Musings from Cotswold Trails: Naunton & Guiting Power

We hiked along the Gustav Holst Way on today’s Cotswold trek. ©Laurel Kallenbach

August 2021: It’s a great time to reminisce about past travels while most of us stay at home during the COVID pandemic. 

Originally published: September 2017

Day 3 of our English countryside walking adventure (arranged by Cotswold Walks)  happened to be my birthday, and the 6.5-mile route from Bourton-on-the-Water to Guiting Power held many delights.

Much of our path during the day followed the gentle River Windrush, which sometimes seemed to be more of a brook than a river.

At the beginning of our morning ramble, a swan flapped over the field we were walking through as it descended for a water landing. The air on the magnificent white bird’s great wings made a hollow, whooshing sound. I don’t recall ever seeing swans flying before, so this long-necked bird seemed like a good-luck omen for the day.

That was fortunate, because about an hour later Ken and I encountered gigantic cows with sharp horns. They grazed peacefully on the opposite side of a wire fence and the Windrush, which had dwindled to ditch size, but their gazes seemed hostile. We stopped to take a picture, but a mean-looking bull took offense and started advancing toward us as if he meant business, so we moved along quickly.

The hills overlooking Naunton ©Laurel Kallenbach

Today the terrain became more hilly and scenic, and flat fields gave way to woodland. And imagine our delight when we discovered that we were walking on part of the 35-mile trail way called the Gustav Holst Way, named for the composer who’s best known for The Planets. Born in the Cotswolds, Holst spent much time—like us—ambling through the hills and countryside of this region, which he memorialized in his pastoral “Cotswolds” Symphony in F major. (I’m listening to it as I write.) I got so carried away singing the Dargasson jig tune from Holst’s St. Paul Suite that we missed one of our turns.

The sign to Taunton ©Laurel Kallenbach

The sign to Naunton ©Laurel Kallenbach

We didn’t go far off course—less than 50 yards, thanks to the detailed instructions provided by Cotswold Walks—so we quickly got back on track again, and soon I was humming the “Greensleeves” theme that weaves through the end of that piece. (Yes, the Cotswolds Way has great appeal for classical music geeks like us!)

A Rest in Tranquil Naunton

Hiking up and down hills offered us the chance to take in the impressive vistas of medieval villages from a higher vantage point. We met a couple, who were also doing the Best of the Cotswolds circuit, so we hiked with them for about half an hour on the trail that morning. Just before noon, our little group spotted Naunton and decided to have a quick look-around at this town of about 300 people.

A house beside the River Windrush ©Laurel Kallenbach

A house beside the River Windrush ©Laurel Kallenbach

As we arrived on foot, we first saw a large dovecote, a structure with 1,176 dove-sized holes that dates back to the 1600s. (The Cotswold Walks guidebook said that back in the day, the meat of young doves was a dish for the wealthy, so that accounts for the popularity of names like “Dove Cottage” and “Dove Lane.”)

The sign for the Black Horse pub in Naunton ©Laurel Kallenbach

Naunton sits in the valley beside the River Windrush, and there’s a very pretty path right along the water with willows and lots of lovely riverside cottages to admire.

Ken and I sat along the banks for a rest and nibbled on snacks, then we wandered over to the Black Horse Inn, a traditional pub where our friends decided to have lunch. We didn’t eat there because we’d planned to have a late lunch at the next village.

Keep on Trekking

Refreshed, we continued on toward Guiting Power (pronounced “GUY-ting”).  Ken and I crossed through a pasture where a horse followed us all the way to the gate. I think she was hoping we had a treat, but we’d already eaten our snacks. For a while we had a light drizzle—almost more of a heavy mist—that warranted our rain jackets for 10 minutes or so.

Hollyhocks in front of a cottage built from Cotswold stone ©Laurel Kallenbach

Hollyhocks in front of a cottage built from Cotswold stone ©Laurel Kallenbach

Right at 2:00, the Warden’s Way path took us through a cornfield where the tassels were as tall as Ken. When we emerged from the stalks, we caught our first glimpse of the crenelated tower of Guiting Power’s Anglican church, St. Michael and All Angels, which dates back to Norman times. Sheep were grazing in the surrounding pastureland, and though it was tempting to stop and admire, we vowed to return later because we were famished and in need of a beer.

We checked first at the Farmers Arms, a traditional-style pub that served things like fish-and-chips with mushy peas and steak-and-kidney-pie, but the kitchen was already closed. So we kept walking up the hill to the Old Post Office, which has a café, but it didn’t serve hot food after 2:00. So we vowed to return at teatime and continued up the road to the Hollow Bottom Inn, located on the edge of town with views over pastoral fields that were bordered by traditional, drystack-stone fences.

The postmistress took a break at the Old Post Office in Guiting Power. ©Laurel Kallenbach

The postmistress took a break outside the Old Post Office in Guiting Power. ©Laurel Kallenbach

This more contemporary gastro-pub serves some chef-inspired creations. We started with a local microbrew ale and then ordered a perfectly spiced (with tarragon, we surmised) Coronation Chicken Wrap and salads filled with the bounty of local gardens in late August. (Many restaurants in the Cotswolds serve local and organically produced food.)

The menu also offered an interesting story about the origin of the phrase “wet your whistle.” Apparently during the Middle Ages English pubs served ale in ceramic mugs that had whistles baked into them. When you needed a refill, you blew the whistle so the barmaid would come and “wet your whistle.” True tale or just pub lore? Either way it’s a fun story.

St Michael's and All Angels presides of the village of Guiting Power. ©Laurel Kallenbach

St Michael’s and All Angels presides over the village of Guiting Power. ©Laurel Kallenbach

While we were eating, the couple we’d hiked with that morning checked into the inn. Whimsically, we wished we were doing the same, but because it was the day before Bank Holiday weekend, Guiting Power’s modest number rooms were booked months in advance, so we were being picked up by a taxi and returned for the night to Bourton-on-the-Water at 6:00.

(There were pros and cons to this arrangement. On one hand, it was more efficient because we didn’t have to pack up our suitcases before departing on our morning walk. And we didn’t waste time settling into a new hotel or B&B. However, we also didn’t have the experience of spending the night in this distinctly cute town.)

A pretty blue doorway in the Cotswolds village of Guiting Power, Gloucestershire ©Laurel Kallenbach

The Glorious Village of Guiting Power 

After lunch, Ken and I explored Guiting Power, a sleepy, two-street village with just a few shops, the two pubs, a town green, the café/tea shop/post office, and a handful of pretty stone houses. The “tourist” description of Guiting Power is that there’s not much to do there other than have a pint and a bite, but the fact is that we love little towns like this that slumber under the sun on a late-August day.

In fact, I will say it: When I’m in love with a village, I just know I belong there, and Guiting Power stole my heart that afternoon.

Maybe it was the way hollyhocks and roses and purple flowers framed the doorways and windows of those stone cottages, attracting buzzing bumblebees and flittering butterflies.

Toasting my birthday at the Old Post Office ©Ken Aikin

Toasting my birthday at the Old Post Office ©Ken Aikin

Maybe it was the sheep grazing in the pastures around the church as we sat in the cemetery and gazed upon the countryside.

Maybe it was the joy of having chocolate cake and a birthday cappuccino at the outdoor table at the Old Post office while watching the locals  walk their dogs. We bought some stamps and basked in the sun and wrote  postcards.

Really, that’s about all Guiting Power had to offer—and it was heaven. No traffic. Very few tourists. Just the simple joy of spending a quiet afternoon in the prettiest of Cotswold villages. And lots of beautiful flowers.

Flowers Guiting Power ©Laurel Kallenbach

Brilliant flowers in the village of Guiting Power ©Laurel Kallenbach

Guiting Power was exactly what Ken and I had dreamed of when we were planning our walking trip through the Cotswolds: and here we were at this perfectly perfect village on my birthday! I can’t imagine a better present.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Read more about my Cotswold hiking trip:

More about my travels in England:

I couldn't help but hum Bach's "Sheep May Safely Graze" when I beheld this view. ©Laurel Kallenbach

I couldn’t help but hum Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze” when I beheld this pastoral view on the edge of Guiting Power. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Canada Reopens Borders to American Travelers

There’s good news for American vacationers who have missed traveling due to the pandemic: Effective August 9, 2021, fully vaccinated US citizens and permanent residents (who currently reside in the US) can enter Canada for leisure travel. If they meet the entry criteria, travelers with proof of full coronavirus vaccination will not be required to quarantine upon arrival in Canada.

Jetty at Limberlost Lodge in Ontario’s Algonquin Park (Almaguin Highlands, Muskoka and Parry Sound) © Destination Ontario

This means that the welcome mat is out for Canada’s awe-inspiring destinations—from Newfoundland in the east to the Yukon Territory to the west. In between are thousands of miles of cities and wilderness to enjoy, including historic Québec City, the lakes of Ontario, the Canadian Rockies, and Vancouver Island on the western coast.

Entry Information and Exemptions for Fully Vaccinated Travelers

To qualify for the fully-vaccinated traveler exemption, you must:

  1. have no signs or symptoms of COVID-19
  2. have received the full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine or a combination of accepted vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson).
  3. have received your last dose at least 14 days prior to the day you enter Canada. (For example: If your last vaccine dose was received anytime on Thursday July 1st, then Friday July 16th would be the first day that you meet the 14-day condition.) Visit the government of Canada’s “COVID-19: Travel, testing, quarantine and borders” webpage for more info.

Old Town Québec and the five-star Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Hotel: © Andy Vathis, Office du tourisme de Québec

If you qualify for the fully-vaccinated traveler exemption, you are exempt from:

  • quarantine
  • hotel stopover (for air travelers)
  • the Day-8 testing requirement

To make it easier to prove your vaccination status and qualify for the traveler exemption for quarantine, use an app called ArriveCAN to provide mandatory travel information before and after your entry into Canada. You can upload proof of full vaccination on ArriveCAN so that your travel experience goes smoothly. (ArriveCAN is available for iOS, Android, and online.)

Enjoying Your Visit to Canada

Once you’ve arrived at your destination in a beautiful Canadian province, here are some guidelines for traveling healthily and courteously in our neighboring country. The following tips are suggested by Destination BC (British Columbia), but they apply to travel throughout the country.

The Canadian Rockies, Alberta ©James Wheeler/Pixabay

What Health & Safety Measures Can Americans Expect in Canada?

  1. Masks are recommended in all public indoor settings for people age 12 and older who are not yet fully vaccinated. Many people who are fully vaccinated may still choose to wear a mask.
  2. Some businesses have additional individual health and safety measures in place, such as use of sanitizing stations, physical distancing requirements, and mask requirements.
  3. Steer clear of natural disasters. Summer wildfires or a tsunami could impact your travel plans. To prepare, check conditions in advance at your planned destination. For instance, the Canadian province of British Columbia has a website that offers fire and tsunami warnings and evacuations so that you can plan accordingly.

    Canada is a famous destination for viewing the aurora borealis, also called the Northern Lights © Leonard Laub/unsplash

 Be Respectful When You Travel

All visitors should respect the policies that are in place nationally, locally, and at individual businesses or communities, including Indigenous/First Nations communities. Although some communities are eager to welcome visitors to support their local economy, some rural and Indigenous communities may be hesitant.

Anyone who seeks recreation, hunting, or fishing in Canada should do their research before leaving home so they can respect and abide by local wishes, advisories, and guidance of these communities.

Whale watching for orcas in the waters around Vancouver Island is a popular activity. Photo Destination BC ©Reuben Krabbe

Amid all the changing rules about travel in the era of the coronavirus and the delta variant, remember that Canadians are eager to share the marvels and glories of their country with you. Show your appreciation of their hospitality.

Happy, healthy travels!

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance editor and writer

Read about some of my travels in Canada:

Surfing in Cox Bay, Tofino, BC, on Vancouver Island. Photo courtesy Destination Canada ©Brian Caissie

Winchcombe: This Cotswolds Village Is a Hub for Hiking

The Cotswolds Hills in west-central England are famous for quaint villages, thatched-roof houses, and grazing sheep—and I’ve always wanted to visit the area. The town of Winchcombe called me and Ken, and as luck would have it, we ended up visiting in August of 2012 and again in August of 2017 (as part of our ten-day Cotswold Walks village-to-village walking tour). It was a delight on both occasions!

Winchcombe: a historic town in the Cotswolds ©Laurel Kallenbach

Though I love visiting museums and enjoying the arts in big cities, I am, at heart, a village lover. So a day-visit to Winchcombe, a Gloucestershire village with Tudor-era history, was a match made in heaven.

The town has old buildings, beautiful gardens, a picturesque location, plenty of hiking and rambling trails into the gorgeous countryside, and historic Sudeley Castle. The only thing that wasn’t absolutely perfect when we visited in 2012 was the weather—but even rain didn’t dampen our spirits at this lively village, which dates back in the Neolithic period when people settled in this hilly area and built a stone-lined, burial chamber: the Belas Knap long barrow. (Though I’m keen on Neolithic sites, I still haven’t made it to Belas Knap.)

The Happenstance Border Morris Dancers led the procession through the streets of Winchcombe. ©Laurel Kallenbach

As luck would have it, we arrived in Winchcombe on the day of the Country Show, held annually in late August. A troupe of morris dancers wearing feathered bowler hats, tattercoats, and bells on their shins paraded through the streets, followed by septuagenarians driving vintage tractors. We felt like we were part of the party, which includes a flower show, a test of the skill and speed of herding dogs, sheep shearing, and much more.

Morris dancers entertained in the streets of Winchcombe. ©Laurel Kallenbach

We ate lunch at The White Hart Inn, a 16th-century pub with rooms right on Winchcombe’s main thoroughfare. With lots of country pub atmosphere, The White Hart restaurant is called Wine & Sausage, but it offers much more: In fact, it specializes in local produce cooked into simple but flavorful British food. We tried the regional cider and beer, of course!

I ordered the delicious local lamb served with rosemary/garlic sauce and colcannon, while Ken sampled the traditional fish pie with purple sprouting broccoli. We both were now fortified and ready to ramble.

Winchcombe Welcomes Walkers

The Cotswolds has been crowned the Walking Capital of England, and the 102-mile Cotswold Way footpath takes through-hikers from Chipping Campden to the city of Bath.

Ken on the world-famous Cotswold Way footpath. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Winchcombe is one of the jewels of the Cotswold Way, although it has many other trails as well, including the long-distance Winchcombe Way, the Wardens Way, and and the Windrush Way. The circular Gloucestershire Way also passes through Wicnhcombe and finishes at Tewkesbury.

Our plan was to hike for a couple of hours on one of the many trails that intersect in the village of Winchcombe. So after lunch, we set out on the Cotswold Way footpath, despite dark skies and threatening clouds. We had barely left town when it started to drizzle, but doggedly we on we pressed up the hill. When the rain got heavier and was propelled by high winds, we finally gave up and  turned back toward town.

A Visit to Stately Sudeley Castle

The consolation prize for having our hike rained out was ancient Sudeley Castle, the home of Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth wife—and the only spouse who officially became that monarch’s widow. (The queen was born 500 years ago in 1512.)

Sudeley Castle’s tower and garden ©Laurel Kallenbach

Between rains, we wandered through the sculpted yew trees and the herb and rose gardens; we rested beside an elegant fountain; we explored the hollyhock-enhanced ruins of an old tithe barn, used in medieval times to store the produce that farmers brought as their tithe to the church. Cromwell partially destroyed the barn during the English Civil War.

For more than 20 years, Sudeley’s groundskeepers have been gardening organically and creating niche gardens and ponds that support native wildlife, including toads, bee orchids, disease-resistant elms, bumblebees, dragonflies, kingfishers and nuthatches.

Hydrangeas at St. Mary’s Church on the grounds of Sudeley Castle. Queen Katherine Parr is buried in the chapel. ©Laurel Kallenbach

We also visited the 15th-century St Mary’s Church where Queen Katherine lies buried.

Inside the castle, we learned about the inhabitants of this castle, from Katherine Parr to its current occupants, Lord and Lady Ashcombe. We especially appreciated an exhibit about the family’s campaign to protect badgers in the region. (They adopted an orphaned badger in the 1960s and ’70s, and have been advocates of the animals ever since.)

Ken and I absolutely loved Winchcombe, and in the summer of 2017 our dream of hiking the Cotswold Hills came true. Fare thee well, little Cotswolds village—we hope to be back again for a third visit!!

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Originally posted: June 2013

Updated August 2021

For more information about walking in and around Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, visit Winchcombe Welcomes Walkers.You can also search for or share walks throughout England, Scotland, and Wales on Visorando. Key information such as distance and elevation are provided, and you can print out the walk or download a GPX file for use with GPS devices. Here’s the link for Cotswold treks

If you’d like a guided walking vacation—or one where you guide yourself but a local company creates the route and arranges reservations at B&Bs in the Cotswolds—I highly recommend Cotswold Walks, which we used for hiking village to village in 2017.

  • Cotswold Walks: Andrew Guppy offers guided and self-guided walks with great itineraries through the gorgeous Cotswold countryside and towns. They pick up your luggage after breakfast and deliver it to your destination, where it will be waiting when you arrive after the day’s hike.

In honor of Queen Elizabeth’s 2012 Diamond Jubilee, flags were flying in the pretty village of Winchcombe. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Read more about England’s pretty Cotswold region:

Sudeley Castle is located on the outskirts of Winchcombe. It offers gorgeous gardens and stunning views of the Gloucestershire Cotswolds. ©Laurel Kallenbach