Starting in Bourton-on-the-Water you will follow the Windrush river upstream to Naunton, passing through woods and fields before continuing on to Guiting Power and Brockley. Finally, you will pass over Cleeve Common and descend into Prestbury on the outskirts of Cheltenham.
Today is one of the longer days in the Cotswolds, but also one of the most rewarding. Starting in the old Roman barracks of Bourton-on-the-Water you will wind your way up the Windrush River as it courses through open green valleys, shaded woods and rolling farmland. Passing through sleepy little Naunton, you will cross high cropped farmland with a clear view of Guiting Power ahead, home to a great cafe come antique shop. Joining the road and intermittent path east, you will head towards Cheltenham, crossing the heights of Cleeve Common with a sprawling view of Cheltenham itself. Look out for wild deer and hare at this stage of the walk, although they are timid the varied tree cover and pasture is ideal habitat and you may see them darting into the woods at the sound of your footsteps. Descending into Cheltenham via Prestbury, you are spoilt for choice in terms of pubs and restaurants in which to reward yourself after a long and eventful day.
Just before the Naunton golf course, there is an open field by the river which makes an excellent place to stop for lunch or a quick snack if you are planning on eating at the cafe in Guiting Power. The views back down the valley you have just walked are quite lovely.
There are some road crossings, always be aware of traffic and be sure to use a pavement/sidewalk where possible, where it isn’t walk on the right-hand side of the road,
Some of the ground can be uneven, with steep descents and muddy/boggy ground. Ensure you have suitable footwear and step cautiously where needed, the mud is especially tricky in wet weather.
A note about farms and animals: Be very aware of closing gates behind you. Remember, animals on a farm are not pets and can be closer to a wild animal than a domestic pet - particularly for dogs. The main risk today is horses as the path often crosses fields with grazing horses which can be a little intimadating.
When crossing the streams, be wary of slippery and loose stones, if you feel unsure bring walking poles for support, and you can always find a more suitable crossing a little up or downstream.
Sturdy waterproof boots as the path can be slippery and wet in parts.
Walking poles for stream crossing and muddy descents if the weather is wet.
Points of Interest
The 'little Venice' of the Cotswolds, with the wide and slow Windrush river flowing directly through the centre of town. A collection of attractive houses, bridges and green grassy areas surround the river as it makes its way south. The town is full of excellent country pubs, with food varying from the hearty to the gourmet. Attractions include Birdland, The Motoring Museum for those who love vintage cars and the intriguing Dragonfly Maze, all within a short walk fo the centre.
The Windrush river
Bourton-on-the-Water’s most prized feature is its tranquil river. Fed from many springs, its source is approximately ten miles from the village, and even in the 1976 drought, the flow continued.
The Windrush meanders through some of Britain’s most charming countryside where unspoiled fields and natural woodland complement the expression of rural England. Where the river enters the village centre, over the rapids next to the Old Mill, its clear waters flow under a miscellany of arched stone bridges past the green with its banks of Cotswold stone.
A village in the heart of the north Cotswold country in the upper reaches of the Windrush Valley. There is a small village green, with a pub at either end. The village was owned by a wealthy The Cotswold Farm Park is nearby. The village is unusual for its size in having a Post Office, a village hall, a children's nursery, a bakery, village shop and two public houses. Nearby are the excavated foundations of the original Anglo-Saxon church and a large kerbed round barrow shown as tumulus on Ordnance Survey mapping
Food and Drink
There are plenty of places to eat in Bourton-in-the-Water, so picking up a packed lunch there is one option. Alternatively, the cafe in Guiting Power post office (in the centre of Guiting Power) has hot food, sandwiches and excellent locally made ice cream and is just under 10 kilometres in, making it a convenient lunch stop. The path does turn off left just before Guiting Power so you will need to walk right into the centre if you want to stop here for lunch.