Tom, like many big picture/detail people, loves maps. His heart sings when he sees an Ordnance Survey, and I had to finally haul him away from the lure of their neatly color -coded stacks at the Waterstones near the British Museum, as we were late for a date with a pint, at the Museum Tavern. I don't know why I bothered, as I spent the next hour talking to a voice muffled behind a map marked #45, The Cotswolds.
OS maps are great. They come with little symbols showing castles, barns--and pubs, as well as individual trees and the smallest, teeny tiniest, path. Local Tourist Information Centers (TIC) usually offer even more detailed maps showing local walks. Circular walks, pub walks, water walks, hill walks--these little maps are swell.
So it wasn't much of a surprise for me, when Tom slipped into the TIC in Broadway (the one in the Cotswolds, not cross 42nd street), and re-emerged with, "A Complete Footpath Guide to Winchcombe and surrounding areas" which identified five long distance paths, footpaths, bridleways, byways, forest rides, and other "permissive" paths at a scale of one mile to the forefinger (or three inches), reproduced in this tidy one pager by Finial Press in Stroud, by permission from our friends at Ordnance Survey.
A few hours later, sitting on a tree stump along a farm lane, looking down across the pastures of Sudeley Castle, trying to eating a cold yogurt with a small spoon, on a cold day, without taking my gloves off; I too, took a a look at the map. "This guide takes you off the beaten track..." said the first fold, which is of course, what had instantly induced Tom to plunk his 50p down for it, "...into the hills and valleys surrounding ancient and attractive Cotswold towns...whether you want an hour's walk or an all day's ramble."
I located the former tree, now tree stump, holding our picnic (the cheese and crackers held down by Tom's backpack against the wind, the apple slices stolen by gulls who were themselves off their beaten path) just along the Warden's Way near Park's Farm. Although we had moseyed rather than marched (or rambled rather than hiked?) since leaving the parking lot at Haile's Abbey (with a quick run -in to see the medieval wall paintings at Haile's Church) on the Cotswold Way, we had covered nearly three and a half forefingers of this designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Tom joined me, pointing out the many, many pathway choices in front of us, in our quest for a circular walk which would begin and end--at our car. Cotswold Way, Windrush Way, Warden's Way, Gloucestershire Way, and the mysterious Wychavon Way. We could make ours a greatest, greater, or great loop, depending on whim, and our remaining hours of daylight. Failing to take note of the map's casual contours, I traced my fancy, we threw our cracker crumbs to the gulls, and headed up a ridge so steep, we could see Wales, which was not exactly what I had in mind.
Still, it's a heady feeling when you've put one foot in front of the other, past churned fields of unharvested golden Cotswold stones, and woods hiding the dark, dangerous, snufflingly secretive world of farm bred boars. The distant view opens and opens and opens, until you can see the whole range of those mighty Welsh mountains, and wonder why the sun seems to be stuck there, and not here.