TVL Following in their footpaths
TRAVEL EDITOR'S NOTE: Lee Forstie of Oronoco writes here of a recent walking trip in England.
By Lee Forstie
British novelist Charles Dickens once said, "Walk and be happy, walk and be healthy." What better way to follow his advice than to do it in England. My wife Gail and I did so via an Elderhostel program called Walking in England: The Cotswolds and Cornwall.
We had a week in each locale.
Home base for us the first week was in the Cotswolds in the small village of Mickleton at the Three Ways House Hotel. The hotel is the home of England's Pudding Club. Consequently our dessert menu each night offered one or more versions of the traditional British pudding.
Public footpaths are an enshrined right in England. Many of these trails pass through private property. The footpaths in the Cotswolds led from one lovely village to another.
The villages looked like what their names evoked -- Chipping Campden, Bourton-on-the-Water and Coln Denys. Flowers graced the walls and gardens of each of the honey-colored Cotswold limestone dwellings. The cottage roofs were also made of stone, except for the occasional thatched roof.
We walked through fields, across pastures amongst grazing sheep and through patches of woods as we trekked from village to village. The English fields and pastures were neatly partitioned by stone walls or hedgerows. Stiles and "kissing gates" provided entry and exit. Rarely did we have to use a road. Journalist Hal Borland stated that, "All walking is discovery. On foot we take time to see things whole." And we did -- the villages, the churches, the countryside, the flowers and the people we met.
We encountered a church built of stone in every village. These churches, some of which were founded nearly a millennium ago, still serve the local parishes. We stopped at nearly all of them. A quiet and spiritual moment in an ancient church was cause for reflection.
Our evenings were an assortment of educational opportunities of great variety. One night we had a lengthy lecture on the English Civil War. On another night, members of the Caminhayle Theatre Club of Wadebridge read from the works of the late Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman.
Our paths led through Chipping Campden several times. From there, it was but a three-mile walk back to our hotel in Mickleton. This footpath is known as Heart of England Way. The trail extends for another 82 miles beyond Mickleton.
A long bus trip brought us to Cornwall and our home for the week at the Lanteglos Country House Hotel near Camelford. The comfortable hotel is the former rectory of the adjacent church of St. Julitta. The church was established in Saxon times, rebuilt by the Normans, and underwent extensive alterations in the 15th century.
Walking in North Cornwall was dramatically different than the pastoral scene in the Cotswolds. The southwest tip of England, which includes Cornwall, juts into the Atlantic Ocean. The South West Coast Path follows this coastline for 613 miles. The path traces the edge of the high, jagged cliffs. The scenery along the walk is spectacular. We walked portions of the path as day hikes of 10 miles or less. Along the way, we stopped in fishing villages such as Port Isaac and Padstow.
The most strenuous of the walks started at the headland of Tintagel, the mythical birthplace of King Arthur. The cliff-top hike was amazing. The path went up and down in a frequent fashion. At times we were at cliff edge. Then we would angle away from the sea and down a grassy or rocky slope before climbing back to the cliff on the other side of a coast-line cleft.
One day we went inland, away from the windswept Cornish cliffs. On this day we had a guided walk across the Bodmin Moor. Perhaps fittingly, this was the only bad weather day of our two-week walking adventure. A cold driving rain swept across the moor most of the day.
This was a memorable trip.