For a lot of people, the Cotswolds, with their rich and varied landscape sprinkled with golden coloured churches, grand houses, villages and towns, are often considered to represent the very core of England.
Here are rolling green hills, honey-hued limestone walls, rose-covered cottages and babbling streams. Described in 1933 by J B Priestley as ‘the most English and least spoiled of all our countrysides’, this is a region for which the word ‘peaceful’ seems specially suited. Over it, as a whole, quietness reigns.
Creamy limestone is what makes the Cotswolds. Warmer toned in the north, pearly in the central areas and light grey in the south, the stone seems to glow with absorbed sunlight. Hamlets, villages, churches and towns grow out of the landscape in such a pleasing way just because this local stone has a warm and enduring quality.
The Cotswolds is home to many attractive towns; Cheltenham, one of the finest spa towns in Europe with a wealth of Regency houses, and Cirencester, once the second largest Roman town in Britain. One of the most elegant is undoubtedly Chipping Camden, whose golden houses and elegant civic buildings reflect the prosperity of the medieval wool trade, which underpinned the economy of this region. ‘Chipping’ comes from an Old English word for market ~ and it was prosperous as early as the 13th century.
Here many of the villages, enfolded in the Cotswold hills, are multi-syllabled; Stow~on~the~Wold, Moreton~in~Marsh, Bourton~on~the~Water: their names trip rhythmically off the tongue like a poem. The villages themselves stand as thick as stooks in a cornfield and on these wide, rolling hills, there is one in every valley.
Gardens open for charity
Highnam Court, Highnam, Gloucestershire
The artist Thomas Gambier Parry set out this Victorian landscaped garden with lakes, shrubberies, grottos and fernery. The much admired ornamental lakes and woodland are now joined by a new one-acre rose garden. See National Gardens Scheme Yellow Book or visit www.ngs.org.uk for full details and opening times.
Do you know and love any parts of the Cotswolds or Severn Valley? Share your thoughts and leave a comment.