich had done and enormous poo on Midge. It was huge: how could a bird have done such an enormous poo?! I suspected it was aimed at me but poor Midge copped for it. It took some time and much use of leaves and sticks to get this out of his dense fur.

Midge and the giant poo

After too many miles we exited the woods again on at a cark park giving superb views – and it was not raining and the mist had cleared. There were the Malvern hills, the Cotswolds and, with a bit of imagination, the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons (well may be too much imagination). We now had to make a detour to our B+B in Coberley and I chose to link up with the Gloucestershire way but first we had to deal with the A417 which was a near death experience.

A view!!!!!!

Well over half way

The road meets a roundabout at this point. The heavy traffic races downhill towards the roundabout. There was no pavement on the side we need to get to so we had to cross opposite the footpath sign. The traffic exiting the roundabout has a crawler lane which starts just at the point we had to cross. The volume of traffic was immense despite it being about 1pm. We waited an age, there was no way we were going to make it in one go. A lull allowed us to get into the cross hatched section in the middle where we stopped as a lorry lumbered off the roundabout and uphill. At this point a BMW who obviously knew there was a crawler lane burst out from behind the lorry onto the cross hatched area we were standing on straight for us. Obviously he was not expecting to see pedestrians there and for a moment I thought he was going to hit us. He braked hard we stepped back and he flew past yelling and waving his fist at us. Dear Mr BMW driver, I did not get your number but 1) you were on an area of the road you should not have been on, 2) you overtook when you could not see what was ahead, 3) you are a total tw*t. We dashed over the last bit of road, my heart thumping in my chest.

On the positive side, the weather was bright and we soon got onto a lovely bridleway to Coberley. On entering the village there was a nice clear stream so I gave Midge a good bath. We were hopelessly early (2pm) and there was no one in the Old Post office where we were to stay tonight. I found a seat on the village green and polished Midge up with his towel. We wandered around the village but I could not go far for fear Midge would get dirty again and I like to arrive with a clean dog. After about an hour I phoned the B+B and left a message. It started to rain so we dodged under a tree. If the rain increased in fore we would have to take shelter in the phone box. The rain stopped again and the B+B owner told me they were at home so I double checked Midge and we went to check in.

Waiting to get inot the B+B

I had said to Midge that this was the most expensive night of the trip and I hoped it lived up to the price – it did. The Old post office does not allow dogs in the rooms but they do have two dogs of their own and make dogs welcome downstairs. The place it a bit of a tardis; it looks small but is much bigger inside. I was greeted with tea, cakes and a pot of home grown strawberries and blueberries in my own sitting/dining room where Midge could join me. I had a huge room and bathroom. Fresh cherries and flapjack were in the room along with an excellent choice of teas and coffee. This was B+B on a smart scale!

Midge made friends with the owners two girls, one was an old girl of 16 blind and deaf who preferred her blanket than talk to her house guest. The younger one took to Midge. After I had showered and fed Midge we sat in my sitting room reading until I thought I had better eat. The options were laid before me by the B+B owner. There was a pub within walking distance, it did not take dogs (she had already phoned and checked for me), she was prepared to drive me to a pub about 3 miles away where the food was very good but she had a meeting that evening and could not say when she could pick me up for sure – and they did not take dogs. I opted to walk to the nearest.

The Severn Springs or the Hungry Horse as it is also known proved to be an alien environment to me. In short I would describe it as MacDonald’s with a bar – not that I know much about MacDonald’s. I had one once and that was one time too many for me. I was suspicious from the start – all fizzy beer taps but hidden was a single hand-pull of Old Speckled Hen which proved to be surprisingly good. As I went to find a seat I saw there was to be a children’s birthday party in one room. I passed the wall of fame. In order to get on to the wall of fame you have to have eaten either a 40oz steak or a 40oz chocolate cake. There were the pictures of a host of now famous fatties arteries clogged, red faced and beaming at their heroic endeavours. Sod the Olympics let’s see a few over eating contests – show the real spirit of Britain.

I looked at the menu which had things like a fat filled 18 inch curled onion ring on a specially designed stand to break off and dip in neat sticky sugary syrup flavoured with a variety of chemicals – they provided three different ones. The menu was really inventive in just how much fat and sugar and so few ingredients of nutritional value one can put in some thing and call it food. I had to play safe.

I chose a tomato soup and a steak – medium rare - but doubted they would get the cooking right. As I waited for my soup a huge family, average BMI of around 40 arrived, in fact I was feeling rather underweight, I felt like I was in a club exclusive to those with a BMI of 30 or over, a training house for type two diabetics. It was the older girl’s 18th birthday. They ran over to the cabinet with huge cakes in and coohed and aahed over them and admired the people on the wall of fame. I am not sure what the girl was drinking now she was of age but it was a violent blue colour.

In this place there are vending machines of food, toys and even adult focused toys – sunglasses, gaming machines and satnavs. The kids arriving for the party were constantly badgering their parents to buy them this and that as they raced from one machine to another with their limited attention span. There were also games to play which was another source of demand. The kids were moved into another room but it could not prevent the screams, crying and demands from filling the rest of the building.

My soup arrived and tasted savoury – that is all I can say about it. I could not tell you what was in it. On the menu it was supposed to be soup and a roll. It came with half a pre-frozen, part-baked baguette which had been microwaved. Some fool obviously did not know that this was part baked dough and needed to be baked – I doubt they actually had an oven. So I ate the soup and ignored the hot steaming dough.

My steak arrived – seared on the outside. I cut into it expecting it to be over-done – medium rare as I asked. I was surprised. I looked more closely at the steak. The seared outside was hard as though it had been coated with something – it had a hard, glassy sheen. I tasted the steak and it tasted of ---- nothing! It was mainly water. I started to suspect that the supposedly appetising seared exterior had been applied in a factory and the steak had just been heated up. I resolved to down my meal and leave and not give them further custom. It would fuel the next day at least. By now the shouting in the next room was reaching fever pitch. The 18th party was getting going with a pitcher of frighteningly vivid coloured liquid. On paying my tab I noticed that the place also offered gifts (to purchase) for children that had “been good” – toys along with tooth rotting sweets – after all those chemicals they serve I am not surprised the kids were climbing the walls.

I have never been in a place like this before and this hopefully is the only time I will have to do so. I returned to the sanity of my sitting room and my dog.

Coberley to Winchcombe

This was to be a short day so no need to get up early. Midge had to sleep down stairs; although he did open the door and sneak upstairs to my door and was shepherded back by the owner. By the time I got up the owner had let him out for a pee and given him a drink. I fed him and then waited to see what delights were on offer for breakfast. Stewed rhubarb (which I love), fresh strawberries from their garden, blue berries, fresh squeezed orange juice or apple juice, the usual cereals, various preserves, very good wholemeal toast, a huge cooked breakfast with very high quality bacon, sausage and black pudding and lashings of tea. Excellent!

I can see for miles!

We set off after 8.30 – I did no record the time and forgot to set my GPS until about half an hour into the journey. The first thing we had to do was to negotiate the dreadful A436 past the awful Severn Springs – scene of the previous night’s food. We then had to cross the A435 to get back onto the Way. The traffic was too dense to get across as we waited and waited in the refuge in the middle (at least there was one this time). Eventually a courteous Dutch driver stopped to let us cross – Danke vell!

The path was high up and not so muddy, although in Lineover wood a fellow walker coming towards us went flying and landed flat on his back. Then the sun came out!!!! I was so overjoyed I got Midge into position to have his photo taken. I crouched down in the grass and was immediately bitten by a horse fly. Don’t you just love the English summer? The sun had brought the horse flies out and I was doomed to get half a dozen bites today.

Sun comes out and I get bitten by a horse fly

We circled Cheltenham with excellent views in all directions eventually heading for Cleeve hill where the views are the best of the whole trip – no woods, open fields and sun – just what I needed. I say this but there may have been views elsewhere, I just never got to see them. Once we were up on Cleeve Hill we stopped to play ball, Midge had been so good and the short cropped grass made an excellent venue for him to chase his ball. There is yet another long circuitous detour around a golf course but I did not mind at all now the sun was out. We had a good long play, we were only going to Winchcombe and were very nearly there so we could take our time. At the present rate we would be there before 1pm.

The lovely Cleeve Hill

I'm on top of the world Dad (Cleeve hill anyway)

After the openness of Cleeve hill I did no mind the woods for a brief spell. On exiting the woods I gave Midge a good long game of sheepdog. I saw a chap waving to me and hurrying towards me. He arrive a little sweaty and asked me if all was OK, he had thought I was shouting and whistling to attract his attention – he could not see Midge because of the slope in the ground. I gave him a demo of Midge’s working skills then called Midge in to meet him. He of course was very impressed. I told him Midge was blind “Never! Impossible!” but he then could see his eyes. He had thought Midge rather remarkable but now he was even more so “It is so tragic that such a lovely dog is blind” he said with some emotion in his voice. “Very tragic.” and he fussed Midge some more.

We said goodbye and carried on to Belas Napp long barrow which was well work the visit but stopping meant we were plagued again by horse flies so we kept on and found another more open spot to view Winchcombe and try not to arrive too early. Despite our efforts we failed and I was washing Midge in the stream in the town at 1pm. I dried him off and we went to the Plaisterers arms for a pint and to check in. We sat in their excellent garden and I was pretty sure I had made the right decision to stay here. I had a very nice sandwich as we chatted to a couple on the next table who were interested in Midge. They each fussed him and the lady asked about his eyes. I told her he was blind and her eyes filled up “But he is so beautiful and so well behaved” unfortunately that is not enough to make him immune to fate. She fussed Midge all the more after this.

Belas Napp

A beer in the Plaisterers Arms

We checked in and got our room, the smallest, dingiest and least cared for so far – but hey! It is better than camping and we had the run of the whole garden at any time. A shower, rest and tea – the little cartons of milk were out of date and pure smelly cheese. I was getting a downer on this place. I went out to buy milk. On the main street a voice rang out “Please may I fuss your dog?” and elderly lady called out to me and ran up to Midge and hugged him. “I lost my tricolour border collie last week and saw your dog and I just had to come and give him a cuddle” she spent some time cuddling Midge and he reciprocated. Her dog had died the previous week and was sorely missed and she tearfully held on to Midge. After a while she stood up and apologised but she thought Midge looked so beautiful she just knew he would let her cuddle him.

Milk bought we returned to our room. One saving grace, it did have a patio of our own so I was able to wash things through and dry them in the sun. After our rest we had to go for another walk. A patch of ground served as an arena to play sheepdog for a good long while by which time it was time to feed Midge and myself. The food in the Plaisterers was actually very good and the beer excellent – pity about the room. We relaxed in the garden, there were few other customers.

Before retiring for a final beer I took Midge for another walk and played sheepdog on the field. A lady was walking her dog and stopped to watch us, she told me how marvellous Midge was. I called him in and she noticed his eyes and asked about them. I told her his story and once again she could hardly believe that a dog could do what Midge can do blind and thought the world a very unfair place that such a beautiful and intelligent dog could go blind. I agreed with her, but there is nothing that can be done to right this particular wrong.

Winchcombe to Chipping Campden
It started raining that night and in the morning normal service was resumed and it shucked it down all day. We were heading to the end today and I estimated it would not take more than 3or so hours and so was the case. There was only one muddy wood en route but lots of wet hay fields – not chance of getting hay from these for the foreseeable future.

Back to the usual

Pretty gate at Stanway - no nails used

We passed though the pretty village of Stanway having avoided a field full of cows, calves and a very large bull. I am sure they would have been OK but I always look for escape routes now and the thick hedge with strong wire showed there would be none for Midge if there was a problem so we chose the adjacent field – as many others had done judging by the foot prints.
Misty poppy field

At Stanton we met hoards of people setting out – I counted at least 20 in total. This was the only busy period on the whole route.
The ridge leading to Buckland wood was in thick mist which was a shame, Im am sure there are good views from there but a poppy filed caught my eye for a photo.
The Missus and I were staying at Broadway for a couple of days so I opted to miss that out and took a different route from Buckland Wood up to Broadway tower through mud of course. We dutifully took photos at the Broadway tower. I played sheepdog with Midge until we crossed the A44.

Broadway tower
The rest of the route is over muddy fileds and a lovely long ride of grass but there is the inevitable detour at Dover hill just to make sure the CW does get over the 100 miles mark. Mind you the view is good - if you get one. it started to rain in earnest once more which seemed a fitting way to end this trip - to end in sun would have been out of character.
The Missus texted me to say she had arrived in Chipping Campden.  so we looked for her car which we found near the Market Hall. Route completed.

A wet end to a wet trip