Bishop's Norton from Sandhurst Hill
I met up with my friend Merv for this surprisingly rural walk not far north of Gloucester. We started at the small but pretty village of Bishop's Norton and climbed Sandhurst Hill (86m) to enjoy a panoramic view over the village to the east. The tower seems to be that of Norton Court. The view to the west was also extensive, but much too hazy to be worth a photo.
We followed the ridge along to Norton Hill and had a good view along the Severn over a hedgerow full of berries.
We descended to meet the river just by the Red Lion pub, which surprisingly has a caravan park attached. We followed the Severn Way through fields to reach Haw Bridge (1931) - the only point for many miles where the river can be crossed. This was the view back towards Norton Hill.
After an excellent lunch at the Haw Bridge Inn we continued on our grassy way, with some hills now appearing on our right.
At the next pub and caravan park combination we headed away from the river and uphill towards Apperley. It was noticeable how the mobile homes here were on stilt-like wooden frames to guard against flooding. The first thing we noticed when we reached the village was a pond complete with duck house, with the tower of the romanesque Holy Trinity church (1856) visible to the left. Had we strayed onto the property of some conservative MP?
Soon we passed Apperley Hall, a 16th century house apparently being very well restored. The gable on the left has a very worn finial which Pevsner says represents the badge of the Earl of Warwick (the bear and ragged staff). He doesn't explain why.
We headed south from Apperley to cross the Combe Hill Nature Reserve. This is named after the Combe Hill canal, long disused and now largely overgrown.
It runs from the Severn (we passed the point where it leaves earlier in the walk) to Combe Hill and was opened in 1796 and closed in 1876. It seems to have been a white elephant from the start, as it was intended to carry goods to Cheltenham, but stopped five miles short. This seems a fairly serious failure of planning.
We walked along a track to Leigh, aiming for the unusual yellow stone tower of St Catherine's church. The oldest parts of the church are 13th century.
The gravestones seemed to be blowing in the wind.
Further field paths brought us back to Bishop's Norton.
Conditions: quite warm, but often hazy and grey.
Distance: 8 miles.
Map: Explorer 179 (Gloucester, Cheltenham and Stroud)
Rating: four stars.