Starting in the thriving regency town of Cheltenham, you will skirt past an iconic horse racing course before climbing through fields to Cleeve Common. Crossing the common and passing tumbledown farmhouses and country cottages, you finish the day in the scenic village of Winchcombe.
This short day of walking is classic Cotswolds. Starting your day at the Pittville Pump Room, an integral part of Cheltenham's history as a spa town, you will then head to Cheltenham Racetrack. The racetrack is one of the U.K's most iconic tracks and is steeped in history. As you begin to climb up to the expansive plain of Cleeve Common, you will wind through fields and around small wooded forests, with the view back over Cheltenham becoming more impressive the higher you walk. After crossing the common and passing an abandoned Wontley Farm (be aware of the danger of old buildings and do not enter the ruins) you will be treated to a piece of ancient history, the burial ground of Belas Knapp, recently restored and in fantastic condition for a site that is over 4500 years old! The day is finished with an easy descent down narrow country paths into the picture postcard village of Winchcombe, replete with cosy country pubs and fantastic restaurants. It is worth noting that the paths are not always clear and can often be a little overgrown, pay careful attention to the map throughout the days hiking.
It is a rare opportunity to see a human-made structure that is more than 4500 years old. Make sure you leave some extra time to have a look around the long barrow of Belas Knap 8.3 km into your walk.
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.
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
Pittville Pump Room
The healing and rejuvenating benefits of the Cheltenham sprigs had been recognised since the early 18th century, In 1788 King George III visited and was very complimentary of the town, and it became a popular spot for the well-heeled to visit. In 1825, Joseph Pitt invested int he town as a spa town, and Pitville Pump Room was borne. When the building is not under hire for an event, you can still visit the Pump Room and sample some of the vital waters yourself.
Wednesday to Sunday inclusive
10 am to 4 pm
Opening times are subject to bookings for private events
Opening times may vary for Bank Holidays
More information: http://www.cheltenhamtownhall.org.uk/visit-us/pittville-pump-room/
Cheltenham Racecourse is an iconic and historic racecourse for horse racing events.. Its most prestigious meeting is the Cheltenham Festival, held in March, which features several Grade I races including the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Stayers' Hurdle.
The racecourse has a scenic location in a natural amphitheatre just below the escarpment of the Cotswold Hills, at Cleeve Hill, with a capacity of 67,500 spectators. The racecourse also has its own steam railway station (of the same name), although this no longer connects to the national rail network but has since rather been the current southern terminus of the preserved Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway.
More information, including when race days occur: http://cheltenham.thejockeyclub.co.uk/
Bela Knap is a Neolithic barrow, or burial ground. It is accessible at any time in the day and is free to look around.
The impressive entrance is a dummy and the burial chambers are entered from the sides of the barrow – when closed and covered by earth they would have been invisible from the outside.
It was probably constructed around between 2500 and 3000 BC and was used for successive burials over a period of years until eventually the burial chambers were deliberately blocked.
Opinion differs as to the reason for the false portal. It may have been to deter robbers, although little in the way of value has been found in undisturbed tomb chambers. Alternatively, it could be that the false entrance functioned as a ‘spirit door’, intended to allow the dead to come and go and partake of offerings brought to the tomb by their descendants.
More information: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/belas-knap-long-barrow/
Food and Drink
There is no food or drink stops en route so be sure to pick up supplies before you leave Cheltenham. Both Cheltenham and Winchcombe have some excellent places to eat and drink.