These route descriptions are based on starting at the confluence of the River Severn and the Chelt on Wainlode Lane, where the floodgates under the bridge try and hold back the water. When I attempted this route in winter the whole area was flooded and I had to make several significant diversions but by April 2021 the route as marked was all walkable.
This is the route I walked overlaid on OS Maps.
Section 1: River Severn to Barrow
Just north of the Red Lion Pub at Wainlode Hill, the Chelt joins the River Severn (SO 84872618). Walk along the bank of the Severn with the River Severn on your right to the Red Lion Pub and walk down the left hand side of it, through their yard, into the caravan park. Go straight through the caravan park and where the track goes up to the right look to your left at the hedge in front and you’ll see a stile in the hedge. Climb over and follow the hedge line until a gravel track comes down to meet it and then take the footpath over the stile on your left. Cross the brook and carry on over the field a short way until you reach the River Chelt. Turn to your right and follow the river over several fields until it bends round to the left. There’s a ‘private’ sign beyond that point and a yellow arrow directs you to the gate in the hedge (with Norton Church up on the hill behind it). Turn left and follow the track to the road and cross straight over it. Walk up Marlpit Lane until you get to a junction and set back in the hedge on your left there’s a stile. Walk down the left hand edge of the field. At this point the official footpath tells you to cross the stile into the wooded area but the end of this wooded area is completely impassable. As it comes back out into the same field you’re already in anyway, I’d recommend avoiding the wood and just carrying on in the field until the metal footpath gate at the end of it. Once out on the track, walk down it to your left until the gate to get into the field. You’ll see the River Chelt in front of you. Turn to your right and follow the river along. Both times I have walked this there have been electric fences at different points to keep the horses in. I spoke to the owner of the farm who was really helpful and a walker herself who said it’s fine to crawl under in the meantime, and they’re getting it sorted. You pass a pond and cross a track and then the river bends round to the right. Follow it round and then keep walking along the edge of the field until you pass a lake on your right which they’re very keen to tell you is private. At the end of the field go through the gate and straight on up the road past a beautiful thatched house. (The house after this on the left has a mini railway track that goes round the whole garden). At the top of the road at the junction, climb the stile into the field on your left. (It has signs about bulls but there weren’t any animals in there.)
Section 2: Barrow to Uckington
Cross the field, skirting the bottom of the small hill on your left. The hedge on the OS map is no longer there so it’s just one big field and you’re heading for the bottom right corner where there’s a stile. Walk through a small area of young trees and then along the hedge line on your right through a couple of fields. You’ll come out to a forested area ahead of you. Carry on ahead and you will be reunited with the Chelt on your left. Where a grass ‘road’ goes through the middle of the trees, there’s a footpath through a tunnel of trees. This comes out to a footbridge and then over this you cross two fields keeping the Chelt on your right. When we got to Slate Mill Farm the farmyard was blocked with lambing pens and so we backtracked and cut across to Boddington, which is shown in the images below, marked in purple as an alternative route. This route also cuts out the bit of walking along the A4019 and goes past Boddington Manor and a pretty church, so you may prefer it. I’ve since spoken to the farmer at Slate Mill Farm and he said we could walk through there if we wanted and that it would be clear after lambing season. Both routes come out on the bank of the Chelt, next to the Boddington Estate yard (like a farmyard but bigger and swankier.) Walk along the Chelt with the river on your right, towards the motorway. There’s a footbridge and then an underpass. Once under the motorway, keep the fence on your left and when you get to the farmyard cut through to the track up to the road. The other side of the road is Millhouse Farm. Here there should be two footpath options but both have unauthorised signs dissuading walkers. (I have reported both of these). The Millhouse Farm signs are permanent and more aggressive, whereas the one to the left of it is a handprinted sign which only covers the first very small field and the rest of the route from the other side is clear and well signed, so you’d be well within your rights to cross this field anyway. Alternatively you can turn left and walked up the road (not much verge here so be careful) to the A-road and then turned right and walk along (pavement on opposite side of road) until you can re-join the footpath at Uckington. I’ll update this next time I walk these paths if there’s any change. Both routes take you to the beautiful Moat house at Uckington and if I lived there I would swim in my moat every day.
Section 3: Uckington to Charlton Kings
From the moat house follow the bridleway next to the ugly concrete thing, into the field to rejoin the river. Cross the bridge and turn left following the river. Over the stile, head for the opposite diagonal corner of the field where you can climb a second stile out onto the road. Turn left. There follows a boring bit of slightly industrial road walking where the river pops up a couple of times on your right. Turn right when you get to Hayden Road and walk along it. You may find it helpful at this point to switch to Google maps as the roads are much more easily identified than on OS. Take a moment as you pass Newland View on your right to pop down it and see the old mill stone and original mill cottages which were protected by local people when the new estate was built. Turn right at the junction with Village Road (just up on your left you’ll see a thatched house which used to be the blacksmiths. You’re now in the heart of what was Arle village- a thriving farming community and market gardens, when Cheltenham itself was just a tiny one road town.) Part way up Village Road, turn left onto a footpath/ cut through to George Reddings Park. Turn immediately left and go down the left hand side of the houses. This brings you onto a pedestrian path which runs along the side of the river until you meet Princess Elizabeth Way, and then cross over and into Chelt Walk Park, just to the right of the petrol station. Follow the path until you get to a metal footbridge over the river. This is point 1 on the River Chelt audio trail which you can listen to as you follow the next section of the walk if you’d like. Don’t cross the river until you get to the next, wooden, bridge and then continue following the path along the river on the opposite side. It will take you over a third bridge and then up to the road, alongside the railway tracks. Cross the railway bridge and follow the road until you can turn left down Arle Avenue. Follow the road down to the bridge and cross the river again, continuing with the river on your right until you get to the large white Millennium Bridge overhead. Go up the steps to the bridge and then you can either cross the road and down the slope to your right, or follow the Honeybourne line down through the underpass and then left through a second underpass if you want to see a selection of street art commissioned by Cheltenham Paint Festival. Stay on the pedestrian path, past Waitrose on your left and a small park, through ‘Little Venice’, with The Bayshill on your left. Cross the road and follow Royal Well Place and then St George’s Road, past the Neptune Fountain and along Imperial Square in front of Cheltenham Town Hall. Turn left and go up Rodney Road where the river appears, running alongside the carpark. Cut through Cambray Place, along Bath Street and then right down Bath Road until you get to the beautiful green ironwork gates and entrance to Sandford Parks. Once in the park bear left and you’ll find the river, Barratt’s Mill and another huge millstone. Continue through both sections of Sandford Park keeping the river on your left and at the end of the park cross Keynsham Road to follow a footpath alongside the river. When you come out at Old Bath Road, cross over to your right across the end of Sandford Mill Road (The Mill is a big white house just up here, again with a millstone outside) and into Cox’s Meadow. You can follow the higher path along the left of the meadow, with the Chelt running alongside at the bottom of the hill. Towards the end of the meadows Lilley Brook joins the river and you follow the brook for a short time before crossing it via a footbridge on your left and into a new housing estate on the edge of Charlton Kings.
Section 4: Charlton Kings to Dowdeswell
Once over the footbridge turn right and then follow the road on your left (Chancel Road) up until it meets Cirencester Road. Turn left and then right up the hill at the village green style triangle. Carry on up along Cudnall Street and then right down Brookway Road until it turns into a footpath (there’s a tiny bit of the Chelt boxed in by a brick wall). Follow the footpath up until it branches off left (signed with a green footpath sign) and into a cul-de-sac (Brookway Drive). Follow this, straight across Copt Elm Road, and continue until it turns into a footpath. Turn left and go down the hill until you get to the ford where the Chelt meets Hearne Brook. Carry on up the hill where it turns into School Road and turn right to walk along London Road. Here there’s a bit of road walking but you can do a bypass with a slightly unofficial route which gets you a bit of extra river Chelt time. I’ve marked this in the images below. Either way you end up back on the London Road until you turn left down the lane for Wellinghill House and Farm, marked with a green footpath sign. At the bottom of the lane you re-join the river and climb over the stile to your right to follow the river along. The path takes you across the river, up through a field and over several stiles. At the end of the fourth field follow the hedge down and through an archway of trees and across the field to the metal gate out to the road. There’s a short bit of road walking past Dunkerston’s Cider on your left and then come off the road down the lane towards Salts Farm caravan park. Follow the lane round to the left and then go through the wooden gate and up to the reservoir. The path leads you up and then back down again to the right to walk along the edge of the reservoir through the pine forest. At the end of the reservoir there’s a bit of muddy clambering over fallen trees and branches and then there’s a well trodden path alongside the banks of the baby River Chelt. When you reach a logging road over the river the path crosses over so you’re walking with the Chelt on your left. Keep following the path until it peters out and cross the river again, on a small wooden plank bridge. From here the path is visible but weaves either side of a fallen down mesh fence so watch your step. You’ll get to a metal gate where the Chelt disappears past a fence and barbed wire and shortly afterwards disappears under the road. There is a small stream marked on the map the other side but as it’s not officially accessible by footpath and some people disagree as to which spring marks the beginning of the Chelt, I’ve chosen to end the trail here at the gate. You can climb over and out onto the road but it would be safer to walk back through the woods, past the reservoir.