Around 80% of the Cotswolds is farmland. The area stretches from Bath in the south to Stratford upon Avon in the North. They are approximately 120 miles in length and 50 miles wide. There is a pronounced escarpment which runs up most of the western edge. Cotswold stone is made up of layer upon layer of sand and shell fragments bound together. It was formed during the Jurassic period about 200 million years ago. The Cotswolds were designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1966 and cover about 790 square miles.
With breathtaking views of the Severn Valley, Coaley Peak provides fantastic views across the Severn Valley and onto Wales. Below lies the unimproved limestone grassland belonging to the National Trust. Coaley Peak was for many years a seasonal home to New Age travellers who were evicted around 2002 to make way for more grassland. This 12-acre site is ideal for picnics, kite flying and even hang-gliding. Closeby Woodchester Mansion is a fascinating place to visit.
Broadway Tower, a folly at the top of Fish Hill above Broadway is the second highest poit in the Cotswolds. At just over 1000ft above sea level, and 65 ft high 13 counties can be seen on a clear day. The “Saxon” style Tower was the brainchild of Capability Brown and was designed and built fo Lady Coventry in 1794. Near the tower is am memorial to the crew of a Whitley bomber that crashed during a training mission. In the late 1950’s a nuclear fallout shelter was built 50 yards from the tower. This was manned continuously from 1961 until it was decommissioned in 1991. Tours are available during certain weeknds during the summer months.
With far reaching views across the Windrush Valley, a panoramic view of Stow on the Wold in the north, The Slaughters and beyond in the south to Clapton on the Hill in the west. This 180-degree breathtaking view must not be missed. The 1:7 steep climb upto Wyck Beacon from the small village of Wyck Rissington is known locally as the Drain Pipe, the width of which is for only one car. Nestling in the bottom of the valley is the tranquil village of Bourton on the Water.
Dovers Hill, on the edge of Chipping Campden, and owned by the National Trust is a very famous landmark in the area. At thye top are incredible views over the Vale of Evesham from which the is the start of the Cotswold Way a footpath that leads all the way to Bath. In 1612 the first Cotswold Olimpicks were held – a festival of sport and pageantry. While competitive shin-kicking and jumping on bags might not be quite the same as the modern day Olympics, the games attracted upto 30,000 people in their heyday. Today this is still an annual event.
The King of Mercia, King Kenulf had his palace at Winchcombe in Saxon times. The town is steeped in history, and today is a very popular walking destination. Winchcombe is the intersection of the Cotswold Way, the Gloucestershire Way, the Wardens Way, the Wychavon Way and the Saint Kenelms Way. Beyond you can explore the Neolithic burial sire known as Belas Knapp. Situated in Spoonley Wood an original Roman Mosaic can be found under some sacking, a copy of which can be seen in Sudeley Castle.
Stanton is a village “frozen in time”. Sir Philip Stott purchased much of the village before the Great War and moved into Stanton Court. He ensured by covenants that unsightly features of the 20thC could never disfigure the village. At the far end of the village is Shenberrow Hill well known for its Iron Age earthworks and magnificent views. Nearby in the village of Stanway, can be found the Jacobean Mansion of Stanway House. J.M Barrie fell in love with the house and donated the cricket pavilion where he entertained such well-known people as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and HG Wells.
Wyck Beacon (the drain pipe)