The Cotswolds

Following our recent water borne escapades in the name of Team Building and Company Harmony, it was decided to do something a little more laid back for the 2013 event. A spot of hiking was decided upon following an exhaustive risk assesment based on last year’s near loss of a quarter of the company. No-one ever gets hurt on a gentle stroll in the country, and its not as if the Cotswolds is particularly bumpy.

The English summer (I use the word advisedly) even co-operated, with the day of the event dawning bright and blue. We all made our way to the various pick up points for the mini-bus for the short journey Stanton in Gloucestershire. Well, it might have been short if the driver had not mistook his SatNav for a dashboard ornament and decided that he really needed a minimum of 3 lanes on which to drive. This had the added bonus of providing extra time for team bonding with the result that the mood was still amicable upon arrival.

Walking in the UK is not exactly trekking in the Himalayas, the paths tend to be fairly obvious and well marked, but that didn’t stop our elite team from spending a good 10 minutes in the car park “getting their bearings”, some of that time was even spent with the maps the right way up!

To be fair, a chunk of that time was also spent readying the technology – checking mobile phone signal and Facebook connectivity. Sally had prepared laminated route maps and someone even produced an Ordnance Survey map to make us look really professional. Following distribution of Jelly Babies and other assorted snacks we were ready for the off.

The route – Stanton, Snowshill and the Edge

The village of Stanton is a typical, picturesque Cotswold village with distinctive stone cottages and even some thatched roofs. A gaggle of well heeled ladies taking their horses for their morning canter only added to the idyllic scene.

Greg, James S, Chris, Matt 
and 1/2 Graeme!

It wasn’t long before the illusion of the Cotswolds being pancake-like was shattered – there was a sizeable hill on the way out of the village, although it turned out that going up said hill was unnecessary as it was the wrong way.

Our elite map reading team of Matt, James S and Chris soon put us back on track. To be fair to them, we did pretty well navigation-wise – although they soon opened up a lead on the rest of this so any direction-related arguments they may have had were out of earshot of the rest of us.

When the walk was first being planned, a distance of 6 miles was mentioned as being a nice distance that wouldn’t overly tax anyone and ensure we could also talk to each other – not going to get much team building done if everyone’s panting for breath! Its fair to say that a good few people thought that we’d be done and dusted by 11 am and ready for a good few hours of liquid refreshment.

Turns out the walk was quite a bit more challenging than most of us has expected. Not only were there hills, there were muddy sections, cow pats to be avoided and herds of sheep to be navigated.

Stanton – a typically idyllic Cotswold village

The view of Snowshill, nestling beautifully in a valley was, therefore, greeted with no small measure of joy. There were even some painted, stone sheep in a field just to make the MK residents feel at home – they were starting to get unnerved by all the livestock that made noises and moved around.

Stunning Views

This was the half way point, and the sun was over the yard arm. The Snowshill Arms was soon located and we all piled into the bar eager for refreshment.

The sight of 10 finely toned athletes storming into the pub gave the landlady quite a shock and she quickly retired to the back to do her hair and make up. One of the nice things about visiting country pubs in the UK is the chance to sample some beers that you are unlikely to have come across before.

Some people, though, take the view that they’d rather see what Carlsberg tastes like in different surroundings. Since the point of the exercise was to promote team harmony and understanding, we all took Greg’s decision in our stride and were very supportive. He didn’t repeat the mistake at lunch!!!

It really was rather pleasant, sitting in the beer garden on a sunny Friday morning supping a pint of local brew and chatting away. It was at this point that some of us had a nasty surprise. On any normal day, once 11am is past thoughts start to turn to lunch and tummies start to rumble. Today was different. The company-wide email that went out two days before the event clearly stated that lunch was to be at 2.30pm – a good two hours later than normal. There was some concern that this may prove too much for some employees – breaking into the supply of Jelly Babies and cereal bars soon staved off the onset of starvation and we headed back to Stanton.

The second half of the walk was just as pretty as the first, but also just as hilly. It was also incident-free and we soon coasted down the hill back to Stanton. Would the bus driver have made it back to the pick up point? Had he dared leave it in the first place? He was there and we were soon en-route to Broadway, a slightly larger town where we were booked into the Crown and Trumpet for a well deserved lunch.

Mud plugging…
L:R – Chris, Lauren, Matt, Lynne and James

More local ale was chosen (Greg went for a local Cider proving that peer pressure can be effective) and we sat down to a very nice lunch. Talk of the day was James “two main courses” Slootweg who decided that the Whitebait were so nice he’d have another helping for pudding. This caused a moment of confusion when the waitress had to triple check that she had heard correctly. Think they may have served more whitebait that day than in the previous 6 months. Legends will be written about the day a 7ft tall stranger came into town on his 6 legged horse with two heads and ordered two helpings of Whitebait. They’ll probably start a Whitebait eating competition next year in James’ honour.

The end of a long day
L:R – Matt and Al

By this time, the best of the weather was behind us and we all piled back into the mini bus to head back to the big smoke. Being a creature of habit, the bus driver again took the scenic route, although not many people noticed as there were many nodding heads as the 6 miles of tortorous countryside, a big meal and a lunchtime drink or two all took their toll.

As with previous years, the event was a great success, providing some interaction with our work colleagues outside of the office environment. We did well with the weather and got to see some very nice countryside. In the words of Brian Hanrahan – “I counted them all out, and I counted them all back in again”.


Quotes from the day:

James S : “A fantastic day out, I never thought I would see so much of England on a trip to the Cotswolds.”

Greg : “A good day out seeing all of the wildlife, including the colourful sheep.”

Lynne : “Great scenery, a lovely day (probably the only sunny day this summer!), relieved not to get wet this year and enjoyed hearing about the antics of Graeme’s band!”

James W : “A lovely walk (good choice Sally) and a fantastic pint of Donnington Brewery BB at the Snowshills Arms, disappointing that no-one got wet this year though…”

Graeme : “A faultlessly (well almost) led walk by Matt through the best of England’s countryside culminating in a pint at a characterful British pub. What better way to spend a Friday?”