A circular walk around Dursley

The summer holidays came and went in a frenzy of job applications, interviews, and finally a new job. There were also family and friends visiting, WarmShowers guests to welcome, and an album about Bristol to get ready for release in September. My outdoors time became limited to evening walks in the city and occasional drives out near Bristol.

So, late in August, during a regular visit to the library, I couldn’t resist grabbing Beyond Bristol: 24 Country Walks by Robin Tetlow when I spotted it on display. I came home, settled with the book and selected a walk. The choice of Dursley was easy. It was just far enough that I wouldn’t go back the following week but still easy to reach.

The very next day, I packed a day bag for my partner and I. We hopped in the car and soon left Bristol behind. City streets transformed into motorway lanes before narrowing into country roads. We missed the car park mentioned in the guide but found a spot in an unremarkable residential street. The sun was shining and it was easy to pretend summer was finally here.

We set off and left Dursley and its shops unexplored. Narrow lanes took us between fields, past grand houses, and finally into the open countryside. We ascended steeply on Cam Peak, as if to escape everyday life we had to exert ourselves and reach higher ground. We stopped for a moment on top to regain our breath and admire the views. To the east lay the rolling hills of the Costwolds with valleys nestled in their crooks, rivers, and copses dotted about. To the west lay the Severn estuary and the mountains of Wales. I stared at them, longing to be back on Offa’s Dyke Path but knowing it would be a while before I could meet it again.

We went on, descending and ascending until we reached the flatter ridge of Cam Long Down. Wales was still visible to the west and I fancied a wild camp in one of the recess of the ridge, watching the sun set over the Brecon Beacons. But it was early in the day and I didn’t have any sleeping bag with me.

We followed the path down, up, and down again. A couple advanced towards us with loaded backpacks and walking sticks. They looked like they were hiking the Cotswolds Way.

‘Beautiful day for a walk,’ the couple greeted us with a clear American accent.
We agreed.
‘Are you on the Cotswolds Way,’ they enquired.
‘Not this time no. We’re doing a day walk around Dursley. Are you?’
They were. We carried on chatting about the English countryside, the USA, and the plans they had for the rest of their time in the UK. We shared names and photos before finally parting ways, them comforted in knowing their destination was in reach and without too much uphill, us knowing we were just at the beginning of our day with plenty more uphill to come.

Out for a walk

We traversed a muddy copse to be greeted by the sight of a bench with a viewpoint. But before we could settle on it and consider lunch, a group of walkers arrived.

‘Beautiful day for a walk,’ they greeted us with a clear British accent.
We agreed once more.
With only a light pack on their shoulders, we didn’t enquire if they were on the Cotswolds way but chatted about the beauty of the local area. One of the man turned out to be very local and enlightened us on the best pubs around for a drink, a meal, or both. We took note for the evening. As the conversation drew to a close, they had inched closer to the bench, leaving us with no choice but to go on.

Our disappointment wasn’t long lived though as we happened upon Uley Bury, an Iron Age hill fort, within minutes of having left the bench. We settled at one side of it, our view made of trees, hills, and fields. Everything was coloured green no matter where we looked. Happy with this find, we sat down and unpacked our food.

Our bodies refueled, we hiked down the hill and followed the river Ewelme for a while. The going was easy as we followed the lay of the land chatting about this and that, watching the birds play hide and seek with the trees. We took a turn left and entered the village of Uley. We found a small arts centre adorned by a coffee shop. Tempted by the idea of tea and cake we considered stopping but time was ticking on and we still had a good five miles ahead of us. Soon the map and book instructions stopped matching the land around us and it became clear that we were lost.

We knew we weren’t too lost as Uley was on our route. We only needed to find the old mill. So we walked out of the small back roads in search of a high street. On the way we met a lady gardening and enquired about the mill. Unfortunately she had only recently moved in and knew nothing about it.

Defeated, we reached the main road and stopped for a minute. I assessed the map more carefully. I could see the road, I could see the path we were supposed to be on, and I could see a telephone box not far from it.

‘Let’s walk on, there’s supposed to be…’ But before I could finish my sentence, an old woman came running towards us.
‘I hear you’re a bit lost. You’re looking for the old mill?’
I closed the book and smiled.
‘Yes. Do you know where it is?’
‘Absolutely. You just need to go on this road and follow it until you see a telephone box. There’ll be a junction after that. Turn left, follow the road and take the first left. Follow it for a few minutes and you’ll find the old mill.’
We both thanked her, happy to have confirmation that we weren’t about to go horribly off-piste and that the telephone box still stood erect.

A few minutes on the main road to Dursley from Uley we found the crossing, the first left, the old mill, and a few metres away, our path. We were going through fields once more, going up and around electric wires before entering Coopers Wood, the path muddy under our feet, and our views restricted to trees. The path veered to the edge of the forest, the trees thinning to our left and opening onto the landscape we had walked a few hours earlier. It felt good to see how far we’d come and to know what the land looked like on the other side of the valley.

As we went, both lost in our thoughts, we happened upon a rope swing and couldn’t resist taking turns. Behind us, a young farmer glared at us with envy in his eyes. I hoped he would soon be finished with his day’s work and be able to enjoy the swing.

Eventually we tore ourselves away from the rope, mindful of the grey clouds inching their way in our direction. The woods ended replaced by the outskirts of Dursley. We stepped along quiet roads until the path veered under the trees once more. As we disappeared under their canopy, the rain began to fall. Grudgingly we paused to change into our rain gear, there was less than a mile to go. Soon we were back on Dursley streets, our steps fast as if to pass between the rain drops. But before we could reach the car, the rain intensified and made us run to the shelter of the market place where we had began the walk. We looked at each other, both with the same question in our mind.

‘Do you want to wait it out?’
‘For a bit.’

I sat on the stairs and began perusing the pubs in the area, the list of the local man we had met earlier still fresh in my mind. Unfortunately all of them where in the opposite direction from Bristol. So we headed for a Dursley pub instead. There was no food available, but we had a drink and a rest in the warmth while we let the rain pass before heading home.

Bonus video

Dappled leaves on the Cotswolds Way

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Nature Sound of the Month – Final goodbyes and August round-up

Annoucement

As mentioned last month, August was the last challenge to be issued for Nature Sound of the Month.

A year has gone since the challenge was launched and the first theme was released. It’s been a lot of fun to listen to your sounds and sonic memories, but it is time to end this challenge. New projects are about to be launched and demand too much of my attention. I simply don’t have the time to maintain this challenge running.

With Nature Sound of the Month, I wanted to broaden your experience of the outdoors by asking you to listen. Too many outdoors challenges ask you to focus on what you see rather than what you hear. And while visuals can be stunning they are not always present, nor do they necessarily align with beautiful sounds. When you close your eyes, your perception of a place change. What was the best scenery can turn into nothing much, and vice versa. My quest open ears if not over however. It is simply undergoing a change of format.

I want to thank everyone who shared the challenge along the way and sent contribution, in the forms of recordings or words. It’s been fantastic to discover people’s interpretation of the themes.

I hope you have enjoyed the challenge as much as I did.

But before I close this challenge for good, there is one last round-up to complete. Here it is.

August round-up

Last month, the nature sound of the month focused on the sounds of your holidays and rest days. Here is what has been captured:

Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad (Return Trip)
Recorded by Vince Hancock.


Recorded by Jonathan.


Recorded by me.

What have you been listening to this past August?

#30DaysWild – Week 03

Make room for nature!

This is a cry from The Wildlife Trusts, urging us to remember nature and pay attention to it during our everyday life. Nature isn’t something to be enjoyed during our time off and lose sight of when we fall back into our daily routine. It is a home that needs to be nurtured and taken care of constantly. But this, is too easy to forget.

So this month, I, and hundreds of people across the British isles have pledged to be a little more wild. Here is what I chose to do during the second week. Catch up with week 01 here, and week 02 here. For daily update, follow me on Instagram or Twitter.

Day 15

I moved to Bristol in winter and at the time, the part of my commute photographed above was barren. It was a tangle of branches, the browns and greys of the barks mixing with the fences and buildings around. I could see robins dart about or stay still on a tree. And I wondered… How would all this look in Summer? It is like a tunnel of leaves, green overpowering the grey of the tarmac and engulfing the fences around. The buildings are lost to me making me forget I’m in a city. Birds darts in between trees but I only see them in flight, their homes and feeding station hidden by the foliage.

Day 16


When I’m at work there isn’t much time for nature. I have to get up, go to work, come back home, do the usual chores, go to bed, start again. But there is always my commute and lunch time. I may only have half an hour, but even in the centre of Bristol it’s easy to find a spot of grass within a two minutes walk. I have found one and it has become my lunch time spot. I lay down on it, eat my sandwich/soup/salad, and close my eyes. Or I pick up a book and read, because books are the best lunch dates.

Day 17

A day off brought me and my partner to Oxford. We meandered in the city centre for hours, not quite able to get lost in such a confined environment, but always escaping the bigger streets for narrow ones. Spires rose, yellow stones encased the colleges away from commoners, and all around nature made its home in the cracks of the architecture. As the heat of the day was not relenting, we retreated to the Thames and walked along the water until we found a quiet spot to dip our feet in and watch the natural world and humans go by for a while.

Day 18

It was time to head back home but not via A roads and the motorway. Instead, we drove into the Cotswolds, stopping at Burford for a long walk in the countryside. There were quiet tarmac lanes but also plenty of meadows and fields where I was free to take off my shoes and let the grass cushion my steps. I wish I could walk barefoot more often. We found a river and I took a swim before we had lunch by the water, the ducks always hoping for some of our food. We drove away but stopped again at the sight of another river. The water was very shallow but that didn’t stopped me. I jumped right in and walked in it for a while, the coolness of its water a blessing on such a hot day.

Day 19


Back to work, my everyday routine was broken by small birds on the cycle path by the Avon New Cut. I stopped my longboard and watch them attempt running away from commuters. I wondered what they were but work soon took over my mind and I dismissed the question. But on my commute back home, the little birds were still there, hoping about. I stopped and watched them for a while longer than I had in the morning. And it hit me. Those little baby birds are baby seagulls. And in that instant I realised I’d never seen one in my life, or had never paid enough attention to notice. Eventually I got back on the board, happy beyond belief at having seen and recognised those creatures we too often think as mean and ugly.

Day 20

Darkness was beginning to fall upon the city when I made my way home. I had spent the day at work and the evening at the Bristol Bike Project. I had seen nature on my commute but hadn’t paid more attention to it than usual. So on my way back, I slowed down and stopped by the river for a while. All I could hear was the distant hum of traffic and the slow rumble of trains. And there, above a bridge, gulls had congregated, all still and silent, a sight I could have easily missed had I not stopped to take in the evening atmosphere.

Day 21

The summer solstice has always been cause for celebration. When I was a child in France, musicians would take to the street and play through the day and night. If it was a school day, I was left free to wander the streets, following the notes that attracted my ears. As I grew older, Music Day became a small pause in the midst of exams, a relief that it would soon all be over and summer would finally begin. And then I moved to the UK, a place where there is no Music Day, not like in France anyway. So I took to spending time outside, immersing myself in nature. At first, it was simply long walks in London, making the most of the long day. Gradually, I began to escape the city, exploring the countryside and sleeping outside. And ever since it has become a tradition. On the summer solstice, I pack my bag and go on a microadventure. This time, I pedalled away from my front door and into Somerset (but more on that later).

Bonus video

For daily update, follow me on Instagram or Twitter.

#30DaysWild – Week 02

Make room for nature!

This is a cry from The Wildlife Trusts, urging us to remember nature and pay attention to it during our everyday life. Nature isn’t something to be enjoyed during our time off and lose sight of when we fall back into our daily routine. It is a home that needs to be nurtured and taken care of constantly. But this, is too easy to forget.

So this month, I, and hundreds of people across the British isles have pledged to be a little more wild. Here is what I chose to do during the second week. Catch up with week 01 here. For daily update, follow me on Instagram or Twitter.

Day 08


I am fascinated by rivers. I love to sit by one, watch the water slowly move and the wildlife make their home or visit its banks. The past few years, I have been lucky to live near rivers and make them part of my commute. So each day, I salute one. But not like a friend because rivers are dangerous. I fear water more than I fear anything else in the outdoors. Instead, I salute them like the ancient Greeks would have a goddess, with respect and a distance that can never be breached. The Avon New Cut (which is my current bit of river) is tidal, and one day, I will take the time to sit all day, watch it rise and fall to the whims of the sea.

Day 09


I was in a rush that day. There had been work all day, and then I needed to pop into the library before heading to a Women and Bicycle meeting. But always when I’m going too fast, nature reminds me that I need to slow down. Like this patch of wild flowers left by Bristol Cathedral. The grass has been cut short apart from one little strip. Bursting with summer colours, I could do nothing but stop. So I did. I sat down next to it for a moment and reminded myself that no life depended on me being exactly on time for my evening schedule.

Day 10

Having been reminded to slow down, I did just that on my commute the following day. I was happily cycling along when I spotted a red dot among the grey of metal posts and green of leaves. I pulled the brakes, got off the bike, and for a moment observed this ladybird. She just hanged there as the breeze moved the twig she was resting on (I can only ever think of ladybird as female for some reason). And for the rest of the day, I kept thinking about this insect. A reminder that once, I, too, had nothing better to do than lie in the grass and let time wash over me. A lesson I vowed not to forget and yet one that I keep having to be reminded about.

Day 11

I didn’t have to go to work that day. So instead I lazed in bed, listening to the radio before eventually making my way in the garden where the bike awaited me for a good clean. I didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings until I finally took the bike for a ride. I didn’t go far, just my local nature reserve. The nesting robins were quiet and I wondered if I would ever hear them again. The coppiced area I had helped create was almost completely closed off by growing vegetation. Teenagers were lying in the grass silent as I passed by. A few dogs ran past, their tongue flying by the side of their mouth. And birds sang in the evening coolness. Everything was as it should be.

Day 12


The plan was simple: grab my bike, grab a friend, go to Abergavenny. So I did. Speed was not an essential. What mattered was to be on the bike, to be outside surrounded by nature, and to be furthered acquainted with my local area. We stopped to greet donkeys, horses, pigs, and alpacas. We watched birds dart in and out of edges, none in the mood to race that day. I saw swallows dancing in the sky and almost cried out of joy. Birds that had accompanied me on my journey in the Iberian Peninsula, providing me with endless shows, had been strangely absent of my landscape this year. I had missed them. We pulled the brakes on top of a climbed and observed the Sugar Loaf and Skirrid Fawr, peaks I am begin to recognise from my walk around Wales. And eventually we arrived in Abergavenny, my local area a little more named, a little more mine.

Day 13


How often do you stop in a park between work and home? If you’ve never done it, you should try it this month. It doesn’t have to be for long but before you get in your car/bus/bike/shoes/etc., try unwinding in a green space. Don’t get hold of your phone, simply watch the world go by and let work wash away from you. I promise you’ll feel better for trying it.

Day 14

The sun has finally arrived this week and so I got the longboard out once more. I love how it slows me down even more than cycling. I glide across the pavement and the landscape pass me by but it’s never a blur. Instead I see the white clover in the grass, the overhanging branch and the details of its bark narrowly avoiding my face, the sprout of grass in a concrete crack. It’s definitely a good way to get to work.

Bonus video

For daily update, follow me on Instagram or Twitter.

Walking the 1066 Country Walk

A month ago, I received a message from Jonathan (from In Which I). We’ve been in touch regularly via our blogs but it was the first time we’d chatted through e-mails. His message went something like that:

’Are you a walker? We’re planning to walk all of the 1066 Country Walk on 10-11 September over two days.’

I did not hesitate when I read that line and replied that I would be more than happy to tag along. Ever since coming back home from my recent cycle tour, I have been meaning to go on a walk. I had gone as far as cleaning up my walking boots. They were still dirty from the Lyke Wake Walk. And that had been almost a year ago. I had missed the slow pace of my feet and the amount of details that come to life from this mode of transportation.

1066 directions

river

On Saturday 10th of September, Jonathan, Dan and me departed from Pevensey train station, quickly exciting the village to venture into the flatlands of Pevensey levels. The sky was hidden behind a cover of grey clouds choked up with rain but I did not worry. The weather people had assured us it would remain dry until mid-afternoon. Our stride was light and eager as we followed the green line on the map more than the signs. We talked a lot and without us noticing a couple of hours had passed. It was easy to walk.

But soon the hills began. We stopped on a bench in a churchyard for a break, filling ourselves with snacks to power us on. Above the field by the cemetery a crow and a kestrel engaged in an air pursuit, the bigger of the two intent on chasing the other one away. We watched them until they became two ball points in the distance, and we couldn’t distinguish which bird was which.

cemetery

map checking

We rose from the bench and went on. We passed Herstmonceux castle, the Observatory Science Centre, and a lone trig point, an odd sight at such a low altitude. We entered a forest, our bodies shadowed by a canopy of leaves and emerged by a very orderly brown field.
‘It’s like a zen garden,’ Jonathan commented.
I had to admit it was impressive. Tidy lines zigzagged throughout, the patterns changing at regular intervals. I couldn’t even spot a wheel track anywhere. I let my eyes rise to the top of the field where the earth stopped and the clouds began. I knew there was a slope on the other side but from the bottom of the rise, I could easily ignore it and pretend the field stopped where my gaze did. I smiled at the simple vision. I would have never found it if not for this walk. I snapped a picture, backing up my mental memory into the digital one of my camera.

zen field

The hills became steeper and I was surprised at how well my legs were taking it. I knew walking and cycling did not engage the same muscles but my body seemed to fair well. I silently hoped it would remain so. There were still many miles to go. But first we stopped for tea under the watchful eyes of cows.

tea time

curious cow

Lunch followed soon after. We were over halfway into our route for the day. As we packed away what we had not eaten, I braced myself for the afternoon dip I usually encounter when walking. But it did not come. Instead of my world narrowing down into pain and boredom, it expanded and I noticed every details of our surroundings. A bee was nestled in between John Dowie apples. Blackberries sprouted on bushes everywhere, their juices melting in my mouth as I pressed them against my palate. The breeze sent ripples through the high grass, their blades rubbing my black trousers. Flowers still shone defiantly in spite of the turn of the season. And we were walking in the middle of it all, words and ideas easily flowing between us.

apples and bee

flowers

And before I realised it we had crossed a road and found ourselves by Great Park Farm shop and café, a couple of miles from Battle, our end point for the day. We sat down for tea outside. And the rain began to fall. We huddled closer, trying to fit under the sun shades that were now used as umbrellas, and drank our teas safe and dry. But one of the sun shade had other ideas in mind and dropped a puddle of water over Dan.
The waitresses came around to clean the tables and it was time to go. The rain had petered out into a drizzle but still we put on our rain coats and climbed one last hill for the day before taking off our boots. My legs were still good but I knew better than to trust my body and began to stretch my muscles. There was still 15 miles to walk the following day.

tree trunk portal

The next day I awoke with the sun. I rolled over in my bed and glanced out of the window. There was a blue sky. I got off bed and eagerly made my way downstairs. My legs felt stiff but I ignored them. I hoped that once we got going, the muscles would relax and forget the miles of the day before. Boots on and snacks packed, we met up with friends and set off to Rye.

group walking

We excited Battle via the Great Wood and soon found ourselves in the middle of a golf course. Balls flew to the clacking sound of metal against plastic, but I paid them little attention. I was too busy chatting away with new friends, getting to know one another. Conversation flowed and it felt great to be sharing this walk with other people on such a beautiful day. It was summer again and my worries about job hunting, interviews, and money melted away.

grass and tree island

lone tree

A lone swing hung from a tree. ‘You want a go at it, don’t you?’ Jonathan said looking at me. I couldn’t resist the smile growing on my lips. ‘Oh yes.’ I admitted and climbed onto the seat sending my legs in the air and leaning into the air flow. There was nothing to do but enjoy that simple moment of joy. So I did.

jonathan swing

We left the sheltered footpath we had been following for an open field. The sun heat fell on us and we took a break to hydrate and shed some layers of clothes. I could have easily taken a nap but there were many more miles to go. I took another swig at my water bottle and marched on with the group. The hills began and we promised Peter that they were all actually flat or downhills rather than uphill. I wished that had been true. My calves began to hurt as we ascended and I found myself stretching at every opportunity hoping it would help the muscles. It mostly didn’t but it wasn’t difficult to ignore the pain. The sun was shining bright, I was in good company, and summer felt like it would never end.

many paths

going uphill

Paths spread out in front of us as we climbed down yet another stile. We poured over the map trying to find the right way. Everybody seemed to have their idea as to which route to take and we spread out over the hill, all trying to find the next way marked post. Jonathan had picked the right path and we all converged towards him, past a farm, past a pub, and into a field where we stopped under the shade of a line of trees for lunch.

lunch time

More hills followed and led us to a trig point. It still felt too low for one but at least we had climbed a hill and the view spreading out in front of us was worth a stop and a photo. Square of greens joined yellow ones, with the occasional brown and white dots of cows and sheep. And everywhere trees clustered in small woods or borderlands between the fields. Above it all, the sky was baby blue, trails of translucent clouds like paint brushes on canvas.

view

view

The afternoon slumber didn’t come that day either, and it was with high spirits that we approached Winchelsea where we had promised ourselves a pub break. But before entering the town, Jonathan got stung by a wasp, sending a ripple of panic through our group with his cries of ‘Get of me! Get of me! Get of me!’. Luckily, he wasn’t allergic and the sting hasn’t been deep. He was able to walk on.

We stopped at the pub for a well-deserved break and sipped our drinks with relish, their freshness a welcome relief from the hill climbs, and the alcohol soothing to our aches and pains. I could have happily remained on the bench watching the light of day dim into night but we were not at our final destination yet.

pub break

We strapped our backpacks on once more and walked out of the village and met up with Dumb’s Woman Lane before leaving it for the gentler ground of a footpath. The sun was at our back, its warmth fast disappearing. I gave it a silent thanks for the day it had given us and walked on. Houses began to appear and it hit me that we must have reached Rye. ‘Is that Rye?’ I asked Jonathan unsure of myself. I couldn’t quite believe that the day was already coming to an end. There had been two miles to walk from Dumb’s Woman Lane and somehow it didn’t feel like we had done two miles since then. ‘Yes, it is.’ He confirmed. So that was it. We had walked the 1066 Country Walk and it was time to go home.

sign