Gloucester - Stroud - Burford - Oxford

6. 10. 2023 - 7. 10. 2023

Peter Schrammel




****: Over many beacons and across five valleys


D1: Gloucester, 18m - Cooper's Hill, 280m - Painswick Beacon, 270m - Haresfield Beacon, 217m - Stroud, 63m - Juniper Hill, 238m - Famish Hill, 260m - Winstone, 230m - Withington, 162m - Northleach, 165m - Burford, 112m
D2: Burford, 112m - Witney, 86m - Oxford, 60m


Burford House, 112m

Elevation gain

+1929m/-1887m (D1: +1673/-1577, D2: +256/-308)


123km (D1: 88, D2: 35)


D1: 7h (1 1/4 + 1/3 + 3/4 + 1/2 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 2/3 + 3/4 + 2/3 + 1 1/3)
D2: 2h (1 + 1)


GC: death through thousand little, steep ascents


++ - +++: very steep tarmac road (30%) from Watermead to Cooper's Hill, last 80m elevation on a steep footpath +++ (pushed the bicycle), several unridably muddy sections towards Buckholt ++, rocky dirt road to Painswick Beacon +, needed to carry the bicycle on the last 10m to and from the summit; narrow sometimes rocky path to Haresfield Beacon +-++, one section +++ (pushed there); dirt road towards Juniper Hill +, path over and down the hill lots of roots ++; rest all tarmacked, but care needs to be taken in some sections where gravel has been washed onto the road


2: narrow paths on steap meadows, narrow towpath, car traffic

Visitor frequency 

d: dog walkers, cyclists, car traffic


The weather forecast for this weekend was exceptionally good. So, I was looking for a bicycle tour from a place reachable by train. It seemed that several others had a similar idea because it was difficult to get bicycle reservations. Finally, I found a connection to Gloucester. From there I could ride back via the hills around Stroud that have sparked my interest for quite a while. I took the train at 7.37am to Didcot where I had to change to a direct train towards Cheltenham. The railway from Swindon to Gloucester first crosses the marshlands of the Thames source before passing through a tunnel into the Golden Valley, for English standards a narrow valley cut into impressively steep hills. After passing through Stroud, the main town of the valley, the railway follows the River Frome down to the vast plain surrounding the Severn estuary. At 9.15am I started from the Gloucester station towards the east. As usual, getting out of town through extensive residential areas without making unnecessary detours is remarkably difficult. Luckily I found the necessary under- and overpasses to get across railways, dual-carriage ways and motorways quite quickly and arrived at the end of the industrial area at Abbotswood. As planned I took a footpath that I had to share with horse riders to reach the little tarmac road that leads from Watermead upwards crossing the A46 to the foot of the Cooper‘s Hill Nature Reserve. This road is far beyond hors-cat. I then pushed the bicycle up a steep forest path to the top of the famous cheese rolling slope. The further plan was to pass through the forest that covers the hill and ride down to Buckholt Road. The forest hides the earth work of the Brotheridge iron age hill fort, huge trees and unavoidable dirt pits. A couple of dogwalkers sent me strange looks since I was cycling with narrow slick tyres on a path that poses quite some difficulties for mountainbikers. After a few kilometres on a tarmac road I turned right up to a golf course situated on top of Painswick Beacon: cows, golfers and mountainbikers within the remparts of another iron age hill fort with fantastic views down to Gloucester and the Severn estuary. Apart from the final summit wall the paths were full cyclable up and down. After 11am I left the B4073 to ride on a narrow tarmac road with surprisingly frequent oncoming cars along a ridge towards Edge. A hunt was in progress in the fields below. From the church‘s cemetery at Edge I had a view towards Haresfield Beacon, my next destination. I followed the road and a few minutes later I reached the overflowing parking lot at Haresfield Beacon. I only realised later that I left the tarmac road a bit too early, but the path that follows the road on the inside of the stone fence offered nice views even though it was quite at the limit of the grip of my tyres again. After some ups and downs I arrived at the belvedere of Haresfield Beacon at 11.45am. Now it was time for a lunch break, enjoying the grandiose views. After noon I cycled back to the tarmac road and took the way via Randwick down to Cainscross. I took a footbridge further west, followed the canal into Stroud and climbed up into the town centre. The streets were very busy. There were multiple markets with all sorts of products. I bought a round donut filled with berries and then sat down in a café. Towards 1.30pm I tackled the next hill climbing up Folly Lane to its very end on Juniper Hill. From there a demanding footpath continues over the hill fast and bumpy down to Bulls Cross. I felt this was again beyond what my tyres could bear. And unsuprisingly after a kilometre on the tarmac road my front tyre was flat. The 15min pit stop was not unwelcome as I could rest a bit. I had expected that after that hill the road would be a bit flatter apart from a few river valley crossings. But these river valley crossings turned out to be tough. The first one is already after Wishanger and then the next out of the deeply cut Frome valley. I noticed that I was clearly getting tired when an elderly cyclist easily overtook me in the fauxplat to Winstone. After passing under the A417 I cycled down to the Churn valley – at least that‘s what I thought, but actually there was another small valley in between that deprived me of yet another chunk of my waning forces. Impressively, there were - without any exaggeration - thousands of phaesants on the road and in the fields. They fluttered away left and right as soon as I approached closer than 10m. After a short section on the A435 through Colesbourne I had to tackle the next climb to pass over into the Coln valley at Withington. My desired for icecream awas increasing, but there was no village shop in Withington – the next one was probably in Northleach. Still, I needed a short break. So, I sat down on a stone wall for a few minutes. The following section didn‘t promise to be flat as there is no through-road that follows River Coln, but instead I had to go up and down along the hills, passing twice through the beautiful valley floor. Of course, there was no time to visit the Roman Villa. After Yanworth a last hill led me up to the Fosse Way (A429), the Roman Road connecting Exeter with Lincoln in a 300 miles long almost straight line. After a relaxing downhill into Northleach I realised that it was 4.30pm. Given my physical condition, reaching Oxford by daylight has become entirely impossible. Maybe I could get to Witney by 7pm then the remaining cyclepath to Oxford wouldn‘t be a problem at night. But before that I had to get to Burford. I had to extract my last energy to get over the hill to Farmington. Then I sat down in the meadow again. Getting to Witney seemed less and less likely. Burford was still 14km away and I knew the road from Burford to Witney is everything else than flat. Maybe I should take a room at Burford. It was difficult to enjoy the beauty of the Windrush valley, which rivals the Coln valley. Another small hill forced me to sit down and gather a last fistful of energy. When I rolled into Burford after 6pm, the sun had started to set. So, clearly Witney was not an option anymore. I asked at a couple of hotels and finally found a room at Burford House. I parked the bicycle in the backyard and took a shower before having dinner. The next day I had a luxurious breakfast before leaving at 9am towards Witney. The sun was shining and my energy levels were fully restored. The dreaded hills before and after Asthall and Minster Lovell nonetheless showed me their teeth. Instead of following the A40 to Oxford, I took the nicer route via South Leigh and Swinford. I arrived in Oxford at 11am.

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