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Cirencester Weekend - August 2018

Our August bank holiday break was organised by Chris R and was held in the Cotswolds, based within the beautiful grounds of the Royal Agricultural University (RAU). We were in good company, sharing the facilities with an international Buddhists conference delegation and a group of philosophers.

The long weekend started with 31 members of Footprints converging on Friday and Saturday from different parts of the country, some people making the journey at a leisurely pace while several members navigated bank holiday conditions on the rail and road networks after work under somewhat less pleasurable conditions.

Saturday’s 11.5-mile A walk was led by William. The starting point was Crickley Hill on the Cotswolds Way and the route took in Leckhampton Hill (overlooking Cheltenham and GCHQ), the Devil’s Chimney, Hartley Hill, Coberley and the church of St Giles. Taking shelter under a tree during a heavy downpour provided an opportunity to meet a naturalist who was looking for adders on Hartley Hill where they had been spotted last year and the group brushed up on their general knowledge when visiting St Giles, which they learned was the resting place for Sir Giles De Berkeley’s heart and favourite horse, Lombard.

Hilary led the 10-mile B Walk, a flat walk, The Kemble Circular. The main feature was the source of the Thames (The Thames Head). This walk took in Kemble, the Wysis Way, Thames Path, Thames and Severn Canal and Sapperton Tunnel, Coates and Ewen. We had no rain but, so we did not get too complacent, there were a few teasing spits and spots before the weather front moved on to drench the A walkers. As we know, walking is a companionable activity that allows conversation to flow and there was one very informative debate en route around the nutritional merits of beer over solid food, possibly inspired by the refreshment stop at The Tunnel House Inn!

On Sunday, Heather led a contingent to Llanthony Secunda Priory, Gloucester Cathedral and a tour around the county archives. Other people split into small groups and ‘did their own thing’ in Gloucester, Cirencester, Swindon and Bourton-on-the-Water. Lynn and I did our best to support the local cafe economy by visiting 5 independent cafes in the same number of hours. We are happy to report that the oven-warmed cheese scones, home-made soup, lemon curd cake, carrot cake and ice cream were extremely edible! Obviously, we mitigated the effect of the excessive calorie consumption by walking briskly between each cafe venue and kept our fluid intake topped up with several cups of tea and coffee.

During our Sunday evening meal, we heard about the stunning architecture and the choral offerings in Gloucester Cathedral and Cirencester’s St John Baptist, the Work of Heart Garden (billed as the first ever full-sized knitted show garden installation for the RHS), Swindon’s STEAM museum and Cirencester’s New Brewery Arts centre.

On Monday, Heather led the A walk to Cirencester’s water park where the group were able to watch a Polo match, and Colin led a short local B walk for people who needed to leave early that took in cute beagle puppies that are looked after by RAU students.

Of course, the evening entertainment is as important as the day time activities and people’s good-natured competitive streaks became apparent – whether it was winning races on the Scalextric track, being top team in a quiz, winning at Uno or being able to interpret a very non-technical diagram of the Large Hadron Collider during Pictionary!

This was my first Footprints weekend break, one I had been looking forward to since the new year. I have had the opportunity to meet a wider number of Footprints members, those I know already I’ve got to know better and it has been heart-warming to share in the camaraderie and banter that can only happen when a group of like-minded people share their living space.

Thank you, Chris, for a brilliantly organised weekend.

I finish with profound words uttered by our very own wise philosopher, Aline, on the subject of the frozen sandwiches discovered in the fridge by one of the Nicks. If it looks like a fridge freezer, the colder one is a freezer!



Maps of the walks

Crickley Hill circular

Circular from RAU