Andrew Swift guides us on a picturesque country walk, taking us through the village of Birdlip and along the celebrated Cotswold Way.
This walk takes in three types of Cotswold landscape – high plateau, beech wood and escarpment – and starts at Crickley Hill Country Park, where a visitor centre has displays on the archaeology and natural history of the area. The only real downside to this walk through one of the finest parts of the Cotswolds comes in the form of four busy road crossings, where care and patience are needed.
● Crickley Hill Country Park is signposted off the A417, four miles east of Junction 11A of the M5. After parking in the car park (SO929163), where you can enjoy the first of several superb views, go through a gate at the north end and, a few metres further on, bear right up a path. After 150 metres, you come to the access road, down which you drove earlier. For the visitor centre, turn right, otherwise carry straight on through a gate into the Scrubbs Woodland.
● Follow the path ahead indicated by waymarks, and, after heading downhill, cross a meadow, go through a gate and walk up to the road. Cross the road ahead and walk along the pavement to the left of the Air Balloon pub. Just after the entrance to the pub car park, cross left over another busy road, and follow a Gloucestershire Way signpost up a narrow path and through a kissing gate (KG) (SO934159).
● Follow the path as it winds through woods, go through a KG and head diagonally up the field to the left towards a small gate in the hedge. After going through the gate – and another just beyond it – head for the gate you can see on the far side of the next field, go through it and bear right alongside a hedge. At the end, go past a metal gate onto a lane and bear right (SO939155).
● The lane takes you past Birdlip Radio Station, established in the Second World War, and now home to security firms. After 350 metres turn left, go through a five-bar gate, passing Shab Hill Barn (now home to the Potted Game Company) on the right. Go through a metal gate and carry on across a field. After 150 metres, when the field opens out, don’t carry on alongside the hedgerow, but look across to the far hedgerow, where you will see two trees, and follow a faint track towards the one on the left. Just before you reach it, turn right through a metal gate and walk between two fences.
● Go through a five-bar gate at the end and turn right along a farm track (SO940145). After 350 metres, cross a stile by a metal gate on the left and carry on with the hedge on your left. Follow the path round the edge of the field, keeping the hedge on your left and carrying on past any gaps in it.
● When you come to the road, cross with care, continue over a stile and carry on alongside a fence. After 200 metres, cross a stile on the left (SO928145), head to the left of the cricket club and follow an access road past a school. At the road, turn right and walk straight on, past two Give Way signs, through Birdlip village.
● Before reaching the Royal George Inn, cross to the left-hand pavement, carry on and turn left along the Stroud Road. After a few metres, cross and follow a footpath sign down a drive to the right of a Gothic-style cottage.
● After 350 metres, turn right and immediately right again to double back along the Cotswold Way (CW) (SO921142), whose waymarks you will be following back to Crickley Hill. After heading downhill, the path starts to rise. Climb steps on the right and continue up the CW. After crossing a road, the CW continues uphill, passing a disused quarry on the right. Carry on along the CW until you come to a signpost (SO922150). Bear left to follow a footpath to The Peak, and, after crossing a stile, you will come to one of the finest viewpoints on the Cotswolds, commanding a panorama stretching from the Malverns to May Hill and, on a clear day, the Brecon Beacons.
● Head back across the stile to the signpost and carry straight on, following the CW to Crickley Hill, which you can see over to your left. After 400 metres, follow a CW waymark through a gate on the left (SO926150). Carry on, with the fence on your left, along the edge of the escarpment, passing a car park up to the right, before heading up to the main road (SO933157). Carry on along the pavement to the Air Balloon pub, cross ahead and go through the gate into Crickley Hill Country Park.
● Bear left alongside the fence, and folow the CW through two gates, until you see the rampart of an iron age fort ahead. Carry on past it, before taking a turning up to the right to return to the car park.
Distance: 6.5 miles. Time: 3 – 4 hours.
Level of challenge: Generally straightforward, although with several stiles and four busy road crossings.
Map: OS Explorer 179
Refreshment stops: Seek out the Butchers Arms at Sheepscombe, four miles south-west of Birdlip, which serves food all day at weekends (www.butchers-arms.co.uk; 01452812113)