The area is characterised by attractive small towns and villages built of the underlying Cotswold stone (a yellow oolitic limestone). This limestone is rich in fossils, in particular fossilised sea urchins. In the Middle Ages, the wool trade made the Cotswolds prosperous; hence the Speaker of the British House of Lords sits on the Woolsack showing where the Medieval wealth of the country came from. Some of this money was put into the building of churches so the area has a number of large, handsome Cotswold stone "wool churches". The area remains affluent and has attracted wealthy people who own second homes in the area or have chosen to retire to the Cotswolds.
Typical Cotswold towns are Bourton-on-the-Water, Broadway, Burford, Chipping Norton, Cirencester, Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold and Winchcombe. The town of Chipping Campden is notable for being the home of the Arts and Crafts movement, founded by William Morris at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. William Morris lived occasionally in Broadway Tower a folly now part of a country park. Chipping Campden is also known for the annual Cotswold Games, a celebration of sports and games dating back to the early 17th century.
The Cotswolds were designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1966, with an expansion on 21 December 1990 to . In 1991 all AONBs were measured again using modern methods. The official area of the Cotswolds AONB increased to . In 2000 the government confirmed that AONBs had the same landscape quality and status as National Parks.
The largest of 40 AONBs in England and Wales, the Cotswolds AONB stretches from the border regions of South Warwickshire and Worcestershire, through West Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire and takes in parts of West Wiltshire and Bath and North East Somerset in the South.
The Cotswolds Conservation Board is the organisation that exists to conserve and enhance the AONB. Established in 2004 the board carries out a range of work from securing funding for 'on the ground' conservation projects to providing a strategic overview of the area for key decision makers, such as planning officials. The board is an independent organisation funded by Natural England and the 17 local authorities that sit within the AONB.
The Cotswold Voluntary Wardens Service, now part of the Cotswolds Conservation Board, was established in 1968 to help conserve and enhance the area. There are now over 300 Wardens. In 2007 they gave over 41,000 hours of their time.
The Cotswold Way is a long-distance footpath, approximately long, running the length of the AONB, mainly on the edge of the Cotswold escarpment with views over the Severn Valley and the Vale of Evesham.
The Cotswolds is ringed by the M5, M40 and M4 motorways, giving easy access to the area. The main non-motorway roads through the area are the A46: Bath — Stroud — Cheltenham; the A419: Swindon — Cirencester — Stroud; the A429: Cirencester — Stow-on-the-Wold — Moreton-in-Marsh; and the A40: Oxford — Burford — Cheltenham. These all roughly follow the routes of ancient roads, some laid down by the Romans, such as Ermin Street and the Fosse Way.
The area is bounded by two major rail routes: in the south by the main Bristol-Bath-London High Speed line and in the west by the Bristol-Birmingham main line. In addition, the Cotswold Line runs through the Cotswolds from Oxford to Worcester, and the Golden Valley Line runs from Swindon to Gloucester, carrying high speed and local services.
Main line, high speed rail services to the big cities are reached via stations such as Bath, Swindon, Oxford, Cheltenham and Worcester. High speed services to London are also available from Kemble station near Cirencester, Kingham station near Stow-on-the-Wold, Charlbury station and Moreton-in-Marsh station.
Cheltenham is a hub for National Express coach services. There are local bus services across the area, but some are infrequent. The best sources of information are the Gloucestershire County Council website, or local tourist information centres.
British playwright and actress Charlotte Jones set her award winning play Humble Boy in the Cotswolds. Humble Boy received the Smith Blackburn Award, 2001, as well as the Critics' Circle Award for Best New Play and the People's Choice New Play Award in 2002.
Cotswolds: The Largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Britain, the Cotswolds Is a Quintessential Slice of Rural Southern England Spread across Several Counties, Where the Influence of the Characteristic Limestone Geology Can Be Seen in the Region's Rich Human History, Architecture and Wildlife
Jun 01, 2010; I've been in the taxi just a few minutes and the driver is already warning me about the perils of local driving. 'You get deer...