Tuesday, 20 January 2009

In pursuit of the Cotswold Way

Outside the Electric Theatre we were fascinated to see an "honesty box" Apparently all you had to do to reserve tickets for "Mama Mia" was to put your name and number on a card and place it in the box. Now surely, any less than honest avid "Abba" fans, desperate to get a seat would remove all but their own cards? Or is that just me and my suspicious mind? Was this place really as delightfully quaint as it appeared to be? "Why yes indeed" was the reply from an early morning shopper scurrying down the hill towards a High Street of shops, which we discovered later, to be a wonderful blast of a nostalgic 5o's past. "I moved here from Oxford over 20 years ago and have never looked back" she cried, as she went on her way.
Wotton-under-Edge...doesn't it just conjur up images of a sleepy little town of higgledy piggledy narrow lanes tucked under a blanket of rolling Cotswold hills? Well, that's exactly what it was. Jill was dreaming, scheming, plotting and planning (nothing new there then) as she peered intently through the estate agents window, until I pointed out that she really couldn't swap her Pennyslvania farm house with acres of land for the same price as a shoebox in the Cotswolds. Hopes and dreams dashed, and after a quick visit to a "real" Post Office (i.e. one that wasn't at the back of a Co-Op) we reluctantly set off up and over "the edge" in pursuit of the "Cotswold Way"
Wotton had started out as in Saxon times as "Wudu tun" (The farm in the wood) the "under edge" being added later around 14c to accentuate its position below the Cotswold edge. The snippet of historical fact that interested me the most was the story of Isaac Pitman, a local Wesleyan teacher. upon gaining his first post in Humberside he was desperate to return to his western routes, and who could blame him? On his way back home he happened to meet a C of E chap, who somehow persuaded him to "convert" to the "other side". Well, you can imagine, he wasn't exactly welcomed back into the bosom of the Wesleyan Chapel. Hunted out of town in disgrace, he was to have the last short word on this story. Determined to stay in his home town, he set up a rival C of E School and invented a shorthand system for his pupils. Yes indeed, here we were at the birthplace of "Sir Isaac Pitmen" inventor of Phonography.
We hadn't got very far when the threatenly grey skies decided to make our day's walk just a tad more uncomfortable. We had no choice but to "abort" the way in favour of the road. Passing by what was originally called "Soppa Burgh" conjured up thoughts of some cosmic Saxon stroking a crystal ball, muttering quietly "Many years from now, this place will become an area of outstanding beauty and therefore shall be attractively renamed Old and Chipping Sodbury"
We scurried on with a lunch appointment to keep with friends and family, up from Salisbury and down from Surrey. We ploughed on through the wind and the rain until it was with some welcome relief we saw a familiar car, on the horizon, that could whisk us away. Well, ok, so we cheated and skipped a mile of walking, but the thought of that warm dry pub was ooh just so tempting.
With three long tables pushed together the walking party swelled to seven. Soon we were tucking into delicious pub grub. With one eye on the gloomy weather through the steamy windows, we took a vote on shortening the next stretch to a 5 miler. Maps were scoured and cars were driven to the finishing line at Littleton.
And so, it was a happy band of Pilgrims that left the pub, consisting of me, Jill, husband (mine) Keith, friends Jane and Lynn, Lynns Sister, and Jane's Dad... and then the sky finally decided to brighten up our route and so there we were, finally! posing for photographs along the "Cotswold Way" It was muddy, wet, but worth it. One day, I thought, I'll come back and do this "Way" good and proper. With today's good company it was but a 5 mile hop, skip and a muddy jump to Littleton. It had been brief, but I would be back (with Jane next time) to pick up where we left off.