Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Grand Few Days Out

Gromit 5 ("Golden Gromit")
Gromit Unleashed
Although I don't live in Bristol any more I am back there every now and then, and this summer Bristol is home to 80 Gromit Statues as part of Gromit Unleashed.

Like Wow! Gorillas back in 2011 I've been steadily collecting photos of the Gromits on my visits to Bristol (assisted by my Dahon Speed P8).

Visit my Facebook Album to see my progress. Or view the iCloud photo stream.

So far I've photographed 68 out of 80, and I've got a couple of weeks to try and get the remaining ones, although I'll probably only manage to get 7 or 8 of them as the rest are too out of the way for casual visitors. (One of them is in Paddington Station in London!)

But they will all be in Bristol at the RWA from 18th to 22nd September for one final showing before being auctioned off, so there's a chance to mop up any stragglers.

Update 4th September 2013: I've collected 76 out of 80. The ones I have left are:

  • #77 "Bristol Bulldog", Bristol Airport, Lulsgate Bottom.
  • #78 "The Secret Garden", Lye Cross Farm, Lye Cross.
  • #79 "aMazing Gromit", Cheddar Gorge, Cheddar.
  • #80 "Gromit", Paddington Station, London.
None of which are conveniently located to be collected in the next few days, so I'll see them at the RWA, or not at all.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cotswold Way - Walk 14

Walk 14: Lansdown - Bath Abbey

22nd May 2013: The forecast for today offered the best chance for arriving in Bath without having got wet, so I seized the opportunity and Teasel and I set off from Lansdown Battlefield at 10:38am.

The path returns to the edge of the escarpment at Hanging Hill, with views over Bristol and the distant Welsh Hills beyond. The trig point on the prow of Hanging Hill (235m) has no view as it is enclosed by vegetation. The path follows the edge with views over the pleasant green valley of Pipley Bottom to Keynsham and a glimpse of the River Avon.

The track runs between a wood and a golf course before cutting across the golf course (on the site of a Roman Fort) to rejoin the escarpment along the top of Pipley Wood, and runs below the earthworks of a hill fort to the prow of Little Down, before cutting back across the fort to the edge of Bath Racecourse, and then following the edge round to the viewpoint and Topograph of Prospect Stile (the final Topograph of the walk). From here the conical hump of Kelston Round Hill is prominent.

The route drops down off the edge and heads towards Kelston Round Hill. There is access to the Hill by a Permissive Path, so we made the ascent and had a sandwich at the top by Kelston Clump. From here there are views over Bristol to the North West, and Bath to South East, and further South to the Mendips.

Descending Kelston Round Hill we rejoin the official route and continue along the spur of Dean Hill to Penn Hill. All the time the sprawl of Bath continues to grow below, and the Abbey (Journey's End) can be made out in the middle of the city. We drop down off the spur, though a playing field and emerge on Penn Hill Road in Weston on the outskirts of Bath.

The route manages to weave its way through quiet roads and alleyways through a field at Primrose Hill (which is applying for Village Green status) before ascending a stepped pathway to Sion Hill. Here we cross the Bath Approach Golf Course to emerge in Royal Victoria Park.

From here a knowledge of Central Bath is quite useful, as the way markers become small stickers on lampposts and bollards and are quite easily missed among the urban visual clutter. The official route passes in front of the famous Royal Crescent and around The Circus with its carved friezes before heading in to Central Bath until you arrive at the square containing Bath Abbey.

Here there is a carved circular stone marker marking the official end (or beginning if you're starting from Bath) of the Cotswold Way. It was installed in October 2012, but when I arrived there was some work going on to the slabs around it, so I wasn't able to have a final photo taken on top of it.

We finished the walk in Bath at 1:10pm without having been rained on for the entire route.

Walk Distance: 7.36 miles (11.8 km), 2h38m.
Cumulative Distance: 110.5 miles (177.8 km), 42h16m.

This walk completes The Cotswold Way in May!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cotswold Way - Walk 13

Walk 13: Tormarton Interchange - Lansdown

21st May 2013: I was joined for this section by Helen and Minnie the dog.

We left the car park by the Tormarton Interchange at 10:13am. The route goes through fields by Beacon Lane Plantation. The motorway is hidden from view but the traffic noise makes its presence obvious. The path turns south and the traffic noise begins to die away. The path passes under a set of power lines that in 2004 were the scene of an art installation called "Field" consisting of dozens of fluorescent tubes planted in the ground. As dusk fell you could see them glowing.

Crossing a minor road the route continues down Field Lane and then skirts around the edge of the Dyrham Park Estate before descending into the village of Dyrham. Walking through Dyrham you pass the ornate gates of Dyrham Park with it's manicured lawn and grand house.

Leaving the village the path hops through a gap in the hedge to a tree with an impressive seat built all the way round it, and then continues through fields past Sands Farm nestled in a secluded green valley, past some small ponds and a larger pond that doesn't appear on the map, before climbing on a well constructed path through the Dyrham Wood blanketed in wild garlic. There is a seat here and a message box containing a book for passing walkers to leave notes.

The route crosses Gorse Lane, and a path has been made on the other side of the hedge so you don't have to walk along the road, and then after crossing a field emerges at the tiny village on Pennsylvania. Here we make the first crossing of the A46 for the day. Another couple of fields are crossed and we emerge on the A420 at the tiny collection of houses that makes up The Folly.

Crossing the A420 we follow a track to the church at Cold Ashton. This marks the 100th mile of our walk. We stopped for a sandwich on a bench outside the Old Rectory at Cold Ashton with pleasant views over the green valley to the south.

Continuing through Cold Ashton we re-cross the A46 for the last time and follow Greenway Lane downhill, past a nursery selling "special plants". The road becomes a path through fields, passes a fishing lake before climbing through fields to emerge on a track that brings you out at the site of the 1643 Battle of Lansdown, there are information panels an a monument to Sir Bevil Grenville who was mortally wounded in the battle.

We reached the layby by the battlefield, and the end of the walk at 1:53pm.

Walk Distance: 7.7 miles (12.4 km), 3h40m.
Cumulative Distance: 103.1 miles (165.9 km), 39h39m.

The final walk will take place on Wednesday 22nd May.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cotswold Way - Walk 12

Walk 12: Hawksbury Upton - Tormarton Interchange

19th May 2013: Today I was joined by Duncan and Lindsay, who also joined me on my final Munro exactly 6 years ago to the day. The weather today was more clement.

We left the pool at Hawksbury Upton at 10:11am and followed the Way along Bath Lane (a track, that is clearly heading in the right direction), until it joins Highfield Lane, here a footpath has been made through the fields on the other side of the hedge so you don't have to walk along the road. Shortly the path cuts across a field with a derelict barn and enters the aptly named Walk Wood, above Horton Court. The Way has been re-routed here to pass over a hill fort, rather than continue to Horton along the road. We stopped on a bench perched on the edge of the escarpment for a sandwich.

Crossing the fort and descending into Horton you pass a folly constructed in the year 2000 as a nesting site for swallows and barn owls, and then enter the village of Horton next to the school. Cross the main road and almost immediately you leave the village again through fields to cross a small valley that has been dammed to make a reservoir. We crossed another field (one which was full of inquisitive cows) and emerged into Little Sodbury by a farm. Past the church and along the road for a bit before ascending through a wood to come out at another hill fort that I've seen many times from the A46 but never visited before.

The path crosses the middle of the fort and then cuts back down through the wood and across fields to emerge in Old Sodbury, again next to the school. Cross the road and go through the churchyard to emerge at a popular viewpoint (complete with Topograph). We stopped and had another sandwich here.

The path descends through a couple of fields to come out at the A432, which is crossed near The Old Dog Inn. Follow Chapel Lane for a short while before cutting across fields to reach a road at Coomb's End. Here the path enters the parkland of Dodington Park, currently owned by vaccuum cleaner salesman, James Dyson. The path ascends through grassy fields grazed by sheep (and one of them featuring a statue of a stag), and crosses the infant River Frome (which eventually flows into Bristol's Floating Harbour) before coming out at the busy A46.

A dash across the road and across many stone stiles brings us to the village of Tormarton, and after following an indirect route through the village past the Church the route leaves the village along Marshfield Lane, crossing the M4 before following tracks through the fields adjacent to the motorway, and recrossing the A46 to arrive at the car park by the Tormarton Interchange. We finished the walk at 2:39pm.

Walk Distance: 9.6 miles (15.5 km), 4h26m.
Cumulative Distance: 95.4 miles (153.5 km), 36h00m.

The next (penultimate) walk will be on Tuesday, 21st May. Tormarton Interchange to the site of the Battle of Lansdown. Overall there are 15 miles of the Way remaining.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cotswold Way - Walk 11

Walk 11: North Nibley - Hawksbury Upton

18th May 2013: Teasel and I set of from North Nibley at 9:38am, along with Mark, Liz, William, George, Alice and Tess the dog, who were joining us for the start of the walk. The route crosses the B4060 and heads up a shady recessed track to ascend the slopes of Nibley Knoll. The official route ascends steep steps, but these have recently been closed by a landslip. The diversion follows the bridleway to the top of the escarpment and then cuts back towards the plateau and the Tyndale Monument. Here there are fine open views across the Severn Vale and the River Severn to the Severn Bridges.

The path now follows the edge and enters woodland arriving shortly at Brackenbury Hill Fort. Here Teasel and I carried on while our companions returned to North Nibley. The path emerges from the wood to follow the edge of a lush green field, and then begins to descend a spur towards Wotton-under-Edge. Perched on the end of the spur above the town is a stand of trees, on a spot originally planted in 1815 to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo.

The path descends sharply to emerge back on the B4060 in Wotton, and passes through the town, and follows an alley to a churchyard before leaving the town along Valley Road, which becomes a path alongside a stream, which continues across a road to come out at Coombe. Here the route follows the road briefly, before striking steeply up a track to come back out on another road over Blackquarries Hill. After 1km of road walking a track cuts off right along the edge. Follow this arrive at a seat overlooking Tor Hill. Here we found a guidebook to the Cotswold Way, but soon caught up with its owners and were able to repatriate it.

The route enters a wood on Wortley Hill and begins descending on a forest track that soon becomes a miniature ravine with fallen trees spanning the top before emerging into fields by the village of Wortley. Cross the road and follow a mown path through a grassy field to a footbridge crossing a stream, then follow a track up to the village of Alderley. Here the route skirts around the bottom of Winner Hill to join a road running alongside Kilcott Brook. The road is followed for a mile and then the path heads uphill along another recessed track, through a field and Claypit Wood carpeted with bluebells.

The track along Clay Hill turns a slight bend and suddenly the Somerset Monument of the edge above Hawkesbury appears and soon we are by the base of it. Here a permissive path obviates the need to walk along to road and at 1:48pm we arrives at the reedy farm pool by Hawkesbury Upton.

Walk Distance: 10.6 miles (17.1 km), 4h10m.
Cumulative Distance: 85.8 miles (138.0 km), 31h25m.

The next walk will be Sunday 19th May. Hawksbury Upton to Tormarton Interchange. There's about 24 miles left to do.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cotswold Way - Walk 10

Walk 10: Uley Bury - North Nibley

17th May 2013: We set off from Uley Bury at 8:05am. The early morning mist, which had lifted from surrounding areas was still lingering on Uley Bury and Cam Long Down, rendering them invisible. The route descends rapidly below the steep slopes of Uley Bury and emerges at Hodgecombe Farm. Cam Long Down rears up ahead, its summit in the mist. As we ascend steeply through fields to reach the trees on Cam Long Down bits of the surrounding escarpment begin to appear through the mist.

We reach the lumpy summit ridge of Cam Long Down - "one of the few places on the Way to offer an uninterrupted 360° view" - well not today as it's still wreathed in mist, offering only the occasional glimpse of the fields below. As we descend to the saddle between Cam Long Down and Peaked Down (Cam Peak), the mist starts to lift, giving views of Downham Hill.

The official route no longer goes over Cam Peak, but we nipped up it through the bluebells to look back at the emerging escarpment and onward past Dursley to Stinchcombe Hill. Then we returned to the official route which takes you through the fields to enter Dursley via Long Street, past the Market Hall and along the pedestrianised shopping street.

Passing the new Library and leaving Dursley on Hill Road (which is aptly named) we pass The Old Spot, venue for many Macaroni Penguins gigs (the next one is on 14th July), and then ascend sharply up the road and continue climbing to the plateau of Stinchcombe Hill via a wooded track. Emerging on the golf course by the Club House the path now follows a circuitous route around the golf course following the edge of the plateau. For three miles the paths weaves in and out of the woods ending up only 1/3 mile from the point where you first emerged. (Although to be fair the signposts do offer you the choice of shortcutting this part of the route). When you reach Drakestone Point the view improves, and the escarpment topped by the Tyndale Monument is clearly visible. There is also a Topograph, trig point and impressive stone bench here.

The plateau curves around Hollow Combe and then drops down along a wooded track, and continues through fields to cross a stream and a road (the B4060) before following a track lined with wild garlic that ascends into North Nibley. The hedgerows shield the views of the Monument until you arrive in the village. We finished the walk at 11:05am.

North Nibley is about two-thirds of the way along the Cotswold Way.

Walk Distance: 8.0 miles (12.9 km), 3h01m.
Cumulative Distance: 75.1 miles (121.0 km), 27h25m.

The next walk will probably be on Saturday, 18th May.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cotswold Way - Walk 9

Walk 9: Dudbridge - Uley Bury

16th May 2013: We set off from Dudbridge at 8:43am on a lovely sunny morning, and picked up the Cotswold Way (Selsley Variation) at the crossing of the A419. The path heads into a large grassy field and begins a steady climb towards Selsley Common, and away from the busy road. For some reason the field has an isolated metal stile in it, and a substantial stone slab forming a bridge over a tiny stream.

In Selsley the route takes you along Pooles Lane and past the unusual All Saints Church, before heading onto Selsley Common - with its wild flowers, skylarks and absence of the usual cows - and climbing a spur to a Topograph and Long Barrow at the top.

The route leaves the Common and descends into Penn Wood picking up a track that follows the lower edge of the wood below Pen Hill. The vivid greens of the new leaves in the sun brighten up the walk through the wood as there is not much scope for views.

Above Middleyard the main route of the Cotswold Way rejoins our path. It's come pretty much directly from the canal at Ryeford, and has missed out on Selsley Common. A good path continues through the wood, at one point popping down below the lower edge of Stanley Wood to give views of May Hill, the Malverns and back to Standish Wood, before re-entering the trees and gradually rising towards both the road and the Coaley Peak Picnic Area where there is another restored Long Barrow - Nympsfield Long Barrow - although not as impressive as Belas Knap.

The route now follows the edge of the escarpment across the open grassland of the picnic area to another Topograph on Frocester Hill with fine views of the Severn Vale and towards Stinchcombe Hill, to be visited on the next walk. The Tyndale Monument can just be seen poking up above the horizon.

The path now follows a narrow strip of National Trust land which is gradually hemmed into a disused quarry with roads on either side above you. Steps lead out of the quarry to the road junction. After the junction the path descends sharply into Coaley Wood, where the noise of the road was drowned out by the chainsaws as Forestry Work was being carried out. As the noise of the chainsaws died away the path rises and then levels out, passing through the wood and some disused quarries to re-emerge by the road next to Uley Bury (a large Iron Age Hill Fort) at a bench with views towards Cam Long Down.

The official route leaves the escarpment here and heads for Cam Long Down, but it seems a shame to be so close to Uley Bury without visiting it, so we made a clockwise circuit before returning to the bench at 11:35am.

Walk Distance: 7.2 miles (11.6 km), 2h44m.
Cumulative Distance: 67.1 miles (108.0 km), 24h24m.

The next walk, Uley Bury - North Nibley, may happen on Friday, 17th May, or Saturday, 18th May.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Cotswold Way - Walk 8

Walk 8: Painswick - Dudbridge

13th May 2013: I got up, had my breakfast and stepped out the front door onto the Cotswold Way at 8:07am. Past the Spectacle Stocks and through Painswick Churchyard with its fine collection of yew trees. Then through the lych gate, across the A46 and along Edge Road to Hambutts Field, which recently acquired a memorial post to commemorate Tony Drake who was instrumental in the development of The Cotswold Way.

So far this could be the start of a normal day - walking the dog in Hambutts Field. But instead of taking our normal route we struck out across the fields to Washbrook Farm. The path goes through a small woodland with plenty of bluebells and over a footbridge. Here the long climb up to Scottsquar Hill starts. Initially through a field, we passed a stone post telling us we were now 55 miles from Bath. The other side said we were 47 miles from Chipping Campden (although by my route it's 51 miles), and then joined Jenkin's Lane to bring us out on the A4173 by the Edgemoor Inn. Here the path marches directly up the slopes of Edge Common. I opted for a slightly less steep route by detouring to the north.

Once the crest of the ridge is obtained, you cross the road and then descend through woodland down the far site to follow another track contouring around the hill through woodland with only occasional views. After a mile or so you emerge onto a road which drops down to Cliff Well, a tiny building the formerly housed a well (although it now seems to be capped with concrete). The building is adorned with many stone carvings and the following inscription:

Whoer the Bucketfull upwindeth,
Let him bless God who Water findeth:
Yet Water here but small availeth,
Go seek that Well which never faileth.
John C. 4, V. 14.

Carrying on one shortly encounters The Siege Stone commemorating the raising of the Siege of Gloucester on 5th September 1643 by the troops of Charles I, although I couldn't make out either of the inscriptions.

The path soon comes out at another road, turns up it briefly and then makes a short steep ascent up a farm track to regain the escarpment and come out at the trig point on the summit of Haresfield Beacon (217m).

From here the path passes ancient earthworks and traverses the top of a small green valley to come out on Shortwood Common. At the end of the spur is another Topograph topped with a relief model of the surrounding countryside. According to my calculations this is the half-way point of the Cotswold Way (although I won't know the actual half-way point until I've actually finished).

From here one crosses the open grassland to the National Trust car park, and then enters Standish Wood - a popular, pleasant and ancient woodland. After a while the waymarked path through the wood joins the track of Robber's Road, past a large Long Barrow glowing green in the sunlight, and then through disused quarries to emerge on a spur overlooking Stroud. Continuing through fields (and the excellently named Three Bears Wood) you cross a railway line to emerge on a school playing field. A short distance along Ebley Road brings you to the restored Stroudwater Canal at Ryeford.

Here I opted to take the alternate route that takes you over Selsley Common, but first you follow the canal into Stroud. Now this section has been restored it is a pleasant stroll to the Stroud Council Offices at the former Ebley Mill. Picking up a path from the corner of the council car park leads you through a field and up some steps to a former railway, now a cycle path by the A419 Ebley Bypass.

The path crosses the road (at a pedestrian crossing), where the next walk strikes off up towards Selsley. I carried on along the cycle path to finish at the remains of Dudbridge Station (1867 - 1969).

Walk Distance: 10.1 miles (16.3 km), 3h37m.
Cumulative Distance: 59.9 miles (96.5 km), 21h40m.

The next walk will happen when the weather improves. (Possibly Wednesday morning, 15th May). Update: Thursday 16th May looks more likely.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cotswold Way - Walk 7

Walk 7: Barrow Wake - Painswick

12th May 2013: The forecast had been for rain spreading from the west in the afternoon. Then it gradually moved earlier and earlier until it was due to arrive at 11am. So we set off early from Barrow Wake at 8:45am. It was sunny, but there was quite a chilly wind blowing and clouds were massing to the west.

The path follows the edge of the escarpment and then enters the woods at Birdlip Peak, after which views are fleeting for several miles. Quite soon you cross a road descending steeply to The Witcombes. A brave soul was cycling up it. The path cuts down the slope to pick up a track through Witcombe Wood. With the heavy showers yesterday the track was a bit squishy in places, but not too bad.

After 3 miles of walking on forest tracks (there are plenty of way marks to keep you on the route), with only the purple haze of the bluebells, the odd wood pecker and the odd fleeting glimpse of Witcombe Reserviors and Roman Villa for amusement we emerged in the small village of Cooper's Hill - famous for the cheese-rolling antics of its inhabitants. The path passes underneath the strip of hillside where this takes place, and then goes steeply up through the woods to emerge at the top of it. We stopped for a sandwich.

It's then back into the woods and another steep pull up to the earthworks of another ancient settlement at High Brotheridge, and the road noise indicates were are getting closer to the A46. Descending through Rough Park we came out at Cranham Corner, crossed the A46 and head back into the woods. Emerging shortly onto a road, that becomes a track, and then a golf course.

This is Painswick Common. I have walked here dozens of times with Teasel, so we depart from the official route (which follows an often muddy bridleway across the common) to follow the gentle slopes across the golf course and up to the hill fort at the summit on Painswick Beacon (283m). We descended The Beacon, had another sandwich and then crossed the golf course to reach Catbrain Tump, rather than take the official route past the rather unappealing Catbrain Quarry (which has taken a significant bite out of the hill), and rejoined the official path by the Cemetery. Only to depart from it again to pass through The Plantation (instead of walking through the Walker's Car Park and road) to reach Gloucester Road into Painswick. The official route carries on along this road into the centre of Painswick, but I took Gyde Road, past the rather grand Gyde House, crossed the A46 and the Recreation Ground to arrive at The Cross and my front door at 11:37am, having successfully avoided the rain (which turned up within an hour).

Walk Distance: 8.7 miles (14.0 km), 2h50m.
Cumulative Distance: 49.8 miles (80.2 km), 18h03m.

The next walk (which will include the half-way point) is scheduled for Tuesday 14th May, but I may have to bring it forward to Monday 13th May to make better use of the weather.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cotswold Way - Walk 6

Walk 6: Lineover Wood - Barrow Wake

10th May 2013: Teasel and I set off from Lineover Wood at 10:30am. The forecast was for a cool overcast day, but there was the odd patch of sun and we made good progress. The re-routed path sticks to the higher ground through the wood, but that also means it's close to the A436, but they soon diverge and the traffic noise dies away.

The route passes under the crackling power lines that we first met just after Belas Knap and skirts around the top of Wistley Hill with views back to Cleeve Hill and on to Hartley Hill, before heading back towards the main road. Apparently in times past you had to walk along the verge of the A436 to Seven Springs, but now a path has been created along the edge of the field on the other side of the hedge. Still close to the road, but massively better than having to walk along the road.

At Seven Springs you cross the A435 and follow a quiet road and then a track which climbs slowly up Charlton Kings Common to regain the top of the escarpment. I've been here a few times (it's a popular spot), but never seen it so quiet. As we arrived at the summit trig point of Leckhampton Hill (293m) (which has been painted light green for some reason) the sun came out, so we stopped for a spot of lunch.

The path leads down to a car park and then follows the road back uphill to pick up a track that passes Salterley Grange and a golf course to come out at Star College. More road walking takes you past an old army base before heading into Barrow Piece Plantation where the path follows the edge of the escarpment to Crickley Hill - the site of a 6000 year old Stone Age settlement. An excellent viewpoint, but annoying traffic noise from the A417 below. This becomes louder until you are unceremoniously dumped into the traffic by the Air Balloon Roundabout.

We dashed across the road at a suitable gap in the almost continuous traffic, and followed the pavement uphill (with heavy traffic slowly coming down the hill) until we were able to pick up the traffic free remains of the old road to the viewpoint at Barrow Wake. We arrived at 1:20pm.

Walk Distance: 8.6 miles (13.8 km), 2h49m.
Cumulative Distance: 41.1 miles (66.2 km), 15h13m.

The next walk, from Barrow Wake to Painswick, should be happening on Sunday 12th May.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cotswold Way - Walk 5

Walk 5: Cleeve Hill - Lineover Wood

8th May 2013: The rain, originally promised for Tuesday, has been postponed to Wednesday afternoon, so hopefully there's time to get another bit of the Cotswold Way in before it arrives.

Teasel and I set off across Cleeve Common in the sun at 11am. Although it was a lot cooler than yesterday, and there were big dark clouds massing. We headed up to the topograph, trig point and highest point on the official trial (317m), with fine views over Cheltenham, the Severn Vale and across to the Malvern Hills, and also to the south the aerials that stand close to the actual highest point of Cleeve Hill (330m), and hence the highest point in The Cotswolds. But with the clouds looking increasingly ominous and the wind picking up we didn't linger and marched off along the eastern edge of the escarpment.

We departed from the official route to carry on over the common, past the aerials a second trig point, marking the highest point of Cleeve Hill. Although it's 13m higher it lacks the views of other trig point, but less than a mile to the west lies the path from Belas Knap we were on yesterday, and beyond that, somewhere over the hills, Chipping Campden. We went back to the road by the aerials and picked up a pleasant path through Prestbury Hill Nature Reserve which joined us back on to the official route.

The path continues through Happy Valley - I was happy it hadn't rained recently as it looks as though it can get quite muddy - and passes though gorse bushes to come out in a rather unimpressive disused quarry. The track returns us to farmland before bringing us out onto quiet tree lined lanes, which are followed for half a mile or so before turning onto a grassy lane between fields.

Crossing a road by some gates with strangely carved posts the track drops down by a farm to Dowdeswell Wood Nature Reserve, where bluebells are emerging. The power lines above crackle and traffic on the A40 roars past below. We emerge from the wood, by the reservoir, into bright sunlight and dash across the A40 at a suitable gap in the traffic, before entering Lineover Wood.

A steep uphill pull through the wood brings Cheltenham back into site and eventually brings us onto higher ground, close to the A436 on part of the route that is different from that shown on the map. We finished the walk at 1:30pm, without having been rained on.

Walk Distance: 7.5 miles (12.0 km), 2h33m.
Cumulative Distance: 32.6 miles (52.4 km), 12h24m.

If the weather is dry, the next walk will be on 10th May.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cotswold Way - Walk 4

Walk 4: Winchcombe - Cleeve Hill

7th May 2013: Teasel and I set off from Winchcombe at 11am, on what had originally been forecast to be a cold, rainy day, but in fact turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far. The bad weather having been postponed until tomorrow.

This part of the Cotswold Way has undergone considerable re-routing, so watch out if you have old maps or guides. The route now cuts across the fields soon after crossing the bridge on Vinyard Street, and continues along a leafy pathway to emerge at Corndean Lane, where most of the walking on the public road is avoided by a path that winds through a thin strip of woodland alongside the road. Although the route then picks up a private tarmac drive for Corndean Hall, but after the cricket pitch cuts uphill through a large meadow with views back to Winchcombe and Sudeley Castle, emerging back on the road by a wood.

Crossing the road and climbing through the wood and skirting around the edge of a field brings you out onto a 300m plateau, and emerging from a shady path along the top edge of a wood brings you out at the rather impressive Stone Age Long Barrow of Belas Knap.

From here the path follows the plateau through fields to emerge on a track heading to Wontley Farm. Formerly the path passed Wontley Farm approaching close to the masts by the highest point of Cleeve Hill before heading North. Now, it takes a sharp right across fields, passing within 3/4 miles of the summit of Cleeve Hill, and then heads into Breakheart Plantation and descends steeply before emerging from the wood - apparently heading back towards Winchcombe. But it turns sharply Westwards and heads down through a pleasant wood to cross a small stream (where Teasel did a bit more paddling).

The route now passes through fields and a farm heading towards Postlip Hall, although the Hall itself becomes hidden from view and doesn't re-emerge as you follow tracks around it. Heading North and finally emerging on to Cleeve Common, the track brings you out on the golf course, and we stopped at 1:30pm by the club house.

Walk Distance: 5.8 miles (9.3 km), 2h33m.
Cumulative Distance: 25.1 miles (40.4 km), 9h50m.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cotswold Way - Walk 3

Walk 3: Stanway - Winchcombe

[See the photos on Facebook]

6th May 2013: We set off at 10:30am from Stanway on a fine Bank Holiday Monday (if you can believe such a thing), passing through a well crafted kissing gate by the Watermill and crossing the B4077 and continuing through fields to Wood Stanway. Here the path climbs uphill through fields to rejoin the B4077 at Stumps Cross.

From here the path follows a broad farm track, past a tin barn raised on staddle-stones, and then across more fields to Beckbury Hill Fort (270m) perched on the edge of the escarpment. From here there were fine views back towards Stanway House and saw the 300ft fountain operating (the tallest fountain in Britain). We stopped for lunch by the monument (Cromwell's Seat, named for Thomas Cromwell, although the monument is dwarfed by the trees, Cromwell's Clump).

From here the path drops down, crossing more fields to come out at a track along the edge of Hailes Wood, passing Hayles Fruit Farm to arrive at the ruined Cistercian Hailes Abbey (originally founded in the 13th Century) and the non-ruined Hailes Church (dating back to 1135). The path crosses a field (allowing you to photograph the ruins of the Abbey through the hedge), and then proceeds across more fields to pick up Puck Pit Lane which leads to the B4632 into Winchcombe.

Instead of following the main road into Winchcombe we departed from the official way to follow a footpath parallel to the road along the River Isbourne (and Teasel had a paddle). This brings you out on Castle Street, which can then be followed to rejoin the official route on the High Street.

This completes "Section 1" (Chipping Campden to Winchcombe) of Cotswold Way from the OS Recreational Path Guide, which splits the walk into seven sections.

Walk Distance: 6.7 miles (10.7 km), 2h32m.
Cumulative Distance: 19.3 miles (31.1 km), 7h17m.

Walk 4 will probably happen on the 7th or 8th of May.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cotswold Way - Walk 2

Walk 2: Broadway to Stanway

3rd May 2013: We set off from Broadway at 11am. The route crosses the fields to the west of the town and then heads up to higher ground giving views over the Vale of Evesham. Farm tracks cross the plateau and lead to Shenberrow Hill (300m), site of an Iron Age Settlement.

The path then descends to the pretty village of Stanton, where the thatched cottages are topped with various ornaments (we saw a kangaroo(!), a fox, some ducks and possibly an owl). Leaving the village through more fields we emerged into the parkland of Stanway House, and finished the walk at Stanway Church.

Walk Distance: 6.3 miles (10.1 km), 2h20m.
Cumulative Distance: 12.7 miles (20.4 km), 4h45m.

Walk 3 will be on Monday (6th May).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Cotswold Way in May

As we are now living in Painswick we are right in the middle of the Cotswold Way, so I've walked the bits in to and out of Painswick with Teasel quite a few times.

According to Wikipedia, The Cotswold Way was officially inaugurated as a National Trail on 24th May 2007. This was my 40th birthday, and also my self imposed deadline for "compleating" the Munros. On discovering this recently Caroline suggested that I might like to try and walk the entire Cotswold Way with Teasel before my next birthday - a little over three weeks hence.

The first of May dawned a beautiful day, so I decided to start my attempt to do the whole thing in May (weather permitting).

Walk 1: Chipping Campden to Broadway

[See the photos on Facebook]

1st May 2013: Teasel and I set off from St James Church (the unofficial start) in Chipping Campden at noon. The route takes you along the High Street and past the Town Hall (the official start) and then out of the village and up to Dover's Hill (230m), with fine views over the Vale of Evesham, and the home to the "Cotswold Olympicks". A perfect place for lunch.

The walk continues along the broad grassy track of The Mile Ride, crosses the A44 at Fish Hill and continues to Broadway Tower (313m), another excellent view point. From there we descended the grassy slopes through fields to arrive in Broadway at 2:24pm.

Walk Distance: 6.4 miles (10.3 km), 2h24m.

If any of my walking friends would like to join me on a subsequent leg do get in touch as I'll be walking fairly frequently in the next few weeks to try and complete the whole thing in May 2013.

Walk 2 is likely to be tomorrow - 3rd May 2013.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Keeping OS X Awake

Wake up and smell the coffee...

OS X 10.8 has quite an agressive sleep strategy. Quite often, when writing programs for the Enigmatic Code site, I need to stop my laptop sleeping while it runs a program to generate a solution to one of the problems.

I found out last year about the caffeinate command in OS X, which stops the system from sleeping while a command is running. So I often use something like this:
time caffeinate pypy 6

if I want to leave my laptop running something when I'm out, or overnight (and know how long it took).

But what happens if a program has been running for a while and you forgot caffeinate it before you started? You don't want to kill it off and lose all the work it's done, just so you can restart it under caffeinate.

Well the answer is simple, just write a quick Python¹ program to monitor the process you are interested in, and caffeinate that instead.

Here's my quick Python program - I called it pid-exists - it just monitors a process (using the pid specified as the command line argument), until it disappears, and then exits itself.
import sys
import os
import time

PID = int(sys.argv[1])

while True:
    os.kill(PID, 0)
  except OSError:

Then you caffeinate that instead. For example:
caffeinate pid-exists 57905

will stop the laptop from sleeping while the process while pid 57905 is active. Once the process 57905 terminates then so will the pid-exists process and the parent caffeinate process and the laptop will go back to it's normal sleep strategy.

Note: On OS X 10.11 you can now just use:
caffeinate -w <pid>
to keep the computer awake while process <pid> is running.

¹ Other scripting languages are available.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sliding Puzzle in Python

As part of making a constructive solution to Enigma 1444 I wrote a some Python code to capture a simple "sliding puzzle" solving algorithm. (You can see my code on the Enigmatic Code site).

This is all very well, but I wanted to see the algorithm in action. So instead of cutting up pieces of paper and sliding them around my desk, I wrote a Tk app using Python.

You need to specify the puzzle dimensions on the command line when you start the program. In this case for a 5×5 grid I used:
python 5 5

A window should show up with the puzzle in it, and you can interact with it by clicking on a tile (adjacent to the blank square) and it should move appropriately. It will keep track of the number of moves and the elapsed time, and if you select an appropriate Target from the drop-down menu it will tell you when you achieve it as a solution. You can choose from "Normal", which is the tiles in their "natural" position, or "Reversed", which is the tiles in reverse order. Note that it is not possible to solve a grid into the "Reversed" configuration for all puzzle dimensions, but that's what the Enigma is about, so that's the default.

There's a button marked Scramble. If you press that the grid will be placed into a random (but not impossible to reach from the initial position) configuration.

There's also a button marked Solve, which if you click it will start solving the puzzle using the algorithm I wrote for the Enigma puzzle.

When you click Solve the puzzle shows you the piece it is currently trying to place (by highlighting the piece in yellow), and also the position it is trying to place it in (by placing a yellow highlighted border around it). Once a piece is placed it is slightly greyed out. Also the Solve button changes to a Stop button, should you wish to abandon the automated solution.

If the target configuration is not possible, the message area will display Impossible Target, and the app will beep.

I used this to demonstrate that the smallest solution for Enigma 1444 - a 10×5 puzzle - is indeed possible in less than 15 minutes, and this is the configuration that the program is set to solve by default. Just fire it up, hit Solve and sit back and enjoy the show. It takes 1300 moves and on my machine it runs in about 4 minutes.

The default animation speeds mean you would have to pretty nimble-fingered to keep up with the program in real life (or use a cleverer algorithm to solve puzzles in fewer moves), as it makes around 5 moves/s. (There are command line parameters if you want to change the speed of moves). I manually reversed a 5×5 puzzle in 3 minutes (three times slower than my program), so a 10×5 puzzle should certainly be possible in under 15 minutes by hand. (Update: I reversed the 10×5 puzzle manually using this program in 824 moves, in 10m27s).

The next smallest solutions are also solved in less than 15 minutes by the program (but only just). A 14×7 puzzle is solved in 3828 moves, and a 11×10 puzzle is solved in 4122 moves. These both take about 14 minutes. After that a 22×5 solution is solved in 6344 moves and takes about 21 minutes.

If you like you can specify a target configuration on the command line. For example you can try to solve the puzzle for which Sam Lloyd offered $1,000 by running:
python 4 4 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 14

and then clicking Solve - but you'll find the solution is impossible.

There's still a few rough edges in the program, and it's not particularly efficient, but it's works sufficiently well for me to see my solution to Enigma 1444 working, so I'm unlikely to take it further.

I've tested it on Mac OS X 10.8.3 under Python 2.7.4 and Python 3.3.1 with Tk 8.5.9, and on Linux (Ubuntu 12.04.2) under Python 2.7.3 and Python 3.2.3.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Complete Sherlock Holmes

Last year I decided to read the complete Sherlock Holmes stories in the order they were published before the next series of Sherlock starts (although I've since found out they are not even starting to film it until January 2013).

I started by downloading The Complete Sherlock Holmes Canon from as a PDF file, but soon realised that reading books on a laptop was not the way I wanted to go. But then Caroline bought a Kindle e-Reader and I discovered that reading PDF files on a Kindle was also not the way I wanted to go either.

So, I downloaded the HTML version of the Canon, and converted it to an eBook using calibre and I've now managed to complete The Complete Sherlock Holmes.

As I was going along I discovered a few transcription errors, which I've mostly fixed (it didn't occur to me to fix them in the first couple of stories, so a few still remain), I re-ordered the stories to match the original publication dates, and I changed the spacing of some punctuation so as not to confuse the Kindle's dictionary function.

If you'd like to download my version here it is: