The Cotswolds exemplifies a vision of rural England. Pretty yellow-stone villages, huddled in tranquil wooded valleys and surrounded by evergreen farmland.
The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) protects this region of 2038sq km which is the largest area designated in this way in England. The Cotswolds reaches in the East deep into Oxfordshire, to the north into both Warwickshire and Worcestershire, in the south, Wiltshire and northeast into Somerset. However, the major part of the Cotswolds falls in Gloucestershire.
Approaching the Cotswolds from the northeast, the scenery begins to change. The half-timber and thatch begins to give way to a honey-coloured stone which defines the borders of the region. This is the Oolite-Limestone that tilts down from west to east.
In the east the gradually rising profile leads to open, arable farming country, accentuated by dark stands of trees and rivers flanked by water-meadows, source of the mighty Thames.
In Snowshill, Bibury, Castle Combe and Stanton you find idyllic stone-built villages, while Chipping Campden might be the epicenter of quaintness. The townscapes are imposing too, as you’ll find at Bradford-on-Avon, Corsham and Burford.
At its most western edge, the Cotswold escarpment holds for wide views. From Dover’s Hill down to Uley Bury, you’ll see faraway Wales, the Forest of Dean and the Malvern Hills, as well as some fine panoramas of the Cotswolds themselves rising up from the Severn Plain and Vale of Evesham. The Cotswold Way National Trail follows this edge for much of its 163 km route.
Laurie Lee, author of the childhood memories in Cider with Rosie grew up in the Cotswolds.
Much of the Cotswolds’ history is tied to the fortunes of wool. At one time this was the wool capital of Europe. The Industrial Revolution transformed the local woollen industry, bringing great mills to the Stroud Valley and poverty to the old weaving villages. Today only few sheep are left and agricultural changes over the last century brought the local ‘Cotswold Lion’ breed almost to extinction.
Walking Guide ’50 Walks in THE COTSWOLDS’, AA Publishing, 2013, ISBN 978-0-7495-7399-7
Featured Image: Typical Cotswolds Houses (Photo Credit: _Arktoi (cc))
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