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How the Iron Cross is Won.
on 15 August 2009
I recently walked the Cotswold Way from Chipping Campden to Bath. Together with my wife we did this in five days. An achievement of which we are both proud. Averaging around 20 miles a day stretched us to our physical limits. It is a serious undertaking which I gravely underestimated to our cost. The route follows the western scarp of the Cotswolds and takes in many glorious views. To do this it meanders up and down some seriously steep hills. We came back exhausted. I had no idea it would be that tough. Looking at the contours on a map is one thing, but slugging up Wistley Hill with a full backpack is quite another. The usual and more sensible options are to do the trail in 7 to 8 days which allows more time to stop and take in the sights. Most people tend to do it in small stages over a time period that suits them. Some lunatics even run it non stop.
However you wish to do the walk this little book is excellent. It was in my hand for the entire trip. I did get lost a couple of times but that was purely down to me being an idiot. The book is simple to follow for any map reader with the trail clearly marked. There is also an accompanying text which gives you interesting facts about the places you pass through. If you are thinking of deviating from the route to cut out a certain section, then a more detailed map might also be useful. Beware of the areas around Cleeve Common and Coopers Hill where I managed to get lost.
The area is extremely beautiful and the route has breathtaking views throughout. Although I have seen many places around the world this seemed to be the most authentic journey I have ever undertaken. It felt like I was following in the footsteps of Daniel Defoe. A true traveller at last and not the eternal tourist. A friend joined us on the last day and a half. I reminded him of a scene fron Sam Peckinpah's powerful anti war film "Cross of Iron". James Coburn playing the part of the grizzled and disillusioned veteran Steiner clashes with his superior officer Stransky a Prussian aristocrat played by Maximillian Schell. Stransky covets the iron cross which Steiner has won. At the end of the film Steiner leads Stransky out onto the battlefield against the overwhelming Russian tide to show him how the cross of iron is won. On the last day I quoted this to my friend who saw the funny side thankfully. The walk is an experience not to be missed, and a big thanks to those volunteers who keep it maintained. The Cotswold Way section of the National trails website is very useful, with details of accommodation on the route. The B & Bs were excellent and much needed. I would highly recommend you use this book if contemplating this walk.