With a party of 13, plus dog, in four cars, we had three nights and four days of good times in glorious weather camping at the Hayles Fruit Farm, near Winchcombe, on the Cotswold Way.
The Hayles Fruit Farm is just by the ruins of Hayles Abbey, and on the hill above is “Cromwell’s Seat” where legend has it that Oliver Cromwell went up to get the best view of the destruction of the Abbey. It’s a great location for walking, with the Cotswold Way running through the site, and many other signed walking routes, so we were spoiled for choice.
On Saturday we walked into Winchcombe, and took the bus over to Cleeve Hill Village, where we climbed the 330 meter hill, the highest point in Gloucestershire, and then walked back to Winchcombe on the Cotswold Way, with amazing views of the Malverns, Cheltenham Race Track and Welsh Hills in the distance, extra rustic scenes, super clear signs for the path all the way. We passed the Belas Knap Long Barrow where we were entertained by a party of New Age worshippers with chanting and dowsing activities. The network of paths is very extensive, and we found various shorter, longer, smoother and hillier routes back down into Winchcombe, where we all met up in the Lion Inn, then walked back to camp with supplies from the town for dinner. There is a tea room and shop on the camp site, with cider and other products made on the farm, cooked breakfasts and evening meals. Each evening we enjoyed a camp fire with wood from the farm shop. By good chance, Tim found his work saw in the back of the car, which helped with cutting up extra wood for the camp fire. There is a lake on the site, which would have been great for swimming if we had been brave enough. Although some people claimed that they had “had an early swim before you were up”, sadly there was no witness or other evidence, so we did not believe them.
We kept hearing whistles and puffing from the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway heritage line which runs through the valley nearby. On Sunday, many of us took the steam train down the line from Toddington to Cheltenham and back, with some enthusiasts taking it down and back again for extra fun. Others took the Winchcombe Way north to Stanton and back on the Cotswold Way to Hayles Farm, passing ancient Stanway House, which is famous for its fountain. On Saturday we had seen a curious white plume way off in the distance, which looked like smoke, or an irrigation spray, and then on Sunday we worked out that it was the Stanway Fountain, turned on for a wedding, visible from 10 miles away.
On Monday there was a country fare in Winchcombe, very busy with happy locals and their dogs enjoying the sunshine.
As we travelled home, the news reports said that it was the hottest late August weather on record.