Cheltenham & Ross-on-Wye

It’s been a week since I finished my Thames Path walk in Cricklade. Last Monday I made my way to Cheltenham by way of Cirencester, not an easy thing to do on a Bank Holiday weekend. The bus I was supposed to take to Cirencester did not exist, despite the schedule posted at the bus stop. When I called the bus company I was told there was no way to leave Cricklade today using public transportation. Fortunately a couple staying at the Vale Hotel kindly offered to give me a lift as they were passing through Cirencester on their way to Stow-on-the-Wold. After a short visit I caught a National Express bus to Cheltenham.

I stayed four nights in Cheltenham although two days were spent in the Gloucestershire Records Office in nearby Gloucester. On both days I was glued to microfiche readers and researching dusty old tomes requested from the archive’s vaults. It was a worthwhile exercise and the staff were very friendly and helpful. In the end I made a discovery that removed dozens of relatives from my tree, thereby eliminating the need to visit streets and churchyards in Cheltenham and Stow-on-the-Wold. Prior to my visit I had mistakenly linked my 4xgreat-grandfather, William Clifford, to parents whom I now believe to be incorrect. This is why it’s always risky using information gleaned from other peoples trees on Ancestry.com. It pays to do the research yourself.

During my stay in Cheltenham I also had the opportunity to meet up with Bill whom I met in Gloucester during my LEJOG in 2010. He and his wife Jennie very kindly invited me to dinner and I had a very enjoyable evening. A big Thank You to you both for being such wonderful hosts!

The weather had been very unsettled throughout my stay in Cheltenham and at times the rain was torrential. It didn’t last as long but if you were caught in one of the downpours you got drenched. Fortunately the weather forecast for Friday and the weekend was good and so I decided to make a detour to Minchinhampton on my way to Ross-on-Wye.

Minchinhampton is a beautiful village set atop of a very unusual plateau, a handful of miles southeast of Stroud. I think this village is one of the best kept secrets in the Cotswolds. It was also the birthplace of my 4xgreat-grandfather William and his siblings, and the final resting place of two of them, as well as his parents James and Mary Clifford.

I visited Holy Trinity, the Anglican church, where William and his siblings were baptized and at least four Clifford’s are buried. Unfortunately there are no headstones, or record of where they are buried, but I know they are buried there somewhere. One of the church wardens saw me looking through the churchyard and offered to look up the names in their registers. Unfortunately they only go back to the late 19th century and my ancestors were buried in the early to mid-1800’s. At least they had a visit from another Clifford, even if it was over 150 years after the fact.

I walked to the outskirts of the village to a collection of buildings known as Forwood. The Clifford family worked on this estate in the 1830’s, when William’s father James was employed as a groom and a gardener. The buildings are now private homes but they still they bear their old names, such as ‘The Coach House’. The surrounding countryside was very beautiful and extremely hilly. If James wanted a pint in the Crown Inn he had a steep climb from Forwood to the Market Square (I both walked in his footsteps and sampled the ale from his local).

Unfortunately I only had a few hours to spend in Minchinhampton and so a return visit is definitely in the cards. I made my way to Gloucester by bus and train where I met up again with Bill. He offered to drive me to Ross-on-Wye, by way of the Forest of Dean. William Clifford’s wife Emily and all of his children were born in several villages in the Forest and we drove through a couple on our way. The highlight though was the visit to Symonds Yat. This famous view from here of the Wye Valley is even more stunning then the photos I had seen online, helped in no small part by the excellent weather! Thanks again to Bill for being such a super host. He and Jennie will have to visit Victoria so that I can show them around.

I spent the weekend in Ross-on-Wye, a beautiful Herefordshire market town. The excellent weather continued and I really enjoyed my visit. On Saturday I roamed around the town and enjoyed the town’s May Fayre celebrations. The streets were chock-a-block with residents enjoying food, music and shopping. I enjoyed poking around various book and antique shops and also took a short stroll over the bridge to the village of Wilton where I enjoyed a pint in a beer garden next to the river.

Today I set out on what ended up being an 18-20 mile walk around the Herefordshire countryside. I can say without doubt that this was the best walk of my trip, and it would remain so even if the weather and footpath conditions on the Thames Path had been better. I followed the Wye Valley Way up river from Ross to How Caple and then over quiet country lanes to the village of Hoarwithy where I enjoyed a pint at the New Harp Inn. I then followed the Herefordshire Trail back to Ross by way of King’s Caple. The variety of terrain and the wonderful views were top notch. This walk had it all: riverside meadows, forests of Bluebells, quiet country lanes, medieval churches, laid-back villages and pastures full of sheep and cattle. One of the nicest rambles I’ve ever done!

The photos I’ve included below are from today’s walk. I’ll post photos of Michinhampton later this week.

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