The Cotswold Way (Part 2)
How often, in dashing through the days of our lives, do we consciously stop, take a deep breath, and look around? Especially when traveling, it seems as if most people want to squeeze every drop from an itinerary.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Midway through our 70 miles on the Cotswold Way, our party took an entire day off. While it seemed somewhat extravagant when first proposed, there were enough unpredictable elements to this adventure that it made sense to build in a day to regroup, just in case.
Happily, we found ourselves to be in great shape. We could have easily continued on. But our B&B reservations were set, leaving us with an entire day in the delightful town of Wotton-Under-Edge! An old woolen market town, it’s called thus because it is nestled at the foot of the Cotswold escarpment, guarded from on high by some giant trees called the “Jubilee Pines” dating from the 1897 diamond jubilee celebrating Queen Victoria's 60th year on England’s throne (earlier trees were similarly planted to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo in 1815).
After breakfast, as I exited the Swan Hotel, I turned right for no good reason except that my nose took me that way. At the corner hung a giant public clock known as the Tolsey clock. A famous local landmark, it was also erected in celebration of the queen’s diamond jubilee.
On Long Street, I remembered the advice of a gentleman we met the day before on the trail, who suggested we watch for Fifi’s (fine furniture), and Walker’s (a fine baker), and The Collective (where, he said, his friend Nicola Hill made and sold her art). I browsed these and other places. Elsewhere, I came across almshouses and a chapel built for poor men and women in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Then we discovered that a concert was scheduled that evening at Chipping Hall! Café Capriccio consisted of a group of local music teachers (and a lawyer) on guitar, bass, clarinet, saxophone, and other instruments. Their considerable talent for sharing a love for toe-tapping music of the 1920s and European café style tunes was serendipitous and lots of fun. And all because we had the time.
Without that day to linger, I would have missed these pieces of the fabric of a typical market town in England. How easy it can be to forge ahead in life without stopping to take a look around. Being unfettered let me revel in simply following my instincts. Turn here. Go into this or that shop. Pause to look up at the town clock. Chat with people. Breathe. I highly recommend it.
For a route map and more information about walking tours (all over the U.K.), see hillwalktours.com