• Jennifer Richardson
  • Field Guide Number Three: Walk for bickering against a scenic backdrop on a fine day
Field Guide Number Three: Walk for bickering against a scenic backdrop on a fine day
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Just in time for all the fine summer weather in England, here's an excerpt from my book, Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage. It's a guide to one of my favorite walks in the Cotswolds, plus I disclose all my best tips for maintaining marital harmony while undertaking sporting activities with your spouse.

Distance: 8 Miles

Duration: If you are walking with your partner, allow half a day for this ramble. If your walking group consists of women only, you can slice off an hour thanks to your intuitive sense of and ability to ask for directions. If your walking group is all male, best not to make any plans for the rest of the day and do remember to bring a GPS-enabled mobile phone.

Difficulty: Moderate with some steep sections, especially if you accidentally veer off the path

Here’s one of my favorite rambles/ways to fight with my husband, starting and finishing in the lovely village of Snowshill. Snowshill is that rare thing in the Cotswolds, a village with a name that sounds as picturesque as it really is. Other Cotswold villages are laden with less charming names. Upper and Lower Slaughter come to mind, as do Northleach, Eastleach, and Lechlade, which together form a triumvirate evocative of leeches and lecherousness.

1. We start where we intend to finish: the pub. After fortifying yourself with a ploughman’s lunch at the Snowshill Arms, head left out of the pub and walk along the road past Snowshill Manor, now a National Trust property open to the public. If you’ve started to fight with your partner over directions at this point in the walk, it may be best to cut your losses and just pay a visit to the Manor or the lavender farm farther up the road.

2. Beyond the parking lot, there is a stile and signpost for a public path on the left-hand side of the road. Follow it through the sheep field and down into the valley. Cross the stream and follow the path up the other side of the valley until you reach a dirt road running parallel to the woods. Take a right, which will be the last time that day your partner and you agree on the route, and follow it along the woods until it starts to curve around to the left.

3. Here you will have some choices, the clearest of which would be to join the well-delineated Cotswold Way just off to your right. You may find, however, that your partner would rather argue about whether or not it is necessary to cross a field of bulls in order to progress to Stanton, throwing his or her Ordnance Survey map to the ground and accusing you of being antagonistic in the process. Best just to smile calmly in the face of this sort of behavior and wait for the tantrum to pass before starting to make slow but firm progress in the direction of the Cotswold Way (which yes, I know, is where you suggested you head all along). You’ll have a good stretch of tense silence along the Cotswold Way, punctuated by the occasional outburst that causes other fellow ramblers to hang back. This is okay, as asking them for directions at this point would be deemed further proof of your “antagonism.”

4. After a while, you’ll reach a crossroads where, if you’re lucky, a pink nosed, fluffy lamb will have broken loose from the adjoining pasture. This will give your partner a chance to rescue it before it succeeds in strangling itself by head-butting the wire fencing in its futile attempts to get back to mama ewe. Your partner’s ensuing feelings of heroism will help defuse any lingering resentment toward you for having a good sense of direction. Pointing out that any old fool could see where to go just by using Broadway Tower as a landmark is not advised at this juncture, as it would jeopardize your credibility when it came to influencing the decision to go right and continue on the Cotswold Way into Stanton.

5. This is a lovely leg of the journey, where near-tame, chocolate colored cows swirl around you on the path. Careful, though. In your state of bucolic bliss, you may impulsively suggest a shortcut that takes you off the Cotswold Way, through some woods, and down a muddy, precipitous decline into Stanton. You’ll soon know you’re in Stanton when you arrive at a little triangle of a green with a ceremonial coach light hanging from a wooden post. The church is to the left, and the pub is to the right. Naturally, you should head right.

6. The Mount Inn delivers panoramic views from its two patio areas. Enjoy some refreshment before heading up and out on the path just behind and to the left of the pub. The route out is more efficient than the improvised route in, and within twenty minutes, you’ll be back to the site of Operation Lamb Rescue. This will stir up good memories in your partner so that he or she is susceptible to your final route alteration (my, you’re brave), which takes you off the Cotswold Way via some National Trust signposted woods. Soon you’ll be in another sheep field, then head right on the road all the way back into Snowshill. The pub may yet be open for evening service, but check around back and the barmaid may just serve you a pint of SBA and a ginger beer to enjoy in the garden, as she did for us.

JENNIFER RICHARDSON is the author of Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage, the 2013 Indie Reader Discovery Award winner for travel writing. The book chronicles her decision to give up city life for the bucolic pleasures of the British countryside. Americashire is out now from She Writes Press, and you can find Jennifer online at:

www.americashire.com
www.facebook.com/americashire
www.twitter.com/baronessbarren
www.goodreads.com/book/show/17691662-americashire
www.pinterest.com/baronessbarren

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