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Sunday 11th January was a bright, but breezy morning and 28 Ramblers and 3 guests completed a 5½ mile walk starting from Lydiard Park near Swindon. Starting from St Marys the 13th century parish church of Lydiard Tregoze, they trudged through much mud towards Holborn and on to Washpool. Following an overgrown track they crossed more fields to come out on Stone Lane. Passing the back of Toomer's garden centre they trekked through a small wood where they relaxed for a coffee break. The route continued along the edge of a cricket field with a good view of Purton Manor House, which was rebuilt by Lord Chandos at the end of the 16th century. A series of kissing gates brought them out to Bagbury Lane Farm and after slogging through more mud they arrived at the village of Lydiard Millicent. By this point they had climbed over 21 stiles.
Passing by the award winning Sun Inn they made their way between some houses and back into fields, tramping through more mud. Upon entering the popular area of Lydiard Country Park they walked around the lake with its abundance of swans, geese and ducks and excellent views of Lydiard House which was the home of the St John family. The House is now a popular wedding venue; there is also a conference centre attached to it. They were now back at the cars and despite there being a lot of muddy boots and trousers everyone appeared to have enjoyed the walk.
Eleven hardy Ramblers set off from Seven Springs, on their traditional start to the New Year nine mile circular walk. It was a cold and foggy January morning with ice on the ground. Skirting the twin-roundabouts on the A435 they up went past Windmill Farm, before joining the muddy Cotswold Way to Hartley Hill. The group continued on around the escarpment to the highest point at 293 metres above sea level. After stopping for coffee above the Devil’s chimney, they followed a path through Hill Farm to rejoin the Cotswold Way. The track took them past Salterley Grange to reach the National Star Centre at Ullenwood. Crossing the main road the walkers went down Greenway Lane, before turning left onto a muddy path through Crickley Hill Country Park. On reaching the visitor’s centre they enjoyed a cold lunch break – still surrounded by the fog which was robbing them off any views. The walkers then rejoined the Cotswold Way, and soon reached the notorious Air Balloon Roundabout. Taking great care, they crossed the busy A417, to find the Gloucestershire Way. Heading South-east the party went past Rushwood Kennels to Coldwell Bottom. Next they used the track down to the small village of Lower Cobberley, and after traversing the infant River Churn, they took a path back across fields to Seven Springs.
On Sunday 28th December 22 members set out on a cold, frosty morning for a 6 mile walk from The Old Prison at Northleach. It was the final walk of the 40th Anniversary Year, during which they had tried to recreate the original walks from the first year of the group's existence. The walk was led by Bill, who has been leading walks for the group for over 20 years.
Before setting off he gave a brief history of the Police Station and Prison, a 19th century house of correction. Built in the 1790s this was once a fine example of a model prison used to inspire better care and rehabilitation of prisoners throughout Britain and further afield. It even served as a blueprint for London's Pentonville Prison. Over the years the building has seen many changes of use including a police station, petty sessional court and more recently a heritage centre and cafe. Today you can still see one of the original cell blocks built in 1844 along with the court room.
Crossing the road the group walked through Northleach and out onto the Eastington road before climbing up the hill out of the town. They then turned left crossing fields past a small lake near Upper End Farm. The group continued past Black Barn to reach the busy A40. After crossing with care they walked along a stretch of typical Cotswold countryside to reach the pretty village of Farmington. Here they took a coffee break and were fortified by a tot of Shirley's excellent sloe gin; a welcome warm on a very cold morning. John, the Chairman, then thanked Bill for all his hard work, not only leading walks, but also providing extensive local knowledge through his work on the Footpath Committee. He was presented with card on which members expressed their appreciation of his hard work over many years.
Leaving Farmington they walked along the road before turning left to descend Bunker's Hill and along a lane to the start, where many members visited the Cotswold Lion Café for a warming drink.
On Sunday 21st December 20 members celebrated the penultimate walk in their 40th Anniversary Year. Leaving the village of Sapperton, they walked through Dorvel Wood to Dane Lane. Entering Daneway Banks Nature reserve, a member of the group told us about the interesting life cycle of the rare Large Blue butterfly, which can be found here in the summer.
They then entered Siccaridge Wood before crossing fields to Far Oakridge,walking through the village and passing by the war memorial. They then began the descent which took them to the River Frome and the Three Groves Wood Nature Reserve, A short walk brought them to the site of the Thames & Severn canal. They walked along the canal towpath until reaching the Daneway Inn. Here, 9 walkers stopped for lunch and the other 11 continued towards the Sapperton Tunnel and then the village of Sapperton.
On Sunday 14th December members assembled in the Waterloo Car Park to drive to the Royal Agricultural University to begin a five mile walk. Leaving the car park by the main entrance they followed the Monarch's Way towards the village of Coates. They walked on muddy paths and fields passing Trewsbury House, a Grade II listed building. After a coffee stop near the Thames and Severn Canal at Sapperton, the group walked back via the now defunct Rural Skills Centre to reach the university for their Annual Christmas lunch.
Fifty members and friends sat down to an excellent 3 course meal in the Ken Russell room. In the room Paul Maidens and friends had set up a TV to show all the events and walks that had taken place during our 40th Anniversary Year. The Chairman thanked everyone who had helped to make this year such a success and thanked the staff for the excellent meal provided. After coffee and raffle the group then departed, having had a very pleasant morning in the company of friends.
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