Try this festive season walk, if the weather ever allows. The walk should take about two hours, moving briskly to keep warm. There are no styles and although the tracks over the commons can have "soft" going in places after wet weather, this is not a walk where you need wellies to wade through mud.
Dog walkers who use Rodborough Common have for many years decorated one of the tree with dog-to-dog greetings cards (!) and baubles. Since our children were small, the tree has always been a traditional target for a walk as close as possible to Christmas Day, when weather allows. The decorations usually appear by the weekend before Christmas. Although the return half of the walk is mostly road walking, the lanes used are normally quiet and provide good views over the valley - and not without wildlife interest.
- The nominal starting point is the car park at Bell Lane.
- Follow the boundary of the Park north-west towards Dr Brown's Road, cross and continue until it is possible to cross the main Cirencester Road onto open common on the northern side.
- Continue across the Common towards Burleigh, keeping well to the right of the golf fairway. (There is a reasonably clear track trending toward the houses on your right.) Cross the "Brimscombe Hill"road roughly where it emerges from the line of houses. Keep the to clear continuation of footpath, still moving north-west.
- When you come to the dew pond trend to the left, but keeping the golf tee to your left. (After wet weather in winter, the ground is slightly dryer crossing to the slightly higher ground left of the dew pond, though the main track passes just below it on the right.) These days one only sees water in this pond after a longish period of wet weather, though a few years ago it used to hold water most of the year round. (We believe that the clay bottom liner of the pond may well have failed during one very dry summer, possibly aided by damage from cow hooves, when they walked into the pond to get the last of the water.) It is in need of restoration.
- Cross the main road again, where the road from Amberley, and the exit road from Moor Court meet the main road.
- Walk towards the Moor Court entrance, and then turn right, descending by the boundary wall, still on the Common.
- You will meet a wall directly in front of you. At this point you can take the footpath through the wall, across the field and exit via a cottage garden onto the road that leads to the rear of the "Bear of Rodborough". (You could also turn left at the wall into a broader track and come down to the road slightly earlier. This is worth it for the good views over the Nailsworth valley. However, this short track is a bridle way and in places can be extremely muddy in winter.)
- Cross from the Bear to a track leading above Bear Hill round to Rodborough Common, and continue on the obvious path until you see the Dogs' Christmas Tree.
- From the tree, continue for about 100 meters until you find a track branching to the right towards one of the car parks on Rodborough. (If you wish for a slightly more energetic walk you can, of course, continue to Roborough Fort before turning.)
- Cross the main road coming up from Stroud, and drop down to one of the well-walked north-south tracks running across the slope to get good views over the Golden Valley. These tracks eventually converge back to the main road for a short distance to pass a small estate of houses on the left, before common land opens again on the left above Butterrow. (It is possible to find a track through the woods to the left of this estate, above Butterrow, with a more direct track to Winstones, but we do not recommend it in winter because it can be quite slippy in the typically muddy state.)
- Now head towards the Winstone's Ice Cream factory.
- Follow the "quiet road" from the factory towards Bownham Common and Swells Hill. This road is sheltered from the westerly winds in winter and can also be a relief from muddy going underfoot. (It can also be pleasantly shady in summer, with good views over the Golden Valley.) You sometimes see deer in the woods on the left of this road. In May 2013 we watched a young female making several attempt to leap a high wall (and just failing).
- Take in the corner of the Common for good views towards Brimscombe.
- Follow the road until it meets the "Brimscombe Hill" road. (You do have the option of climbing back to Minchinhampton Common in a couple of places if you wish for a shorter walk.)
- Cross the Burleigh road and enter Burleigh Lane, continue for some distance, until you meet Besbury Common. At this point the road dips to the left and ends at a small group of houses.
- Follow the track above Besbury Common along the boundary wall, untill you see a footpath on the right, between fields.
- Cross a small field and exit onto a road leading back to Cirencester Road and the road into Minchinhampton.
- Cross back to the Common and Bell Lane car park.