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Author interview: Judy Mills

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Broadway. Photo: Adam Long.

In Day Walks in the Cotswolds, Judy Mills offers twenty circular walks to allow you to experience the (literal) ups and downs of the Cotswolds landscape. Judy doesn’t stop there either; she also provides various suggestions of places to get well earned refreshments, enabling you to get a true taste for the Cotswolds.

In a brief Q and A, Judy demonstrates her love for the area, which enabled her to write such an insightful guide, taking it beyond being merely a book of instructions. Judy also admits that, in walking these routes herself, she came across elements of the Cotswolds that she hadn’t known or seen before. She goes on to praise the photography of Adam Long that is included in the book, providing a glimpse of what you could discover when you undertake these routes yourself.

Is this the first time you’ve written a guidebook? How did you find the process?

The idea of writing a guidebook had never occurred to me until, through a mutual friend, I was put in touch with VP's Jon Barton.  

I was more familiar with descriptive writing where the number of words was not limited, or factual writing where I needed to say my piece as succinctly as possible, but guidebook-writing came somewhere in the middle. It was a challenge to write so that the reader would get a feel for the walk and want to be there, while keeping the word count down.

Had you competed all the walks featured in the guide before or did you discover new routes while looking for a range to include in the guide?

I had walked – or run – parts of many of the routes, but others were totally new to me. Some of the routes came about because I wanted to go to a particular village or location; others grew out of a blank space on the overview of walk locations. I was pleased to discover that my previous ideas about of the Cotswolds were very limited, and I was astounded by the number of both neolithic/iron age and WWII sites hidden within the AONB.

Which is your favourite walk in the book and why?
It's very hard to have a favourite walk: many of the walks gave me moments of great joy: the woods at the start of the Chedworth walk and through Ozleworth Bottom; some of the grassland alongside the River Windrush and over Juniper Hill (the Slad walk); unexpected sightings of deer, fox, hare, red kite and heron. On another day and in another season that might be different 

The Rollright and Adlestrop walk has so much to offer in houses old and new, churches, the stone circle, and a hill fort – and some beautiful horses. Also, I will never tire of the walks close to my home with the outstanding church at Owlpen and the ups-and-downs of Cam Long Down and Cam Peak.

Right: Eastleach Martin. Photo: Adam Long. 

The Cotswolds is such a popular area; are there any hidden gems in the book or less-travelled routes?

I met surprisingly few people on the walks. Obviously Broadway, Snowshill & Bourton-on-the-Water are going to be busy but I would say there are hidden gems on all of the walks. This of course can mean less well-maintained paths and poorer signposting, but the rewards will outweigh these minor inconveniences.

There are lots of walking guides to the Cotswolds out there, what makes this one different?

To fully enjoy a walk it helps to understand the countryside. As a long-term Cotswold resident and with my background of ecology, conservation and agriculture, I hope I have made the book a little more informative than a straightforward 'turn left, turn right' guide. 

It should make the walker more aware or ask questions: why is this planted here? Who lived there? Why are there pheasants everywhere? Why is there a sluice in this stream?

But if this doesn't interest them, the book describes twenty great walks, many at least partly off the beaten track. It is also jam-packed with Adam Long's stunning photographs, and comes in the tried-and-tested format that must be familiar to users of VP's guidebooks.

Above: Inside the Neolithic long barrow at Belas Knap. Photo: Adam Long.

Click HERE to find out more about Day Walks in the Cotswolds.

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