With an urge to complete a long distance run I headed to the LDWA website for any long, preferably circular routes in Wales and the south West and ideally one that I could get to so that I could finish the run with a beer.
The Glevum Way walk in Gloucester instantly caught my eye. With a distance of 24 miles it was long but not crazily long and it would be easy to catch a train from Newport. The elevation looked reasonable at around 900ft with most concentrated around one area of the route and there would be some sections along towpaths and country lanes.
A Little History
Glevum (or Colonia Nervia Glevensium) was a Roman fort established in AD 48 that became a ‘colonia’ of retired legionaries in AD 97. Today, we now Glevum as Gloucester.
About The Route
Glevum Way is an approximately 24-ish mile circular route that starts at the historic Gloucester Docks and take an anti-clockwise direction along the course of the River Severn and Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. It then passes through Hardwicke, across the main railway line and through fields to Whaddon and onto Gloucester Golf Course.
The route heads beneath the M5 motorway and to the picturesque Upton St Leonards in the eastern suburbs of Gloucester. Loosely following the M5 north you reach the steepest part of the route – Churchdown Hill.
Following a number of brooks around the northern edge of Gloucester the route passes Gloucestershire Airport and another golf course before eventually rejoining the River Severn which you follow back to the start at Gloucester Docks.
On the Day
I had been monitoring the weather in the days leading up to the run and the bad weather that was forecast was either going to hit Gloucester or sit just south of it. By Friday evening it looked like Gloucester was going to escape and it was going to be a dry and overcast day.
Starting outside the Tank microbrewery quickly heads out into countryside via the remains of Llanthony Priory. I wasn’t sure whether or not the route would be signposted but was quickly reassured by either dedicated signs or stickers that had been attached to the regular footpath signs.
Passing through fields the first point of interest encountered is the 14th century Lady’s Well which is one of the best preserved holy wells in Gloucestershire and the nearest to the city centre. The path continues until eventually joining the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal.
The wide canal has a number of canal barges moored on its banks and is popular with walkers and runners. After a few miles you cross one of a number of swing bridges that are dotted along the canal and pass through Hardwicke. Whilst there are some off road sections here, there are a few roads to run along as Hardwicke becomes Quedgeley.
Crossing the main railway line you begin a larger off-road section criss-crossing fields and passing cows (couldn’t resist sticking around for a bit to take some photographs for @CowRater). Reaching the village of Whaddon the rain that I hoped wouldn’t come started to fall. I was around 10 miles in and there was now a good chance of a soaking! I’d come prepared so it was on with the waterproof jacket and onwards to the first real climb on the southern edge of Robins Wood Hill.
The route only ventured a small distance up the hill before spurring off into Gloucester Golf Course where I managed to find ALL the bramble bushes to slice up my leg. The lack of a signs in a small portion of the golf course confused me slightly but by sticking to the edge I managed to make my way around it. Usually when slightly ‘lost’ it’s easy to figure out features such as field boundaries but within a golf course there aren’t many features to look out for.
The route passes beneath the M5 motorway into the eastern suburbs of Gloucester and the picturesque village of Upton St Leonards. With many fallen leaves still covering the paths there were ample opportunities for photographs in and around the village.
By this point I was well and truly soaked and covered in mud and after being drenched by passing cars on a busy stretch of road I was as wet as I was going to get. And there still another 10 miles of off-road section to complete.
Churchdown Hill – the hilliest part of the route – involved a long climb along a country lane and then out into muddy trails shrouded in rain clouds. Going up was not an issue but the descent proved to be a little tricky after the rain had caused a buildup of mud along the slopes and trail steps. A bit of tiptoeing and strategic footwork and I had made it back out onto a grassy field for the descent into Churchdown.
More muddy fields to trudge through and then yet another golf course to navigate through. The permissive route follows a brook through the golf course and you get to see a LOT of it.
Exiting the golf course and briefly entering a sewage works the path joins the Gloucestershire Way as it travels around the northern side of Gloucester. Field after field were taking their toll on my legs and it felt like I was on one big cross country race. I knew I would be soon be joining the River Severn and was hoping that there would be a more established path to run along. Nope, more tough narrow paths with obstacles to navigate and brambles to avoid.
As it nears the city, the route switches to the other side of the river and into Castle Meads which, just a few hundred yards from the finish at Gloucester Docks, had a herd of cows grazing within it. A perfect opportunity for another photo for @CowRater.
Just over 24 miles since the start I was returning to Tank microbrewery. In the early stages of the run I had been looking forward to finishing and heading into Tank for a celebratory beer but based on the state I was in after being drenched and running through mud I’m not sure I would have been allowed in. Instead I had to walk into town, purchase some cheap towel from Poundland and dry myself off in a public toilet! Oh the glamorous life of a runner!