Cotswold Way Circular Walk - Stroud, Haresfield Hill and Standish Wood

Statistics and Files
Start: Westrip, Stroud Distance: 5.0 miles (8.0 km) Climbing: 277 metres
Grid Ref: SO823058 Time: 2-3 hours Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Stroud
Statistics
Start: Westrip, Stroud Distance: 5.0 miles (8.0 km)
Grid Ref: SO823058 Time: 2-3 hours
Climbing: 277 metres Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

Summary: Stroud is situated below the western escarpment of the Cotswold Hills and the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty surrounds the town, and the Cotswold Way path passes by it to the west. From the town if you look north Haresfield Hill stands proud. This walk takes us from the outskirts of Stroud up the south facing slopes of Haresfield Hill to enjoy the tremendous views provided. From Haresfield Hill the walk then returns to Stroud by way of Standish Wood, one of the finest examples of woodland in the Cotswold Hills. Haresfield Hill is the site of an ancient Bulwarks hill-fort. It consists of a single bank with an outer ditch crossing the neck of the spur 630 yards east of Ring Hill (SO 80 NW 17). The bank, 45ft wide and 7ft high, of glacis construction externally, has a ledge 2ft high and up to 10ft wide along the inner side.
(Source: Megalithic website). The hill-fort can be found near the car park on the hill.


The Walk:

Looking south west from Westrip to Stinchcombe HillLooking south west from Westrip to Stinchcombe Hill
Unusual field access near WestripUnusual field access near Westrip

Stroud is set in wonderful surroundings. Sitting below the Cotswold Hills at the meeting point of Five Valleys, it has a rich and varied history as I was told in some detail by a lady in Standish wood towards the end of this walk. She pointed out lots of interesting features but that is for later. For now the walk begins by leaving the quite hamlet of Westrip, located north of Stroud and higher up than the town centre. The walk took me through some very interesting iron made gaps on field boundaries before I skirted round the south west edge of Standish Wood and past Standish Quarry set in the fringe of the woods for aesthetic reasons. Then I started to descend to a valley head as I tracked due west away from the woods to a road accommodation three farms, Tiled House Farm, Stratford Farm and Tudor House Farm. The trio all had grand views of the south west spur of Haresfield Hill which I now had to climb. In the next kilometer I climbed 150 metres, taking occasional breathers.

The view from Haresfield HillThe view from Haresfield Hill
Looking out west over the tree tops in Standish WoodLooking out west over the tree tops in Standish Wood

The views provided for the effort were remarkable. I could not see Stroud for Standish Wood, the next target of my attention blocked the view. However I could practically see everything else there was to see in the local and near distant vicinity. The winding and ever widening River Severn and its famous sand estuary were clearly in view. The south Cotswold Hills stood proud looking back over to their neighbour on which I stood. I had stood here before, on a similar day to today, sunny and warm but the joy of being here on a return visit was no less thrilling. The views from Haresfield Hill will always captivate me. After taking in my fill of the widespread light I turned and headed to a darker place. Standish Wood beckoned.

Sign points in every direction in Standish WoodSign points in every direction in Standish Wood
Standish WoodStandish Wood

I do not find woods particularly dark despite the obvious blocking out of light by the resident trees and shrubs. On the contrary I find woodland illuminating. On my walk down the full length of Great Britain I walked through many woods from the hardy woodlands of the Caledonian Forest to the lush almost tropical ones in the south west. All fascinate me, that is except uniform conifer plantations that drain my soul as I walk the endless miles of exactitude. Deciduous woods are places of magic with their large variety of trees the British climate allows. I always thrill when walking through trying to spot birds and wildlife taking part in their daily going ons while I walk. Birds keep a safe distance but are often curious. Squirrels scamper to safety then watch with prying eyes. I know other animals look but they are good at hiding themselves. I know they are there though. Tree shapes also capture my attention, especially as their higher points shake in the breeze. Fungi is another thing of wonder though I confess to seeing little of it in Standish Wood. Probably on the other side of the track.

Emerging from the wood I met the lady. She told me lots about Stroud. About the old workhouses, about Stroudwater Navigation Canal, about many of the historic buildings and about much much more. I recall her lovely manner and I also recall this lovely walk which many from Stroud should do. There is beauty everywhere around Stroud, not just in town.

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