Exploring Cheltenham by bus and on foot

Walking from the front door around Cheltenham

John and Mandy, recent retirees from the USA, share a few diary extracts from their month spent car-free walking around Cheltenham...


So, in the end, I walk 12.8 miles. From our place in Cheltenham, I walk through the town, up and over the hills and into the town of Winchcombe. I like Winchcombe so much that it’s now on our schedule for this coming Friday. We have a map – picked up at the Tourist Information Centre – to help us find the various historic places around here. I also make plans to show Mandy a stretch of the Cotswold Way.


We manage to start the day together at the Gustav Holst Victorian House, but Mandy heads into town to hunt for interesting finds (she always succeeds) while I tackle the hills, woods and beyond. For the long walk, Mandy has packed a veggie pie. Good, but a bit crumbly and no “soggy bottom” as promised. Nor do I manage to show her the Cotswold Way. Next time...

There are several other people climbing the hill that starts at Mill Lane in Prestbury. And more at Belas Knap, a neolithic long barrow nearby. But back on the Cotswold Way near Winchcombe, I’m the only person on the route. Of course, this is a one-off; there are often others about, probably locals who go to the hills on a regular basis to enjoy some time in nature.


I’m grateful for the GPS on my phone to keep me on track. Mandy says I should navigate the old-fashioned way – map and compass – but I’m happy to take advantage of technology that enables me to enjoy the moment even more. There are other advantages of the modern way, too; while out on the Cotswold Way, I video-chat from the hilltops with a former workmate in Oregon. Who could have imagined being able to do that a decade or so ago?

We head south today, this time together to see the Devil’s Chimney. No bus needed; this one is within walking distance of our flat. Even so, the hills around here can be steep. I have all of the energy I need to make it up, but sometimes my heart starts pumping hard and, while I love the workout, that’s my signal to slow down. As Mandy puts it, “we’re no longer spring chickens”. Plus, going more slowly offers time to notice
the details.

We have spent just under a month in Cheltenham and I feel we’ve only scratched the surface of the footpaths to explore. But there has been plenty of other walking in between the excursions. Every day, we have walks to the nearby grocery store, the shops in the town centre, to restaurants, parks, museums and more. We’ve connected to Cheltenham in a way that would have been far less likely if our life here was car-based. So many places are within walking distance. That’s why we love it here in Cheltenham: it fits our needs perfectly!


About the walkers
John and Mandy are new retirees from the USA. They have two grown children who live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Shortly before retiring, they got rid of everything they owned except fifteen boxes that their son is storing for them, and six suitcases in which carry what they need. Their plan is to be slow travellers indefinitely, ideally staying in one city for a few months before moving to the next. Cheltenham was one of the first stops on their tour.

They retired five years earlier than the normal age in the USA – a decision that was partly made possible by a decision, in 2011, to live completely car-free. It’s amazing how much money you can save over more than a decade of car-free living!

All photos by the authors.


Useful links

The Cotswolds Without A Car: A Guide To Getting Around

The Cotswold Way