Christmas in Cheltenham

Christmas in Cheltenham

Hi I’m Gwyn and I would like to share my ‘Christmas at Cheltenham’ holiday highlights with you, not as a leader but as Guest.

As for myself I am a keen and experienced walker and have only recently been initiated into Ramblers holidays, having previously been on organised walks with friends or with other walking organisations. This is my second Christmas holiday with Ramblers Countrywide Holidays and my experience to date has been positive and the Christmas at Cheltenham was no exception.

I arrived at the Cheltenham Chase Hotel, which included a Health and Fitness suite comprising of a swimming pool, Jacuzzi and Sauna. The first stop was a welcoming afternoon tea between 3-5pm, followed at 7pm by an introduction to our leaders for the holiday, Debbie, John and Brian who gave a presentation on the walks planned for the following days.

On the first day we were split into three groups from a total of 35 Guests, I joined the group led by John. Our group started from the Hotel whilst the other two groups were taken by coach to other locations.

It was a nice fresh day with snow and ice on the ground, the walk initially took us to the snow covered summit of Coopers Hill, famous for the cheese rolling competition.

This involves participants chasing a rolling cheese down a steep slope, the task being to retrieve the cheese before it reached the bottom. Unfortunately we only had cheese sandwiches which were not designed to roll down steep slopes, in addition no one in the group felt sufficiently suicidal, or desperate enough, to throw themselves off the top for a cheese sandwich!

Shortly afterwards John had hoped to stop for a tea rest in a clearing where there were tree stumps which could be used as seats. However the clearing had been fenced off to prevent dears damaging the surrounding flora and fauna, I must admit I could not imagine any old dears being able to reach that location so I don’t know what the fuss was about. Perhaps he meant deer?

Any way the walk continued on through Buckholt and Rough Park wood to the Royal William Pub, a welcome break for a warm glass of mulled wine in front of a log fire. From here we ventured forth into the cold to reach Painswick Beacon where we had our packed lunch, a short distance from the Beacon is the Hill Fort Quarry which, for those of you who are interested in historical detail, provided stones for the building of Gloucester and Westminster Cathedrals. Finally we arrived at our destination of Painswick, which has an unusual Church clock. The local hostelries, followed by an impromptu Carol sing along at the bus stop, can be recommended to complete a perfect end to a very enjoyable first days walk.

After a very enjoyable dinner and evenings entertainment we were relaxed and ready the next morning for the Christmas eve walk. All groups were bussed to various locations, our group being dropped off at one end of the Crickley Hill Country Park, the tracks were icy in places and caution was advisable. We continued up onto the ridge following the Cotswold way to reach the Devils Chimney, a natural rock formation which resembles a chimney (A brilliant observation on my part). Unfortunately it was a very misty day which restricted the views, however as we were above the snow line it felt festive and provided some compensation for the lack of views. The next stop was the Seven Springs pub, unfortunately they did not serve the welcoming mulled wine.

After a brief respite it was on to the pick up point adjacent to the Air Balloon pub, a very old hostelry with oak beams and log fire, another perfect way of ending a very satisfying walk.

Christmas Eve was Dinner Dance night, after pre dinner drinks it was into the restaurant for another satisfying meal followed by live entertainment.

Christmas day and an early start for a morning walk before lunch, the snow and ice had turned into damp and muddy conditions. All groups were together for this walk led by Brian, we left the Hotel and headed for Great Witcombe Church then onto the remains of a Roman villa via Witcombe Reservoir causeway.

At the Villa complex the leaders handed out mince pies accompanied by a warming beverage. Yours truly bit into a pie and thought it was a little stale, however on further investigation I realised I had omitted to remove the pie from the foil container, I promised I would mention this embarrassing event, which I put down to over indulgence the previous evening.

Christmas Lunch was again up to the usual high standard and accompanied by the odd bottle of wine, I say odd because that’s what I felt like after sampling this beverage on behalf of the other Guests. The rest of the afternoon was free and several of us continued to enjoy the ambience of the day. John, our leader, encouraged the group to discuss any unusual personal experiences which resulted in discussions varying from the Tsunami, fascinating habits and joys of cat ownership, to unexplained visions (Ghosts). If a subject was considered a little uncomfortable John would interrupt the discussion with his views on Laundry !!! It’s amazing what a glass of wine will do for the intellect.

On the evening there was a buffet and entertainment provided by a band, the buffet was exceptional, unfortunately few could do it justice after a hearty lunch.

Boxing day and another walk from the hotel as a combined Group with all three leaders. The walk took us towards Coopers hill and onto the escarpment through Brockworth and Witcombe woods to Birdlip, providing excellent views along the way. During a brief stop the leaders again presented us with mince pies and a hot beverage, however on this occasion I did remember to remove the foil! At Birdlip we visited the Royal George Hotel, another pleasant and very acceptable lunch stop.

From Birdlip we returned to the Hotel via the Peak, everyone feeling a little tired but satisfied having enjoyed another fine days walking.

On the final evening there was a Gala dinner again with live entertainment. Everyone agreed that the Hotel had provided excellent Service and accommodation and the food was to a high standard, a minor niggle, the drinks are expensive. However, for those who are interested, drinks including Real Ale can be purchased at reasonable prices at the Toby Inn yards from the Hotel.

The final day and time to leave with fond memories of a very successful and enjoyable holiday, a lot in part being attributed to the support provided by our leaders, Debbie, John and Brian and I know everyone would like to offer their sincere thanks for their contribution in making the holiday a memorable one. May they continue to do so for many years to come.

Happy walking in 2010 Gwyn