We resumed our assault on the Cotswold Way with our friends Merv and Pud, picking up the route at Seven Springs - which despite its interesting-sounding name is essentially a lay-by for lorries on the A436.
We soon joined a farm road and climbed with fine views on the right towards Wistley Hill and the section of the Cotswold Way we walked last time (Ravensgate Hill and Lineover Wood). As the photo above shows, the landscape had a wintry hue.
We soon reached the Cotswold escarpment at Hartley Hill, where, as at Lineover Wood in the previous leg, there were fine views over Cheltenham.
My shadow creates an odd - and unintended effect - on the frozen bench. Must watch out for that in future! The route then follows the Cotswold escarpment around Leckhampton Hill.
There were noticeably more people on this part of the walk, including a number of families with young children. We saw the first of several larches here, still boasting strong autumn colours.
Soon after this the route leaves the scarp for a while and follows a track and a small road to enter Barrow Piece plantation. You emerge from this into Crickley Hill country park with its 250 year old beech trees.
Soon you can follow the scarp again around the open edge of Crickley Hill. The visibility had declined by now and the photographic opportunities with it. This picture shows Crickley Hill looking back from Barrow Wake.
We descended from the Hill, crossed the busy A417 by the Air Balloon pub and climbed up to Barrow Wake, following a path below the level of the car park. This path soon entered woodland which led to a rocky promontory, The Peak. From here, we soon reached Birdlip.
Conditions: below freezing, hazy, some bits of blue sky.
Distance: 7.5 miles.
Rating: four stars.
An unusual experience
At one point, we stood aside to let a range rover past and the driver stopped and hailed us cheerily, commenting on how cold it was and saying that he would get his wife to put the kettle on a make us some tea. To our astonishment, further along he came roaring up behind us with a jug of tea, which he served us out of plastic cups. We had an interesting chat about the locality and the story behind his house. We were all surprised and delighted.