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The Cotswolds and Korea Friendship Trail – Stichcombe Hill
Three and a half miles The Cotswolds.
By exploring the Cotswold Way’s three and a half-mile circular trail around the top of Stinchcombe Hill, Gloucestershire, you will be walking the world’s first Friendship Trail. The twinning of a Cotswold walk with a similar walk on the Jeju Island, off the southwest coast of Korea, is a new initiative that came about as a result of the World Trails conference on Jeju Island attended by representatives of the Cotswold Way. Essentially the idea is similar to the twin town’s concept which enables people from two similar places, but in different parts of the world, to team up with each other. It is hoped that this idea will soon spread across the globe.
The trail is marked as both the Cotswold Way and with signs of the Jeju Olle, which is known as the Ganse and shaped like the Jeju pony which appears on the Korean Trail too. The word Ganse translates to “lazy bones” and for good reason as both trails wind their way through breathtakingly beautiful countryside which should be absorbed at a pace slow enough to embrace all before you and allow time to fully appreciate the landscape that spreads out at the foot of the hill. Because there are no stiles to clamber over, and the terrain, whilst undulating, makes for easy walking, you will find it compels you to slow down and absorb each new scene as it presents itself.
Stinchcombe Hill is part of the Cotswold Edge, set on the southern edge of the Escarpment above the Severn Valley. It offers superb views to the Forest of Dean, the Black Mountains, the Malvern Hills, the Bristol Channel and North Devon, and acts as a magnificent backdrop for the Gloucestershire market town of Durnsely where this glorious walk begins.
A free public car park opposite the award winning Old Spot Inn, Dursley www.oldspotinn.co.uk, is but a minute’s walk from the corner of May Lane and Hill Road where the walk begins. A Cotswold Way marker post and signs of the Jeju Olle point you to the 200 yard trek up Hill Road. If you continue up Hill Road you will come to a sharp bend to the left and a kissing gate that leads to a wooded area and a golf clubhouse. The track up this hill is quite steep and perhaps a little too arduous for those who seek a more gentle terrain. If you prefer, you can avoid this section of the walk by driving to a public car park at the top of the hill and begin the walk from there.
When you have reached the top of the hill, either by walking or driving, you will notice the Cotswold Way offers two alternatives, left or right. Start your walk by taking the path on the right beside the public car park marked with both Cotswold Way and Friendship Trail signs, ignoring the path straight through the woods, and follow this well-marked way in a clockwise direction.
Soon you will emerge from a stand of trees and be facing one of the most spectacular view points of the whole walk. A bench is strategically positioned to enable you to soak up this view before going on.
A stone cabin, half a mile on has been erected to provide shelter during inclement weather conditions. It also offers great views of the River Severn.
There’s not much else you need to know about the route, which if followed will return you to the place you first started, having first guided you past some of the most spectacular views in the Cotswolds.
Unfortunately there is a slight downside to this walk – it circumnavigates a 19 hole golf course. In places the green and fairway is but a few yards from the track you will be taking. On my first visit my friend and I stopped to admire the view, when suddenly out of nowhere a golf ball flew past our heads at a terrifying speed. It missed us by just a few inches.
Walkers on footpaths and bridleways have the right of way as the top of the hill was given to the public by Sir Stanley Tubbs and most of it is registered as common land. However much of the land is managed by Stinchcombe Hill Golf Club who have had a 99 year lease on the land since 1929. Sadly disputes between walkers and golfers go back to the 1930s.