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Awesome walk in the Cotswolds 2: Hailes Abbey to Winchcombe

Updated on August 19, 2013

My fiancé and I picked a beautiful sunny day in late April to go and enjoy a particularly lovely walk through the Cotswold countryside this year. At one end of the walk are the atmospheric and eerie ruins of Hailes Abbey, and at the other is the quite lovely Cotswold town of Winchcombe.

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We started at the Hailes Abbey end and parked our car in the car-park of the church that stands opposite the ruins. We had gathered for ourselves a picnic of roast chicken, fresh crusty bread, butter, sun dried tomatoes and fresh fruit, with a bottle of cold French lager each to wash it down. We sat on our blanket amidst the broken walls and arches of the ruined abbey and ate. It is something to take the words away, having all that history in solid towering stone around you. I always find that eating gives me the opportunity to contemplate (perhaps even ruminate) upon my surroundings as the act of chewing and swallowing seems to silence my motoring mouth for a few blessed moments.

Hailes Abbey was a Catholic place of worship (and wealth) up until Henry VIII decided he wanted yet another wife and rebelled against the Papacy. He probably didn’t have to burn all the monestaries down… but the royal coffers were looking a little dry at the time and what with all the looting his army managed to do of the Church’s property, he refilled the treasury quite successfully. This enabled him to carry on living in the manner to which he was accustomed with much feasting, hunting and carousing to be had.

Anyway, once our own little feast had been completed, we deposited blankets etc back in the car and set off along the rambler’s path to Winchcombe. The walk takes you through a beautiful bit of Cotswold countryside with the hills of the Cotswold way on your left, and the lower end of the wide valley of the Evesham Vale on your right. We walked through fields of sheep all swollen with lambs so that they looked near ready to pop, all bleating and grazing placidly in the spring sunshine.

As you get close to Winchcombe itself, the walk takes you alongside a wide gurgling stream (no doubt one of the tributaries of the Severn or the Avon) on the opposite side of which are some beautiful Cotswold style residences. Being appreciators of a good garden, we took some pleasure in comparing some of the impressive efforts the local residents had gone to in order to make their back gardens and homes that little bit more idyllic.


Winchcomb is a prime example of a beautiful, small Cotswold town that is utterly steeped in history.
Winchcomb is a prime example of a beautiful, small Cotswold town that is utterly steeped in history. | Source
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Upon reaching Winchcombe proper, we followed a little alley that goes over the stream and up one of the myriad of characterfully crooked sidestreets that populate the town. This lead us up to one of the main streets whereby we took a left turn and walked amongst the stunning old buildings all resplendent in their yellow Cotswold stone frontages.

As a reward for our efforts, we took ourselves to one of Winchcombe’s little gems, which is a gorgeous little tea-room with a paved seating area out the back full of flowers and wrought iron garden furniture. I love this place not just for the amazing scones and the deliciously brewed tea, nor for the beautiful view from the outside area – but for the idiosyncratic nature of its ownership. It was such an unexpected pleasure to be served a perfectly English afternoon tea in such a perfectly English place by a perfectly Anglified Chinese family, who I must say were the most welcoming and polite people to have served me afternoon tea in years.

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The walk back to Haile’s Abbey and our car was taken as the sun was beginning to sink and the hills and the valley around us were bathed in pink light. One of the sheep actually went into labour as we walked through their field. I don’t know if the reader has witnessed lambing, but it is (like all births) both traumatic and messy whilst simultaneously beautiful and uplifting too.

We walked past the ruins for a second time, on this occasion with a crimson array of clouds as our only company, and returned home feeling well-satisfied. Such experiences cannot fail to put a smile of satisfaction on one’s face and I dare anyone to prove me wrong.

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Hailes Abbey, Hailes, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL54 5PB, UK
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    • Dan Barfield profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Barfield 

      5 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Point taken sir - thank you. I do have photos but they are currently suffering from a severe case of stuck-in-broken-phone-itus or my miraculous, simultaneously dead media hard-drive. Apparently the 'click of death' was something I should have known about. I will get on to getting the appropriate reference details for the photos I've used forthwith.

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 

      5 years ago from Nottingham UK

      NIce walk- shame you didn't take your own camera.

      I love the Cotswolds- beautiful green rolling hills for walking and cycling

      A few hints- i) you've left a note about adding links in the text and ii) you need to correctly reference your photos to their taker- sadly this is not wki commons.

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