Camping Inspiration: Walking In The Cotswolds
The Cotswold Way gained official National Trail status in May 2007 but had been walked for years before that. And for anyone wanting to sample all that this wonderful region has to offer I can highly recommend it.
It’s a firm favourite of generations of walkers and tourists and has developed quite an aura of mystique and romanticism around it.
It’s easy to see why this landscape has developed such popularity down the years.
The features that epitomise the region as a whole are the honey-coloured buildings, the stunning villages and the meandering paths that favour the high ground and give great views of the surrounding area and huge skies.
You will also come across the phrase “typically English” used quite regularly round these parts - and this really sums it up quite nicely! This is England as many visitors from overseas imagine it.
The Cotswolds was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1966 and caters for all tastes, from those who love to wander down quaint streets and visit grand stately homes, to others whose passion is spending time in the great outdoors on hilly uplands.
It has to be said that the walking here is excellent with a superb path network and rolling hill country (known as “wolds”) that, combined with a pleasant summer climate, makes for an ideal place to put on boots and head for a day on the slopes.
The Cotswolds is about 90 miles long and 25 miles wide, with the counties of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire containing most of the region. Wilshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire also have parts of this stunning landscape within their borders.
The rolling hill country rises from the meadow land of the upper River Thames and reaches a good high point at the Cotswold Edge.
The familiar Cotswold Stone is a warm, oolitic Jurassic limestone and is very rich in fossils. It is this stone that gives much loved villages like Broadway, Bourton-On-The-Water, Snowshill and Chipping Campden their unique golden hue.
The best time to come here is between late spring and mid-autumn when you are simply transported to a heavenly region of endless views that live in the memory long after you have returned home.
The highest point in the Cotswolds is on the summit of Cleeve Hill which rises to 1,083ft/330m and has a lovely undulating and expansive top that gives great views over Cheltenham from its edges. For those who are not natural hill walkers, there is even a car park almost at the summit trig point so you enjoy the hills without having to climb them, which can’t be bad!
It’s quite surprising actually how many hills there are scattered around the Cotswold area for those who like to walk to high places. True, none of them are of mountain status, but all give a nice pleasant day out that is not too over taxing.
As well as walking for hours on end there are stately homes, castles, ancient churches and hilltop towers to occupy your time here too.
There is an extensive network of campsites and everyone will have a favourite that they use often. Most are located in rural places and offer good facilities and plenty of peace and quiet which is, after all, what we come camping for isn’t it?
You will often find yourself camping in rolling farm country with well-built dry stone walls everywhere and sheep dotted hillsides as a backdrop to your tent view.
On the hills, you will mingle with day walkers exploring the footpath network and with long distance hikers tackling the Cotswold Way National Trail. And the one thing they will all have in common is a contented gleam in their eyes and an aura of tranquillity about them.
Words and pictures: Steve Goodier
Walking the Cotswold Way by Kev Reynolds
Cotswold Classic Walks by William Fricker
Short Walks in The Cotswolds (Collins Ramblers series)
50 Walks in The Cotswolds (AA 50 walks series)
Cotswolds Short Walks (Pathfinder series) by Nick Channer
The Cotswolds make for generally kind walking country. Nevertheless, you will often find yourself in remote locations so carry a map and compass and know how to use them. The Cotswolds AONB covers a large area but the two maps below will cover most of the main walking areas be you long distance walker or day hiker
Ordnance Survey OL Explorer 45 – The Cotswolds
Harvey’s National Trail Maps – The Cotswold Way
WHERE TO CAMP
HAYLES FRUIT FARM CAMPING SITE
Winchcombe, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL54 5PB
Hayles Fruit Farm Camping Site is a truly unique location and is set right next to the Cotswold Way National Trail amid great walking country in a popular part of the Cotswolds. The campsite is part of a working fruit farm that covers over 100 acres near the town of Winchcombe.
It has been farmed by the Harrell family since the 1950s and has a farm shop where you can buy the produce and a restaurant/tea shop. The fruit farm is a popular tourist attraction and has a good carpark for visitors to use but this is not too near the camping field so crowds and noise would not be a problem if you were sitting by your tent. Indeed, most campers make at least one visit to the farm shop and café during their stay here!
The campsite takes tents and caravans but tents can be pitched in a separate area of the field which is large and surrounded by trees and bushes and very sheltered. There are only a limited amount of electric hook-ups available for tents so it might be best to book one in advance if you require it. There are a few slightly sloping areas of the field but finding a flat pitch shouldn’t be a problem.
The site has good facilities and there is a clean and tidy toilet and shower block (Portacabin style) with a washing up station for your dishes. Hayles Fruit Farm also offers a number of pre-erected bell tents to hire if you don’t want to bring your own gear. As well as this there is fishing available in a lake and a nature trail. A basic but pleasant site to stay on.
Some fire pits are available for hire if you fancy an open fire. There is no charge as long as you purchase logs from the farm shop.
ADAM HENSON’S COTSWOLD FARM PARK CAMPSITE
Bemborough, Guiting Power, Gloucestershire GL54 5UG
Near the Cotswold village of Guiting Power you will find well known TV farmer Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park, a rare breed’s park that offers great family days out for families. Adam is best known for appearances on Countryfile and Cotswold Farm Park is featured too and often referred to as Adam’s Farm.
Here you can see Highland Cattle, Gloucester Old Spot Pigs, chickens, donkeys and many other delightful creatures large and small. Kids really love the adventure playground and the “touch barn” where you can cuddle new born chicks, rabbits and ducklings.
Right next door to this you will find Cotswold Farm Park Camping Site. The site has grass pitches for tents and electric hook-ups are available for those who need them. Check-in for the site is at the Welcome Lodge and shop where wardens will allocate you a pitch. You can also collect wrist bands for the farm park here, order fresh pasties for the morning or pizza for the evening and even hire DVDs and games equipment.
The camping field is well laid out with a good track giving access to most of the areas.Most pitches are flat with a few slightly sloping ones in places. In 2017 the toilet and shower block was refurbished and is now found at the bottom of the site near the barbeque hut. Here you will also find a microwave, a freezer and a toaster. There is also a glamping tent area with a glampers’ kitchen.
You will have to be careful with your time here and allocate days for walking Cotswold footpaths and visiting villages as well as giving the kids a few days to explore the Farm Park too.
For campers, passes for the Farm Park can be bought at a day rate and then re-used free of charge for the duration of your stay.
CHIPPING NORTON CAMPING AND CARAVANNING CLUB SITE
Chipping Norton Road, Chadlington, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire OX3 3PE
Chipping Norton is a traditional Cotswold town found in the west of Oxfordshire. The Camping and Caravanning Club’s site is about four miles outside the town itself and set in the heart of the countryside. It is sheltered by mature trees and bushes and there is a road running near to two sides of it.
Check in is at reception which is in a low white building where you will also find a small shop. The wardens are really friendly and helpful and a good access track runs around the site making getting to the pitches easy. The pitches are both grass and hardstanding with plenty of electric hook-ups and the field is kept well cut and is nicely landscaped.
The main part of the site, where most people pitch, is roughly circular and the toilet and shower facility is at the far end of this in a cream coloured building. There is a laundry too and the facilities are kept clean and tidy. There is a second area for pitching to the left of (and slightly above) the toilet block and near this is a small play area for the kids to use. There is a parking area at reception and the site has WiFi. A bus stops near the site entrance so you can leave the car on the site if you want to go into Chipping Norton.
The field feels very sheltered and although most pitches are flat there are a few slightly sloping areas. The site welcomes tents, caravans and campervans and has 105 pitches overall.
There are two roads bordering the site one of which is the A361.This means that there can be some road noise at peak traffic times.