“To travel hope­fully is a bet­ter thing than to ar­rive, and the true suc­cess is to labour”

I’m in the mar­ket for short longdis­tance paths. And it seems I’m spoilt for choice…

Country Walking Magazine (UK) - - Contents - STU­ART MACONIE

IT WAS ROBERT Louis Steven­son who said it was bet­ter to travel hope­fully than to ar­rive.

(In fact, he said “Lit­tle do ye know your own blessed­ness; for to travel hope­fully is a bet­ter thing than to ar­rive, and the true suc­cess is to labour.” Thanks Google.) In this he was echo­ing the old Taoist phi­los­o­phy that the jour­ney it­self is the re­ward and should be en­joyed as such as much as a fix­a­tion on des­ti­na­tion; a good phi­los­o­phy for us walk­ers to live by.

Of course, it doesn’t al­ways ap­ply. If you’ve ever picked your way across a frozen Sharp Edge in a high wind or crossed a bar­ren Scot­tish moor in hor­i­zon­tal hail, you will know that the prospect of ar­rival is cer­tainly a wel­come one. But the point is still clear: much of the plea­sure of walk­ing and of jour­neys is in the em­barka­tion, that first step that, as Con­fu­cius, or was it Lao Tzu, said, be­gins the jour­ney of a thou­sand miles.

The Cotswold Way is sub­stan­tially shorter than that. There is even a chance that hav­ing started hope­fully (from Chip­ping Cam­p­den) I shall ar­rive on some fu­ture date at Bath 102 miles of Cotswold es­carp­ment later. That is the plan any­way. Un­like my pre­vi­ous longdis­tance trails this one will not be tack­led in a week of con­cen­trated fun but as and when, a day or a week­end here and there. Hav­ing com­pleted stage one, my ap­petite has been whet­ted. Chip­ping Cam­p­den is a fine town and the first sec­tion starts in what would in any other place be de­scribed as its back streets, if that didn’t sound far too shabby and down at heel for this par­tic­u­lar Chip­ping. From here there’s a gen­tle pull onto the es­carp­ment it­self and fine, open views of Eng­land’s green and gen­tle rolling heart­lands, and a swathe of vil­lages and hill­tops to be picked out on the topo­scope. Up here too, you are on the site of one of the world’s most un­usual and ven­er­a­ble sport­ing events: ‘The Olympicks’, es­tab­lished by one Robert Dover and a gen­uine, quirky fore­run­ner of the mod­ern Olympics (see panel.)

Af­ter this the way is easy and nav­i­ga­ble all the way to Broad­way Tower, a Ca­pa­bil­ity Brown folly built 1000 feet above sea level for no bet­ter rea­son than that Lady Coventry thought that a bea­con on this hill could be seen from her house in Worces­ter 22 miles away. Thus she or­dered the tower to find out. In­deed, the bea­con could be seen clearly; turns out she was right. Later it be­came a mon­i­tor­ing sta­tion for nuclear fall­out, a task for which it re­mains hap­pily un­em­ployed. Af­ter that it’s a gen­tle de­scent into the vil­lage of Broad­way it­self, so pretty and sweet and rich it al­most hurts your teeth. And that was Stage One over. Now I’ve just got to find the time for Stage Two; Broad­way to Wood Stan­way, six and a half miles via the Iron Age hill­fort of Shen­ber­row Camp.

Since em­bark­ing on this ad­ven­ture, I’ve also started the Sal­ford Trail and have done two stages and eight miles of the fifty. It does strike me that be­fore I start more I should re­ally maybe fin­ish one and, with that in mind, I’ve been look­ing at short long-dis­tance trails.

The Three Crags Walk in Wharfedale is named af­ter the crags of Alm­scliffe, Ca­ley and Cow and Calf, and it’s a very man­age­able 16 miles. There’s the Durham Coastal Path, at just eleven miles, re­claimed from closed pits and the sea. Or, if you’re of a spir­i­tual bent, there’s the ten-mile jaunt of the Wass Wan­der­ers Way by Am­ple­forth Abbey in the North York Moors.

If you count the Che­viot Spur of the Pen­nine Way as a sep­a­rate trail you could maybe make your own badge to hon­our the com­ple­tion of its gru­elling one-mile length. You could even make like Roger Ban­nis­ter and try it in four min­utes, per­haps if Messrs Trump, Putin or Jong Un do some­thing daft and the four-minute warn­ing blares out from Broad­way Tower. If I had to name my ideal fi­nal four min­utes on Earth, a de­cent one-mile trail would prob­a­bly do it.

Hear Stu­art on Rad­cliffe and Maconie, BBC 6 Mu­sic, 1pm to 4pm Mon­day to Fri­day.

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