Sunday, November 23, 2014

A day poking about Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold

Trip summary:

Cost: <£10 (if you bring your own food and don't take in any of the tourist attractions that charge)
Time: A day trip
Distance: Just shy of 60 miles from Bristol to Bourton-on-the-Water
Start/end point:Car park at Bourton-on-the-Water on Rissington Road, beside Birdland Park and Gardens
Equipment:Comfortable walking shoes
Bring: Rucksack filled with snacks, a packed lunch if you want to save some money and a camera.
Special notes: This was a two-part day...poking about Bourton-on-the-Water in the morning and then after lunch a 5km walk in Stow-on-the-Wold.

Many bridges cross the Windrush River.

We first encountered this little gem when we bought our canoe earlier this spring from a place very nearby. The gentleman we bought it from recommended we drive back through Bourton-on-the-Water as it really was "worth a look". So we did.

It was a glorious sunny day in spring and the place was packed! Had we been able to find parking and had we not been driving around with a canoe on the roof, we probably would have stopped as it was absolutely buzzing with activity. There looked to be a market going on and the numerous bridges crossing the tranquil river that runs through town were the quaintest thing I had ever seen. Alas, Shelby and I just turned to each other and said "we have to come back here". Six months later, we did.

A path runs along the river from the parking lot straight
through town.
We parked on the street initially, but this was limited time parking, so we moved over to the parking lot on Rissington Road, beside Birdland Park and Gardens. It's a maximum of seven quid for the day if I recall, and there seemed to be plenty of spots, though I would imagine on a busy summer day they get filled quickly. 

We ambled along the path that runs along the Windrush River and Morgan was thrilled to spot trout in there, so we spent quite a lot of time watching the fish (as usual). The path takes you back and forth across a number of little bridges and the whole place is really quite adorable. We left the canal for a bit and had a look along some of the other streets. I should imagine this village has the highest number of tea rooms per capita than anywhere else in the was astonishing. A reflection, no doubt, of the number of tourists that come through during peak season.

The smells wafting out of the family run artisan bakery, Bakery on the Water,  lured us in for a hot drink and pastry. 
The HP Sauce ride-along toy at the Cotswold Motoring
Museum & Toy Collection.

Feeling refueled, we decided to take in the Cotswold Motoring Museum & Toy Collection. Prices were reasonable (£5 for and adult, £3.50 for children 4-16, £15.50 for a family (2 adults, 2 children)) and it housed two things Morgan and toys. It was well worth the cost of entry as the collection was extensive. Every square inch was covered - look up and there were old bicycles and paraphernalia hanging from the ceiling, vintage items set up between the amazing collector cars, and Brum (who as a Canadian I was not familiar with at all, but is apparently a TV personality). The toy collection was also extensive and the oddest one by far was a ride-on HP Sauce bottle!
Morgan's lunch was a bit much. We adults all
pitched in and helped.

Somewhat overwhelmed by lunch options, we decided on The Riverside Cafe, as it had simple soup and sandwich options. Unfortunately, it didn't have a children's menu and so Morgan's portion was somewhat...ahem...large. Our experience at the Cafe wasn't great. Shelby's chair nearly broke, we waited quite a long time for food (though not as long as others around us), and they don't offer the salad bar in the off season. However, when the food came it was good. We definitely all left full.

Having looked through the shops, meandered up and down streets, stared at fish in the river, and looked at old cars, we decided it was time to move on from Bourton-on-the-Water. That slow shopping walk can be a killer and we needed to stretch our legs a little more. We headed for Stow-on-the-Wold.


The view along our walk.

We chose Stow-on-the-Wold as it contains one of the hikes in my book 100 Greatest Walks in Britain. It's hike 38 if you have it and it starts in the town and describes a 10.5 mile hike through farmland and woodland. As we didn't have time (or the legs) to do the whole thing, we did a 3.27 mile return hike leaving from Park Street. We found free parking on the street and went from there.

The walk takes you down through Maugersbury and past a very interesting place called Half Moon House, which is named for it's crescent-shaped design. You pick up the bridleway on the right just past Half Moon House, and it's paved and quiet but not particularly interesting. It eventually leads to a farm and then up a hill where we were rewarded with a beautiful view with a low autumn afternoon sun. We decided to turn around at that point.

It's clearly the other part of the 10.5 mile hike that has earned it a spot in the 100 Greatest Walks! 

The route:


There is no shortage of places to eat in Bourton-on-the-Water. We didn't eat in Stow-on-the-Wold, but there were definitely a few options that we spotted.

Notes for the kids:

Morgan loves to look in shops and he certainly doesn't expect something everywhere we go (though he did end up with a lovely car from the museum shop thanks to his Nan), so this kind of a trip works for him. This would, undoubtedly, be a nightmare for some people with their kids and I appreciate that. The river, however, can occupy an amazing amount of time with children. I would say the museum is definitely worth it and there's a number of other attractions if you don't mind spending the money, such as Bird World and the Model Village.

Trip highlights

For Morgan, the highlight was the trout in the river - no surprise there. I enjoyed walking through the village. Shelby loved the museum.

What we'd do better next time

We would choose a more interesting part of the hike to do as the walk in Stow-on-the-Wold didn't have any particularly endearing features.

Additional photos:

Morgan posing in front of an old car on the street in

The streets were busy on 1st November - I can't
imagine what this place is like in the height of summer.
The views along our walk.

The road into Maugersbury.

At Oxleaze Farm take the right fork, which feels a little
like you're running through their farm yard (which
you are).

Morgan with his Nan.

The turnaround point.

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