If you haven’t done much walking before we hope you enjoy our trail and do more walking in the future.
This is some guidance on walking our trail safely and responsibly, please read it. You can get more detailed advice from walking organisations like The Ramblers’ Association.
It’s your responsibility to keep yourself safe.
We’ve designed a trail that sticks mostly to quiet lanes, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t hazards. There are, for example, some busy roads to cross, some steep bits to climb, places where you may encounter large animals. We can’t know what the weather will be like.
But it is up to you to keep yourself and anyone relying on you safe. Accidents and the unforeseen can happen; don’t take risks.
Personal harassment and attacks from strangers are rare, however if you’re worried about security when walking alone in quiet places, this advice may help:
- Make sure someone knows when you plan to be back and where you’re going.
- Don’t be shy of asking for help if someone else is worrying you.
- Have your phone with you.
- Change your route if you feel unsafe; have your map handy so you know where the nearest main roads, trail stops and shops and houses are.
- Consider taking a personal alarm.
- Don’t use headphones if this stops you being alert.
Insects and others
The most common hazard is possibly from insects and the like. The countryside can have things you’re not used to seeing, like horseflies, hornets and ticks.
- Have sting relief available: creams and antihistamines.
- If you’re worried, use an insect repellent.
- Wear trousers and long-sleeved shirts; keep cuffs fastened and trousers tucked into socks.
- Don’t wear sandals.
- After your walk, carefully brush all clothing.
Plan your walk
Figure out how you’re going to join the trail.
Our trail is meant to be car-free, so please arrive on foot, on bike or by public transport if you can. Buses stop in Minchinhampton and Brimscombe. If you have to come by car, please car share if possible and park sensibly – there are car parks in Minchinhampton. Don’t block gateways, forest entrances or narrow roads. Farm machinery, local residents and emergency services need access at all times.
Check the maps and virtual trail so you know where you’re going, and where you’ll want to stop and have refreshments. Know what you’re doing for refreshments. Know what you’re doing for toilets. The only public toilets on the route are opposite the church in Minchinhampton, apart from that there’s the major stops like Brimscombe Mill and Knapp Farm.
Make sure you’re fit enough for the trail and have any medicines you need with you. Straightforward walking round the route will take well under two hours, but with all the stops you might want to make you might be on the trail all day.
- Take a map with you. The trail should be easy to follow, but you’ll want to know exactly where you are and how far it is to things.
- Check the weather forecast, dress appropriately, and keep an eye on the sky. Have a plan for what to do if the weather turns.
- Make sure you have a good jacket, good footwear, and a waterproof rucksack or similar for your stuff.
- A small first aid kit to eg cope with blisters and stings is useful.
- Take a fully-charged mobile, but be aware the signal’s poor on some parts of the route.
- Tell someone when you expect to be back and where you’re going.
Is it a tough walk?
Mostly no. It’s about 6½ km (4 miles) on the main loop. It’s on lanes and established footpaths. It’s mostly on rolling flat ground, though there are some extremely steep bits getting into and out of the Frome valley. There are lots of places where you can stop for a breather.
- The sections between Brimscombe Mill and Besbury, and between Toadsmoor and Besbury, are difficult if you’re not used to them.
- Likewise, if you do the north loop, because eg you want to visit Charlea or are on a bike and avoiding the A419, then that’s a steep climb up and down, too.
- There are places on the route where it may be difficult to cross the road: twice across Brimscombe Hill, and once across Cirencester Road.
- The waterside footpaths are narrow and uneven.
- For these reasons we can’t describe the entire route as being accessible, and may not be suitable for people with health issues. If, at any stage on the walk you feel unwell, stop and call for help.
- Don’t take unnecessary risks.
Sharing the road
The trail has been designed to follow quiet roads and country lanes for the most part. There are a few busy roads to cross, where you’ll need to be extra careful. There’s a stretch that follows the river Frome and/or the canal (they run very close together). You may need to negotiate your way around people coming in the opposite direction.
- Stick to the Highway Code when walking on roads. The new Code prioritises walkers, but don’t assume drivers, cyclists and riders will automatically recognise that. As a walker it’s up to you to avoid putting yourself in unnecessary risk.
- Take special care with young children.
- Always use the pavement (including any path along the side of the road) where there is one. Use safe crossings where possible, follow the Green Cross Code and make sure drivers can see you. If the road has no pavement, try to walk on the right, facing oncoming traffic, and cross to the other side for right-hand bends to give drivers a better chance of seeing you and you them.
- Do all you can to be visible. Wear something bright, reflective or fluorescent if it’s gloomy.
- Keep close to the side of the road and be prepared to walk in single file.
- Remember traffic may be moving very fast on country lanes.
Dress appropriately for the weather. Not just the weather on the day, but also for the weather in the previous few days.
If it’s been raining, the path by the river may be muddy. At this time of year there’s leaf-fall. If it’s been raining the leaves on the ground on the steep bits may be slippery and difficult. Passing vehicles, even bikes, can drench you as they go through puddles.
Remember the weather can change quickly. In September you can have late Summer sunshine and get hot and sweaty. You can have early Autumn chills and cold breezes.
You’ll never be very far away from somewhere you can shelter, so sit out any showers. Never walk around in storms or very windy weather. Even if you think you can cope, other road users won’t see you as easily and may make mistakes that put you in danger.
Respect farm animals and wildlife.
Observe wild animals and birds from a distance. Don’t disturb them. Keep wildlife wild, don’t feed wild animals or birds – our foods damage their health and leave them vulnerable to predators.
Farm animals aren’t pets; stay at a safe distance. If you’re not local it may surprise you to find cattle, horses and even the odd donkey (hello Alfie!) roaming free along a large part of the route. So:
- Look out for any animals and watch how they are behaving, particularly bulls or cows with calves.
- Avoid getting between animals and their young.
- Be prepared for animals to react to you, especially if you have a dog.
- Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around animals.
- Remember to close gates behind you eg at cattle grids.
- Keep calm and don’t run. Most cattle are curious and should they take an interest will stop before they reach you; if they follow just walk on quietly.
There’s your dogs, and then there’s other people’s. All the same rules and advice apply as on an urban street, and then there’s extra:
- Don’t assume other people you see know or are following the rules.
- Not everywhere on the route is happy to have dogs, especially as they may have vulnerable animals to protect. Check in advance with trail stops.
- Wild spaces are not the same as park spaces. A dog can happily paddle in a park pond without eg endangering wild birds. It’s not the same in the country.
- The countryside is more stimulating and unfamiliar for a lot of dogs, so they become harder to control. Even if a dog is familiar with a country setting, a new patch can offer a wealth of unfamiliar stimulation.
- You may easily without realising cross into an area that a dog considers its to protect.
- You have a legal responsibility to animal-owners, riders, and wildlife.
Horses and riders
Walkers have priority over horse-riders, but should be mindful that unlike vehicles horses can spook and be suddenly unresponsive to their rider. Walkers should therefore make the rider’s job as simple as possible, especially as the rider may be seriously injured if thrown off:
- Don’t make loud noises or sudden movements near horses.
- Don’t get too close behind a horse; make sure the rider knows you’re there.
- Go wide around a horse when overtaking it.
Food and drink
It’s important to to keep hydrated and to keep your energy levels up. If you’re not used to walking, you may get surprised at how thirsty and hungry you get, especially after a steep climb.
There’ll be lots of places along the route where you can get something to eat or drink. You might prefer to take your own, though.
Take regular sips of plain water as you go along, don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Fizzy drinks and juices aren’t as good.
Carbs, fats, and healthy sugars are a good source of energy. Trail mixes, nuts, energy bars, fresh fruit, and chocolate are all good. Snack on small amounts throughout the day.
Take all your litter away with you, including peels, skins and cores, don’t imagine your leftovers will compost harmlessly.
Leave it like you found it
Make as tiny an impact on the countryside as you can while you walk.
- Take home all litter (yours and others too) and left over food.
- This trail follows roads, lanes and well-used footpaths, please keep to them.
- If it looks like people don’t walk or cycle on it, let the ground stay that way. Any walking or cycling breaks up the soil, stops plants growing, disturbs burrowing animals.
- Don’t take souvenirs: leave rocks, flowers, plants, animals and all natural habitats as you find them.
- Don’t start fires, however tiny.
- Respect the countryside, the animals and plants in it, many of which are rare, and the people who make their living from the places you’re walking through.
- Take care not to damage property, especially walls, fences and crops. Leave gates as you find them (open or closed). Respect signs.