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Welshman's Hedge Wood

We were in the Cotswolds & the rain was incessant, but we wanted to look at a possible toll-evasion route taken by Welsh drovers to Hornsleasow Farm (SP 123322).  Hornsleasow has a vast pond, which last filled up in 2007, we were told (#1).  It’s a dry part of the Cotswolds.  Sheep don’t need the water so much, but immigrant cattle certainly do, and there is no sizeable river on top of the Cotswold escarpment. 

We committed two cardinal sins: we didn’t finish the walk because the rain came down too heavily for enjoyment of anything – dry, huh? – and we walked it “backwards” from East to West.

Most of the time we were walking along the northern edge of The Freeboard Plantation and Welshman’s Hedge Wood (#2) and our aim was to reach what is known as Welshman’s Corner, where five paths meet (SP 091327).  We didn’t manage it.

It’s a strange landscape up there, dotted with shallow pits where slate was quarried (#3).  It has the look of common land, but is part of the Stanway Estate.  We looked over the wall into the Freeboard, expecting to see – what?  Expecting possibly to see evidence of pasture because we assumed “Freeboard”, when applied to a plantation, meant grass-for-the-taking.  (I have looked the F-word up many times in the past: freeboards are found in a few other places but never explained.)

Where the path meets Buckle Street was Half Moon Lodge, built in the 1880's for the gamekeeper.  The 1880's 6" tempted us to think 'drovers' inn' but the 1870's 25" map doesn't show a building, just a pond.  (Nothing of the lodge remains today.)  There's a beautiful feeling of isolation up there without the slight alarm you get in a complete wilderness.

There was once a tollgate at Aston’s Cross outside Tewkesbury (called for some reason “Isabel’s Elm”) and another at Toddington roundabout.  The Welshmen could have avoided both by taking the long route north of the main road via Aston Carrant – Beckford – Dumbleton – Wormington – Stanton before ending up at Welshman’s Corner & Hornsleasow, but was it worth it?  The only other explanation - a route from further north, Pershore perhaps.

So, as usual, a lot of question marks.  But it’s a great walk, rain or no rain.

Welshman's Hedge Wood image 1
Hornsleasow Pond
Welshman's Hedge Wood image 2
!880's 6" Map
Welshman's Hedge Wood image 3
Strange Landscape