We recently did Walk no. 15 from our “50 Walks in the Cotswolds” book. This 5 mile (8km) circular walk starts at Hailes Abbey near Winchcombe and crosses fields to the villages of Didbrook and Wood Stanley. It then joins the Cotswold Way and heads across beautiful, rolling hills to Stumps Cross and past a stone monument and the ruins of an iron-age fort at Beckbury Camp. The monument is a good place for a little break and a chance to take in the superb views of the Cotswold countryside. The path then heads down the hill towards Farmcote (a visit to the village requires a little detour) before returning to the Abbey.
Hailes church is opposite the abbey and well worth a visit. It contains the remains of wall paintings from the 14th century and original floor tiles rescued from the abbey.
Hailes Abbey is owned by the National Trust and managed by English Heritage. It was founded in 1246 and was a powerful Cistercian abbey until 1536, when it was closed under Henry VIII’s Dissolution policy. It is reputed that Thomas Cromwell (not to be confused with Oliver Cromwell) watched the destruction of the abbey from a vantage point on the hill above. This spot at Beckbury Camp is now marked by the stone monument which we passed on the walk. The abbey audio tour that is included in the entrance fee is quite fascinating. It describes the history and day-to-day workings of the abbey. We were amazed to see the 750 year old toilet/drainage system still in working order. The abbey ruins are in a tranquil spot and very beautiful. A good place to rest and reflect at the end of a super walk.