Officially designated an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” in 1966, the Cotswolds in south central England form a remarkable and beautiful destination to visit. The area consists of the Cotswolds Hills, a series of rolling hills running from the meadows in the upper River Thames area through to an escarpment, named the Cotswold Edge, which is located just above Evesham Vale and the Severn Valley.
In the area can be seen beautiful and historical villages and towns with houses built from the natural, and rather unusual, golden-colored Cotswold stone, quarried in the area. These towns are surrounded by what is considered a rare vista for the United Kingdom – a type of grassland habitat, which has been formed by the Jurassic limestone bedrock of the area.
In fact, while the landscape is stunningly beautiful in itself, with the quaint villages seemingly sprouting naturally out of the environment, the area received the designation as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty mainly due to this rare grassland area, along with some ancient beech woodlands that are typical in the area.
This is considered to be the last refuge for many species of the flora and fauna in the region and part of the achievement of receiving the award is the duty to protect these species.
The Cotswolds unique aspect is clear from the fact that there are, within this area, five European “Special Areas of Conservation,” over eighty “Sites of Special Scientific Interest,” as well as three nature reserves. In 1968, a special voluntary warden service was established to protect all aspects of the Cotswolds and today there are over 300 wardens doing just that, looking after this area of outstanding natural beauty in England.
The area represented measures approximately 25 miles across and around 90 miles long as it stretches in a south-westerly direction from close to Stratford-upon-Avon (home of the famous playwright, Shakespeare), through to a little bit south of the city of Bath.
It also falls across several counties, with the majority of the Cotswolds located in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, but also spreading into Somerset, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. In fact this is the largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the whole of Great Britain.
The Cotswolds have been a popular location for many years, as can be seen from the remains of various Neolithic settlements and Bronze and Iron Age forts to be seen on Cotswold Edge, making it a fascinating visit for those with a historic or archaeological frame of mind.
Anyone interested in a really long and stunningly beautiful walk can follow the “Cotswold Way” which runs for around 103 miles through the area, mostly along the edge of the Cotswold escarpment, offering vistas of the Vale of Evesham as well as the Severn Valley.
All along the way are stunning viewpoints over the surrounding countryside and on clear days, it is possible to see for miles and miles. For a better idea of this lovely place to visit, the video below takes a scenic tour through the beautiful and picturesque towns, villages and lovely hillsides in the Cotswolds, an area of outstanding natural beauty in England.
By Anne Sewell
Cotswolds landscape, Castle Combe and Sudely Castle CC-by-SA 3.0 W. Lloyd MacKenzie, via Flickr
Bibury CC-BY-SA 3.0 by DAVID ILIFF