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Monday, 4 August 2014

Zero Waste Week

Last September I took part in Zero Waste Week.  The theme last year was Food Waste and it was particularly timely for me as I was about to start work on my next book, which is to be all about food waste and how to reduce it.

Over the last few years my family and I have been making efforts to reduce our food waste and I thought that I was pretty good at making the most of the food we buy.   Having written about reducing food waste for my book, 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free, I was pretty well versed on the standard waste reduction tricks of planning meals, shopping locally and making good use of leftovers.

But I knew just by looking at how packed full of food my fridge was on day one of Zero Waste Week 2013, that there was room for improvement.

I decided that I was going to set myself the task of emptying my fridge and it was pretty successful too. I bought nothing all week, yet we ate really well and had a great time preparing our food.  But did we learn anything and has it had a lasting effect?


The whole family have been vigilant ever since about what we buy, what needs to be eaten up first and how we can make best use of everything.  I haven't actually measured my food spending, but I feel we spend around 25 to 30% less on food than we used to.

It will soon be time for this year's Zero Waste Week which runs from 1st to 7th September and although it has a new focus this year, I'm planning to have a fridge clear out again, to see how things compare to last year and to hopefully come up with a few more use it up recipes for my next book, which a year later is finally taking shape.

The theme for Zero Waste Week 2014 is 'One More Thing' - what one more thing could you do to reduce your waste this year?  I'm looking forward to finding out what ideas other people come up with, but my own 'One More Thing' is this…

This time last summer, I had a huge clear out and managed to send 80 bags of 'stuff' to my local community shop, to reuse programmes or to recycling.  Along with a fair quantity of shoes and clothes we parted with lots of books, toys and games that I hope are now entertaining other families.  The one thing that I didn't do, though, was to mend anything so I built up an accumulation of things I didn't know what to do with because they were broken.

So this year, I'm going to have another clear out, taking a room each day of Zero Waste Week, aiming to part with at least 3 things we no longer need and dealing with anything that's broken or needs a good clean up.  I'm going to try to repair or repurpose the broken things - with the help of all those other people who are joining the Zero Waste Week challenge.  Like last year, when ideas from other people helped me use up my jars from the fridge, I'm hoping to call on other people's expertise to get better at mending.

To join in, you can sign up on the Zero Waste Week web page, here.

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2014

Thursday, 10 July 2014


According to Sustrans, one third of UK households own two or more cars.  Despite all my efforts at low carbon living, my household is part of that third.  At the start of the year we had three cars between 4 drivers.  When Junior Daughter became driver number 5 in February, I can quite understand that she wanted to have her own car.  Senior Daughter, away at uni at the time, was already planning to get her own car this summer to see her through her work placement year.  I couldn't contemplate the thought of adding yet another car to the household.  So I decided to give my car to Junior Daughter and try to manage without one (in rural Oxfordshire).

There are 28.5 million cars in the UK and the average car owner produces over two tonnes of CO2 each year.  We have long been careful to minimise our journeys.  We lift share, we combine missions like shopping with getting to school/work.  We use public transport when we can.  Even so,  I'm pretty sure we are contributing that average 2 tonnes of CO2 output.

So since February, Junior Daughter, has been driving herself to school and I have been trying to get around by bus/train and on foot.

This has been mostly possible, but I haven't yet developed the bus time table awareness for the infrequent buses that get me to within a twenty-minute walk from home.

To get to my nearest town which has excellent (if a little pricey) onward bus connections to Oxford I have a twenty minute walk in the wrong direction to get to an hourly 25 minute bus ride.

I knew I needed to get on my bike!

And now I have.  Inspired by National Bike Week, last week I rummaged around at the back of the garage and got out my bike.  I haven't been on my bike for a few years, I think!  The tyres were flat, it was a little rusty in places and it was home to a few spiders, but it seemed otherwise in reasonable working order - meaning the brakes and gears seemed to function.

I found these handy maintenance tips on the Bike Week website:

Here's my first couple of #BikeIt weeks.

Wednesday - letters to post, poorly grandma to visit (combined with helping uncle to eat up a joint of pork as grandma is off her food).  Total miles 4.

Thursday - a little further this time.  A trip to a local school to talk about what they'd like me to do as guest speaker at their certificate evening.  Total miles 10.

Dilemma of what to wear!  My main aim was not to arrive hot and sticky, so I cycled in a cotton dress and pumps and had a little crumple proof jacket and posh shoes in my rucksack.  I gave myself plenty of time so I could cycle slowly - still way less time than it would take by bus - and it all worked perfectly smoothly.

Friday - Senior daughter needed to get to work and was inspired to go by bike - my bike, because hers is tucked away at the back of the garage and probably needs attention.  My mission was therefore to be on foot, but as it involved buying 2 dozen eggs for cricket tea, maybe that was for the best. Total miles me 4, Senior Daughter 4. We both got a bit wet!

Sunday - An afternoon party 60 miles away in the wrong direction for public transport - Not going to happen by bike!  But I did manage to make the most of my car journey as I gave someone else a lift and arranged to fill the boot of the car with stuff from Senior Daughter's house that she is shortly moving out of.

Tuesday - I got a lift to Oxford to judge an up cycling competition.  I then had a twenty minute yomp to my next meeting which I managed to change the venue of so it was achievable without a car.  Mr Pitt and Junior Daughter then picked me up on their way to JD's summer school (at Eton College!!).  We took a slight detour on the way back, with the added advantage of it being a less traffic laden route, so we could check out the cycle path to/from our nearest station.

Wednesday - I get on to Google to check out train tickets as I had a meeting in Birmingham the next day. The first bus out from my village doesn't get me to Oxford in time to get to my meeting by 9.30am.
It is 10 miles to the Station.  I think about trying out the route and timing it instead of going for a run.  I think I can do it and I'm encouraged that there's a bike path for some of the way. But then I realise how much the train ticket from Long Hanborough to Birmingham is going to cost me.  It is £77 for a return ticket and then on top of that, I'd have to pay for a taxi the other end.  Way too expensive!

Thursday - Yes sadly I was back in a borrowed car, and I picked up a colleague on the way (so that's 2 train fares worth of car journey).  But I feel disappointed.

Monday - I decide to stay at my desk rather than cycle to a meeting about local transport issues.  I follow the meeting on Twitter thanks to timely Tweets by Kate from Sustainability Witney group.

Tuesday - I get on my bike to cycle to the Certificate Evening, in the hope of inspiring my audience to think in a more circular economy way.  I feel I'm in a room full of future achievers and doers and so I talk to them about the idea of putting the environment at the centre of all their wonderful ideas and creations in order to be achievers and doers in a sustainable future. I cycle home in the rain with a warm heart and a lovely bunch of flowers poking out of the back of my rucksack, much to the amusement of the various faster cyclists who overtake me.  By the time I arrive home, the rain has dried and the exercise has done nothing but create an appetite for more exercise so I go for a short run in the fading sunshine.

Wednesday - Back on my bike to meet up with the local community action groups (CAGs) and Sustainable Witney.  We clearly have too many great things to talk about and the light is going as I leave so I say my goodbyes in a hurry and peddle home.  I didn't know I could peddle that fast.  I must find some lights for my bike as it is only going to get easier to get caught out at dusk.

Today I was back in my car to do an Eco-Schools Assessment in another corner of the county.  Crossing Oxfordshire is not an easy task by public transport and I wasn't quite ready for the 60 mile round trip by bile.  I can dream though!

So far I've made 5 short journeys by bike and 4 long journeys by car, but only one of the long journeys was on my own.  I'm glad I've managed bit of peddle power and it certainly feels like the way forward.
Charlotte's Tip from The Marlborough School version of
 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Low Carbon Oxford Week

Welcome to Low Carbon Oxford Week!

This afternoon I'll be talking rubbish again.  I've been invited to the lovely Turl Street Kitchen in Oxford as part of the Low Carbon Oxford week's festival of fun, frolics and trans-formation, aiming to encourage more and more people to improve their understanding of carbon footprint and to take action to lower the carbon footprint of their own lifestyle.

I'll be talking about my book, how and why I came to write about rubbish and my own mission towards  a zero waste lifestyle.  We will be sharing expertise and low carbon tips, and there will be games and prizes! And … I'll be on the look out for top tips for reducing food waste for my next book. Come along and share your ideas and see what more you could be doing to live more with less - 4.30-5.30pm and again from 6.00 pm to 7.00 pm at The Turl Street Kitchen, Oxford -  today 17th June 2014.

There are lots of free talks going on all week, there's a mini festival tomorrow in Bonn Square tomorrow afternoon from 12 noon to 4pm with music, up-cycling, local producers and a bike workshop.  There will be an 'ask the expert' session too, which is a chance to share tea and cake and chat with people from the Environmental Change Institute.   I'll be there too and you can pick my brains about all things rubbish and/or how to write and publish a book.

This weekend Oxfordshire will have its very own eco-festival at Hill End Farm.  You coming?  And are you coming by bike?

It's ok…the bike is optional!

Have a great LCO Week 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Everyone's talking about Brazil!

I'm ridiculously excited about watching the opening match of the World Cup tonight. (Yes … the football one - other World Cups are available).  Brazil v. Croatia, and I've actually seen the stadium where they will be playing.

Arriving in São Paulo, I was about two hours late.  The lovely Pousada Zilah, where I was staying had arranged for a taxi to collect me.  Would it still be there, I wondered?

Efficient unloading of baggage meant that I was swiftly through the airport and out into the arrivals hall, and there ahead of me was the sign with my name on, accompanied by a flood of relief, that I didn't have to think for myself and work out where I was going in this vast city.  The moment I indicated my presence to the taxi driver, he politely excused himself to make a phone call…

"I've got her," was what I managed to understand, before he asked me if I minded talking to what I guessed was the Pousada Zilah.

"It's ok, we were just worried.  Were were expecting you here by now."

"I'm sorry. My plane was late," apologising as if to my Dad.

The lovely Pousada Zilah

How do you convey the enormity of São Paulo? A metropolis that's home to 20 million people who like their cars.

"The traffic's not too bad today," is what I think my taxi driver commented (think A40 out of London at 5.00pm on a Friday night). We are trying conversation.  He is telling me stuff in Portuguese and I'm trying to reply in very poor Spanish with the occasional smattering of Italian.  But we get by.  We pass a supermarket with a fuel station and he asks me if I mind if he gets petrol. Someone is blocking the exit and he gets stressed.  I try to reassure him that I'm in no hurry - I'm just taking it all in.

Back on the road again we pass a football stadium - it's not the Arena Corinthians - this one's finished.  The conversation turns to the World Cup (I think).  And I think he's looking forward to it.  He likes his football.

We turn off a main road into a quiet avenue and a few turns later we pull up outside the Pousada Zilah. In this haven in the midst of the vast city, I taste my first Brazilian coffee.  There's birdsong and the smell of freshly baked cakes and the sweet aroma of papaya and melon.  And there's an atmosphere of calm. Desiderata.

I find a message on Facebook from my fellow UK delegate, Lorna.  She's with friends in São Paulo and they are going to meet me here around lunchtime - maybe 1pm or 2 at the latest.

At 3.30 pm I hear someone mention my name at reception.  It's one of Lorna's friends.  We introduce ourselves. He tells me he was stuck in traffic and doesn't seem that surprised that Lorna and the others aren't here yet. We chat about life in São Paulo.  We chat about traffic.  I wonder why so many people drive in this huge city.  There's a metro.  Does anyone use it?

The problem with the metro is that it doesn't cover all parts of the city.  There's a new monorail being built, one of the infrastructure improvements for the World Cup, but it's not finished.  Later we drive past the monorail - or at least the end of it.  It just stops - looking like a scene in a disaster movie.

There's a worry that once the World Cup has been and gone the monorail project will be abandoned.

Lorna and friends arrive.  "Traffic," they say.  It makes me wonder how São Paulo functions on a daily basis.  Does everyone make their meetings with a three hour window of possible arrival time?

We head off to Ibirapuera Park.  Once again we are negotiating traffic.  Everyone else is going to the park too, clearly.  And to add to the stress (which is thankfully passing me by as I'm loving the magical mystery tour around the city) we are trying to follow one of many little black cars, can't tell you what kind of little black car.

They're link ants, they're everywhere.  You spot one, then you spot another and another and soon you see there are hundreds of them all around you, bustling about the place.  But which ant is your ant?  Ahh!

Eventually we realise we've lost 'our' little black car, so we head to the nearest car park at one of the entrances to the park, and we'll phone.  Seems, though, that everyone else in this big city is doing the same thing and we can't get a signal.  We play SMS tag as we wonder through this oasis.  This is big time family fun.  There are skate parks, bike tracks, climbing walls, rope courses.  There's ice cream and there are coconuts. There are clowns and acrobats.  There's basket ball, there's football, there are tennis courts. There's the lake. And there are trees everywhere.  Beautiful trees. 


We head off to take the children home and then we are going for pizza.  More magical mystery tour around the streets of São Paulo.  Darkness falls quickly and we are surrounded by bright lights of high rise buildings, twinkling neon as far as we can see.

We finish the evening at a birthday party - a friend of friends of friends of the people I have just met today, but it's Saturday night and I must come and see a Brazilian party.  There'll be great music, there'll be dancing, there'll be a few beers (and they don't even think to tell me about the great view from the balcony).

I'm beyond tired.  I haven't slept for forty hours, but this is São Paulo, there's music, there's laughter, there's dancing and I love it!

#Brasil xx

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Just how much plastic do we need in one bathroom?

I came across this campaign today run by The Story of Stuff.

I had no idea until I read this that things like face cream might contain tiny beads of plastic.  These plastic microbeads are abrasive and so are used as an exfoliant, to wash away the dead skin particles.  Yes wash away.  There lies the problem.  These particles are, by design, made to be washed down the drain, which means they are going to end up as pollutants.  Did no one think about that as a problem when they came up with the idea?

Our consumer culture is doing us no favours as well as harming the environment.  People invent these things, without thinking through the consequences for the environment.  That's why it is so important that we help the next generation to see the effect on the environment as being the most important part of any business or product.  'Do no harm' needs to be at the forefront of our minds as we find, develop and trial new things.

I hate the thought that many of us who care about the environment may have been using such harmful products without realising.

It makes me wary of buying any cosmetics.

At the beginning of this year my sister asked me to help her with a clear out of some cupboards.  She said she'd 'got it down to three boxes of odds and ends' that she couldn't face going through and knew that she'd likely have put it all in the bin if she didn't have a zero waste sister!  I sorted through the boxes and found homes for everything - mainly through reuse and recycling schemes run by charities.

But I did bring home a bag full of various cosmetic products - bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel - some half full, some with just a small amount in.  I did suggest to her that she could use these up and then recycle the bottles in the normal curb side recycling collection.

"But I've got a bathroom full of the stuff already!" she protested.

So I said I'd use it up myself.  I used to think I was frugal about making sure I use every bit of a product, even rinsing out the bottle as the last use of it.  The more you use up and the longer you make it last, the better - I think - as all these things take energy and raw materials to make and transport to the end user.  But when I got back home and looked at what I had in my own bathroom, I was dismayed to realise just how many plastic bottles with varying amounts of content I had accumulated.

So, I made a pledge to not buy any more cosmetic products until I have nothing left.  We're now in June, I've bought nothing, yet I still have a whole tub full of cosmetics.  I may well get to the end of the year without buying any more, and when I do finish up my current stock and recycle all those plastic bottles, I'll be thinking very carefully about what I buy in future.

I don't know if the products I already have contain plastic within them.  How do I find out if they do, I wonder?  And if they do… what do I do with them?

All these cosmetics are staying in the plastic tub.  They are coming out one product at a time and being used up before selecting the next one.  I guess that means I can be careful to read what's in them (if I can read the tiny print) but what do I do if I don't like what I find?  It seems I can make no difference now, having bought or acquired the stuff.  It just goes to show how important it is that businesses are ethical and considerate in their research and development, because once something is made - it is sometimes too late to undo the harm.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Cotswold Way

I'm missing my walking books already!

When do you start thinking about your next holiday?

(a) a week before you book it?
(b) the day you come home from your current holiday?
(c) half way through your current holiday on a windy ridge in the driving rain when you still have 5 miles to walk to reach your next overnight stop? You are covered in mud, yet you are already planning to get cold, tired and wet all over again on a different windy ridge as soon as you possibly can.

Surely not (c)?

I have to say, my week on the Cotswold Way was probably a (b) in that I think we planned it the day we got home after completing our Ridgeway walk.  We weren't cold, we weren't wet and we had at least taken off the walking boots.  

Two years pass and picture the scene: Junior Daughter was about to set off on a school trip, Senior Daughter was still away at Uni, and Mr Pitt and I were sitting in the Noel Arms in Chipping Campden just opposite the start of the Cotswold Way, admiring the deep polished chestnut brown of our pint and a half of Butty Bach, contemplating the 100 miles of walking ahead of us.

"At what point do we give up?" I enquire as I take my first sip.
"This one seems reasonable," Mr Pitt quips.

Mr Pitt is sporting an injury, after running the Bath Half Marathon a few weeks ago and so our long planned walking holiday along the Cotswold Way is in jeopardy before we've even started.  Halfway down the beer we agree that we are at least going to try our first stage - a warm-up of 6 miles talking us from Chipping Campden to Broadway.

We've learnt from our experience of walking the Ridgeway, two years ago,  and have both selected the minimum of clothing to see us through our six and a half days of walking plus an evening and a day in Bath at the end of our walk.  Everything we need for our adventure fits into two 'day packs'.  We have 500ml of good old Oxfordshire tap water between us, a guidebook and three good legs.  Let's go!

The Cotswold Way
 - The Beginning and the End
Eco tourism
How is this eco-tourism?

According to The International Ecotourism Society, 'Ecotourism is defined as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." (TIES, 1990)'

I'm sure I'm not alone in that when I think of eco-tourism, I think of exotic locations, hikes and treks to admire the flora and fauna in its natural habitat amidst beautiful scenery, awe and wonder at every turn, experiencing the local culture and of course the local food.

But there's no reason why eco-tourism can't actually be found on your own doorstep (or at least on mine - come and see for yourself!)

In order to be an eco-tourist in my own backyard, this was my plan:

1) Support local people by staying in B&B accommodation, particularly looking for B&Bs who themselves support the local area with local food.
2) Sample the local beers.
3) On the trail… take nothing but photographs, kill nothing but time, leave nothing but footprints. (I saw that on a sign at Cooper's Hill).

The makings of a pretty good holiday, I feel - especially plan number 2!

Our itinerary
If you're planning to do the trail yourself the all important thing is the accommodation and we were lucky in that all the accommodation we picked was great.  All are to be recommended.

Day One (pm only): Chipping Campden to Broadway - 6 miles

A gentle start and perfect if you need the morning to travel to Chipping Campden.  We left the pub at around two and were in Broadway by just after four.  Broadway is a fab place to stay overnight with a good choice of Bed and Breakfast accommodation and lots of lovely places to eat.  But, it is advisable to book one of these lovely eateries in advance as even early in the year Broadway was buzzing.  We didn't heed that advice and so we felt like we were traipsing along the High Street from place to place being consistently turned away - no room at the inn.  We did start to wonder whether we were overdoing it on the packing light thing.  Broadway is a smart place, but then we noticed a very well dressed couple one restaurant ahead of us also being turned away.  Phew!

Grey clouds with silver linings and all that, there was an upside to the saga… we ended up at Russel's fish and chip shop which has (posh) cafe style seating and posh fish and chips all served out of stylish bamboo compostable dishes.  I always try to think about the sustainability of the fish I eat and I know that the traditional fish and chip offerings are all in short supply.  Not feeling fully prepared for my fishy experience my mind was a bit of a blank when it came to trying to recall the sustainable fish options and cod always rings alarm bells, though I felt that a restaurant that used compostable serving dishes would likely be mindful of the source of their fish supplies.  Mr Pitt opted for cod and I chose cod cheeks, thinking that if I'm going to eat cod, then I'll go for the less popular part of the fish so as to at least make the most of it.  Cod cheeks are yummy, I can now report and on returning home I checked out the sustainability page of the Russel's Fish and Chip Shop website to find they use local oil, and responsibly sourced cod.  Aside from the food being delicious, with copious but not excessive portions, the service was warm and friendly and I would definitely recommend it.  I hope to be going again!

Cowley House B&B in Broadway
Bed for the night was the wonderful Cowley House.  A warm welcome awaited us, a comfortable bed in a pretty room and a delicious breakfast of local goodies to send us on our way.  Cowley House is right on the trail at the 'bottom' end of the High Street, which makes it an ideal place to set off from next morning.  Other advantages are the fact that there's real ale on offer across the road at the CAMRA award winning Crown and Trumpet pub.  More local ales to sample.

Day Two 18.75 miles (am): Broadway to Hailes - 10 miles  and (pm): Hailes to Cleeve Hill - 8.75

The morning took us through the beautiful villages of Stanton, Stanway and Wood Stanway.  With just over 18 miles to go we were keen not to venture too far off the trail for lunch and so we aimed for a 10 mile morning stint which took us to Hailes Fruit Farm which has a tea room and farm shop.  The tea room provides bags for walkers to put over their muddy boots - we chose to just take ours off and leave them outside!  Inside we had homemade vegetable soup which went down very well and there was an array of homemade cakes on offer.  The coffee and walnut cake was delicious.

The afternoon took us past the ruins of Hailes Abbey, the through Winchcombe and up, up, up to the Belas Knap Long Barrow.  Onwards from here we could see our destination, the beautiful Cleeve Common, so near yet so far.  Between us and Cleeve Common was a lovely wooded valley.  That meant, yes… we had to go all the way down, and all the way back up the other side.

Our bed for the night at Cleeve Hill was to be the Malvern View which lies just below the Cotswold Way.  Best of all, was that you can book to have an evening meal there.  Barry and Leana had emailed us the menu choices and we were looking forward to pea soup with mint oil, followed by roasted shoulder of lamb with seasonal vegetables & baby potatoes and finishing off with self saucing chocolate and peanut butter pudding.  I admit I've had a slight obsession with chocolate fondant puddings since.

Absolutely everything about the Malvern View was classy.  The rooms were tastefully decorated, very comfortable and we had a wonderfully reviving rain shower.  We were supplied with locally made lavender shower gel to relax our tired muscles, so we were fully refreshed when we arrived back in the dining room for our exquisite meal.  Leana is an excellent chef and with the services of a local wine merchant we had an excellent choice of wines to go with our meal.

However, fast or slow your walking pace, I really think you would be missing out if you didn't plan in a visit to the Malvern View!

Day Three 16.25 miles (am): Cleeve Hill to Seven Springs - 8 miles (pm): Seven Springs to Birdlip 8.25 miles

Day three started with a breakfast of porridge, fruits and local honey.  Just what was needed for the climb back up onto the Cotswold Way, followed by the even steeper climb once back on the trail, basically straight up to the highest point of Cleeve Hill itself.  If you look east from here, apparently the next highest point is somewhere in the Urals.   The weather was evil, but strangely, it cleared for a short time while we were on the top of the hill and we had views over Cheltenham and the race course.  I can imagine it gets crowded up here on race day!

View over Cheltenham racecourse

Cleeve Hill - the highest point along the Cotswold Way

This was undoubtedly the hardest day of walking, partly due to the inclement weather and partly because it seemed that for most of the day we were squelching through deep mud along bridleways through Prestbury Hill Reserve and Lineover Wood.

The obvious lunch option was not my favourite choice in that it was the Hungry Horse at Severn Springs - a chain pub on a main road, but we had a warm welcome despite our muddy state.  It was functional and friendly and very close to the trail.  There is little else around for most of the way.

A tempting road sign announced that Birdlip was just three miles away, but we stuck to our route and enjoyed the wonderful views on offer around Leckhampton Hill and Crickley Hill. Well we could see enough to tell that the views would be lovely if the weather were to be a bit lovelier.

Onward to Birdlip and we finished the day with a short walk up the pavement alongside the A 417 in rush hour - just enough to make me feel extremely grateful that I was walking and not sitting in my car queueing at the Air Balloon roundabout!  The path then dips down into a lovely woodland before you meet the hill that takes you up to Birdlip.

The Royal George pub provide a lovely room with very comfortable bed for a modest price together with an extensive menu of good old pub grub.  The buffet breakfast provided lots of healthy options to set us up for our days walking.

The Royal George Hotel, Birdlip

Day Four - 16 miles (am): Birdlip to Edge Common 7 miles  (pm): Edge Common to Middleyard 9 miles

Lovely woodland starts off the day, followed by a steep, steep climb up Cooper's Hill famed for cheese rolling.  The walking was much easier today, and we made good time to the lovely town of Painswick. Our lunch destination was the Edge Inn at Edgemoor a couple of miles beyond Painswick down some grassy meadows into the valley across the brook and up the other side, passing the not quite halfway marker on the way up!

Nearly half way - 47 miles in!
A ploughman's lunch and more local ale at the Edge Inn meant that I picked out this particular stretch of the Cotswold Way between Painswick and The Edge Inn (open 12 noon to 2pm) as one I'd most want to return to in the future for a pub lunch walk with friends.

A half of Uley's Gloucester Old Spot washed down the ploughman's nicely, but in the early part of the afternoon, we were a little confused about the landmarks we were supposed to be seeing according to our trusty guide book.  When Mrs Pitt realised she was holding the map upside down it all started to make sense! (And that was despite turning down the landlord's kind offer of filling her water bottle with another half of Old Spot.)

Accommodation that evening was at Valley Views in Middleyard, where we were welcomed by landlady, Pam White, who has won awards for looking after walkers and we could see why.  We had planned to walk back to King's Stanley to find an evening meal, but the pub had recently stopped serving food on a Tuesday.  However, Pam contacted a local taxi company that whisked us of to The Old Fleece in Woodchester, which had a lovely atmosphere and served well cooked local food.  Just one thing - the portions are very generous and this is the only place I have been unable to finish a meal in a long time.  If I go again - which I hope I do - I think I'd have a main course and then maybe share a pudding if there's still room!

Day Five 14.5 Miles (am): Middleyard to Dursley 8 miles  (pm): Dursley to Wotton-under-Edge 6.5 miles

The Valley Views breakfast was wonderful.  I chose yoghurt with berries and toast with home made jam (and set off feeling virtuous for avoiding another cooked breakfast).

Our morning's walk was to take us to The Old Spot in Dursley up and over some big hills.  The views over the Severn were stunning and we had a clear view of our route for the next few days.

Looking at Cam Long Down
Cam Long Down was a vertigo moment.  With the path going straight up the hill at one end there was a strange feeling of nothingness on either side as I clambered up.  I kept feeling I wanted to turn round and sit down.  A couple of times I could kid myself I was stopping to admire the view, but most of the time I was just clinging to the side of the hill in the hope of not rolling back down like a Double Gloucester Cheese.

Once on top it really did feel like an achievement.  The views all around were well worth lingering for. We met an elderly gentleman who was looking a little weary from the climb.  He told us that he'd got half way back down and realised his dog had stayed on the top of the hill, so he'd had to climb all the way back to the top to get him.

The Old Spot pub is another CAMRA award winner and we could see why. It is the epitome of the English Country pub run by people who really care about what they have on offer.  We were refreshed and revived ready for another big climb out of Dursley and up to the Tyndale Monument.  After the first steep climb up Stinchcombe Hill you come to the golf course.  You can either walk round the golf course or cut straight across it.  Our plan was to go straight across.  We later met some walkers who had chosen to walk around it and the verdict was 'not worth the extra miles'!

We stayed at The Swan in Wotton-under-Edge (tel:01453 843004). Very comfortable and good pub food.
The Swan Hotel

Day Six 14.5 miles (am): Wotton-under-Edge to Hawkesbury Upton 7.5 miles  (pm): Hawkesbury Upton to Tormarton 7 miles

A nice walk along the valley to ease us in to the penultimate day of walking, followed by another steep climb.  Once on top of the hill the path cut off a nice gravel bridle way through some grassy meadows and was a little difficult to follow.  We emerged soaking wet into a woodland and then back onto the gravel bridleway.  The detour it seemed was all so we could get a better look at Nanny Farmer's Bottom.

Nanny Farmer's Bottom
Just off the trail at Hawkesbury Upton is the Beaufort Arms.  You just keep walking on through the village instead of turning right at the green to follow the trail.  There's then a footpath from the pub back to the trail and it is another pub well worth stopping at.

That evening we arrived in the lovely village of Tormarton to stay at The Little Smithy which is a gem of a B&B.

We were entertained in the not to be missed Major's Retreat.  More excellent pub grub and local beers.

Day Seven: Tormarton to Bath 16 miles

The plan was to head to Cold Ashton for lunch - 6.5 miles in to our 16 mile day, but having set off not long after 9.00 am we were in Cold Ashton around 11 and in all my planning I hadn't remembered that the Folly End Farm was slightly off the trail, so we had walked on past and through the village before we realised we'd missed it.  We decided not to turn back, but I slightly regretted that decision two hours and another 6 miles later as there is nowhere else to stop and I don't think I made the most of the last few miles before we arrive at the village of Weston on the way into Bath - because all I could think about was a toilet!  So I'd advise a stop at Folly End Farm so you can fully enjoy the views later.

After a brief stop for a half of Severn Valley cider in Weston we continued on into Bath, but you don't just amble down to the town centre by the quickest route.  There are of course a couple more big hills to climb in case you didn't feel you'd done enough of that already.  So, up Primrose Hill and up Sion Hill, with spectacular views over the city of course, but I think my favourite bit was sitting in the sunshine, enjoying a plate of bread and olives with oil and vinegar and a cold glass of Devon white wine at The Circus Cafe with a feeling of euphoria at having walked 100 glorious miles along the Cotswold Way.

The Cotswold Way in oil and vinegar

The Cotswold Way, the beginning and the end.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Bird Behaviour

One morning last week I looked out of my bedroom window to see a wood pigeon and a magpie squabbling over possession of the cup of fat and breadcrumbs that I regularly hang in a cherry tree in my garden.

I try to avoid using plastic cups, but when I'm given one, then I make use of it again this way.  This cup is now a bit battered, as it has done several refills.  I often find the cup has gone from the tree and I have to look for it in the bushes.  Now I know how they get there and why they get battered.

As children, my sister and I used to look after ponies and one of the things I learnt then was that when putting out piles of hay for them, you always put out one more pile than there are ponies, so that if one pony is trying to nose in on another pony's hay, that pony can go to the spare pile.  It avoids the arguments.

Maybe I should put out more than one cup in my cherry tree?