Tag Archives: trail

#Take12Trips Challenge, Trip One: The Cotswold Way and Heart of England

 

After spending Saturday night filling up on excellent wine and generous portions of steak and triple-cooked chips and dark chocolate and salted caramel cake at The Bell Inn in nearby Willersey, we awoke slightly groggy, in need of a good breakfast and long walk to revive us. In what I liked to think was a stroke of good planning but more likely luck, the Cotswold Way ran right past our hotel, and was our route of choice for the day. This national trail, running for approximately 100 miles between Bath and Chipping Campden, takes in the Cotswolds’ most postcard-perfect villages and landscape, and so we eagerly wolfed down bacon sandwiches and started on the trail.

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In another stroke of good fortune, the weather was cool and misty, a small respite against hiking up hills with hangover sweats. After slipping and sliding our way up Fish Hill, we sped past Tillbury Hollow, normally an excellent picnic site in good weather, and continued onwards.

The terrain was invariably flat farmland on this portion of the Cotswold Way, but with those dry stone walls iconic to the Cotswold region lining the walk and a random abandoned Cotswold cottage thrown in for good measure, the walk had a romantic, ‘old English’ feel you would expect.

Eventually we reached Dover’s Hill, home of the original English Olympic Games and the rather painful sport of ‘shin-kicking’ (I don’t understand it either). The National Trust spot is a natural amphitheatre with a Roman vineyard nestled away in its landscape, making it an ideal spot to rest.

 

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But not for too long, as Chipping Campden is only a mile or so away, and arguably the quaintest of all the Cotswold villages we had seen so far.

 

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Having reached Chipping Campden in breakneck speed, we decided that four miles wasn’t enough hiking, and with the day still early trotted off to the tourist information board for recommendations of nearby hikes.

It was quite good we did really, as otherwise we would not have discovered what was one of the most beautiful walks I’ve ever taken in southern England: The Heart of England Way.

 

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Measuring 100 miles in distance, the Heart of England Way links the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in Staffordshire, with the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in Gloucestershire, and a healthy amount of mileage in rural Warwickshire thrown in for good measure. Encompassing remote English villages off the track of the main Cotswold Way, to dramatic hillscapes and historic monuments, the Heart of England Way is an excellent choice for hikers wanting a varied scenery, or lots of stopping points for food and drink.

 

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We embarked on the eight-mile stretch of the trail between Chipping Campden and Moreton-in-Marsh, stopping in Blockley to refuel. Almost immediately on the trail, we were led through achingly beautiful English hamlets and gently rolling hillsides. The small village of Broad Campden in particular was so serene and picturesque I had to stop for a few minutes and appreciate the view. With its thatched-roof cottages, regal manor house and fields dotted with flocks of grazing sheep, it so perfectly encompassed the Cotswold stereotype I had expected on our trip.

 

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The scenery only improved the further we journeyed on the trail. Woodland and farm fields gradually changed into small villages, and in the hilly village of Blockley the lovely folk at the adorable Blockley Village Shop and Cafe gladly refilled our water bottles for us.

 

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Our journey continued on through more forests and villages, until we reached our final destination, Moreton-in-Marsh, managing to catch the train with two minutes to spare!

Breakdown of our weekend in the Cotswolds:

Return train tickets from London Paddington to Moreton-in-Marsh for two: £52.00

Bus fare to Broadway for two: £6.20

Two nights, including breakfast, at the Farncombe Conference Centre in a double superior room: £115.00

Total: £173.20

If you are interested in trying the walks out for yourself, we used the Pathfinder Guides’ The Cotswolds Walks for our first hike to Broadway Tower, and the National Trails‘ website for information on The Cotswold Way. For the Heart of England Way, it is listed on the Ordnance Survey EXPLORER maps, but is also clearly signposted on the route. Otherwise, The Heart of England Way guidebook is available on its website. PLEASE NOTE, the Heart of England Way does NOT pass through Moreton-in-Marsh, it ends in Bourton-on-the-Hill. To follow our route, follow the signposts for the Heart of England until just after Blockley, then follow signage for The Monarch’s Way.

Have you done any of these trails? Tell me about your experiences below! 

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Review: Scarpa women’s Mojito approach shoe

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As one of the most popular lines from Scarpa’s lifestyle collection, the Mojito’s assortment of bright colours and suede fabric has caused a split between people who adore the look and soft feel of the boot and those who criticise the shoe’s lack of practicality. However the shoe’s comfortable fit and versatility make it one of my outdoor gear staples.

Technology

The upper part of the shoe is made of suede leather whilst the rubber toe protection and sides ensures areas where the suede would be most prone to deterioration are protected, therefore extending the life of the shoe. Like most other brands Scarpa paired their approach shoe with a thick Vibram sole, a Spyder one in fact, with the promise of anti-shock heel and anti-torsion midsole technology.

Quality

Perhaps one of the biggest criticisms the Mojito has received regarding its quality is the use of soft suede leather as the main fabric on the entire upper shoe. Admittedly this was a concern of mine when I bought them, but after wearing them nearly every day and testing them on different terrains like rocky trails and heavily-wooded forests, the suede is still holding strong.

On a side note, I should advise people not to dry these shoes near a fireplace or heater. Whilst these shoes were never intended for showers or boggy terrain and most people would not have this problem, some people have approached me with gaps between the sole and shoe where the glue melted after sitting too close to a fireplace.

Lastly, whilst many people buy the Mojito for the bright colours and retro design, I have found that the colour fades to a pastel hue after a reasonable amount of use.

Fit

For those that have worn Scarpa hiking boots before, expect a tighter fit across the width of the shoe in the Mojito. Generally, if you have a narrow to normal –sized width, these shoes will fit fine, whilst those with wider feet might find the fit uncomfortable. In terms of length the Mojito measures as an average size.

Given my feet are long and narrow and normally suit Asolo shoes over any other brand, it was with some misgiving that I tried on the Mojito. However it proved to be the perfect size for my foot, and even had a small amount of space to allow it to expand with exercise or heat. In saying that however, I have had people with wider feet than mine wear the Mojito and find them comfortable too.

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Feel

Scarpa claims the Vibram Spyder sole has anti-shock and anti-tension technologies that will provide greater comfort for the wearer. As someone who has suffered from knee pain in the past from wearing thick soles, and generally prefers to wear barefoot trainers, I was dubious about the chunky look of the heel. However the look of the heel is deceiving, as the shoe is surprisingly lightweight once on, and the sole does offer a ‘bounce’ that as one associate of mine put it,”made you feel as though you were walking on air.”

As for holding your foot securely, this is something the Mojito does exceedingly well. The padding across the upper part of the shoe holds the foot in place securely without constricting or cutting into the foot.

Terrain

Marketed as part of Scarpa’s ‘lifestyle’ collection, the Mojito is intended for urban walking, trails and approach use. For the past year I’ve tested them on the streets of London, through trails in Washington’s Tiger Mountain and state parks, swampy terrain in Florida, even on snowy days in England, and whilst I wouldn’t recommend them for extensive use in snowy conditions, the Mojito is one of the most versatile shoes I’ve ever owned.

In terms of temperature, my only criticism of the Mojito is the suede and padding across the top of the foot might be too hot and stuffy in warm climates for some people.

Verdict:

I will admit when I first tried on the Mojito, I was sceptical whether the suede leather would last long, and if the fit would leave me with blisters. However after wearing them five days a week, at least ten hours a day for nearly a year after the day I purchased them, I cannot find any fault in the design, fit or quality of the shoe. I haven’t had a single blister from wearing them, and given that I spend a large amount of the day on foot, they are one of the few pairs of shoes that don’t leave me with aching joints or foot pain at the end of the day.

In addition to this, I have to praise the Mojito’s versatility. Whether I was walking through cities, woods, rocky paths, or using them for a mixture of all three on walking and sightseeing holidays, the Mojito proved more than enough for anything I threw its way. For those wanting a shoe for everyday use, light trails and weekend hikes, or even for travelling, then try the Mojito on for size.

For more information, go to Scarpa’s website at: http://www.scarpa.co.uk/lifestyle/mojito-wmn/

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