The seven wonders of the Cotswolds
- Credit: Archant
The Cotswolds Conservation Board invited the public to nominate their favourite sites from across this pretty region of England. From neolithic stone circles to a popular farmers’ market, here are the seven wonders of the Cotswolds!
Nr. Chipping Norton
The Rollright Stones are ancient megalithic monuments located on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border. One of the most famous stone circles in England, it consists of three main elements: the King’s Men stone circle, the King Stone, and the Whispering Knights. Numerous folktales are associated with it, including the story reported by William Camden in 1610 that the stones are the remains of a king and his army after being petrified by a witch called Mother Shipton.
Three miles from the traditional Cotswolds market town of Tetbury, Westonbirt Arboretum features a picturesque landscape with an internationally important tree and shrub collection. The 15,000 labelled trees (around 2,500 different types of tree) come from Britain, China, North America, Japan, Chile and other temperate climates. Planting started in the 1850s by Robert Holford; the rich Victorian landowner to whom the Westonbirt estate belonged. Admission charges vary, but an adult visiting in August 2015 can expect to pay £9 to access the beautiful arboretum.
The rich oolitic limestone found across the Cotswolds is used extensively in buildings, towns, villages and dry-stone walls throughout the AONB, and the honey-coloured stone has helped shaped the visual identity of the region. There are still quarries extracting the stone, and limestone buildings made with it are typically ‘Listed’, protected by planning authorities from alteration.
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Woodchester Mansion is a nineteenth century Victorian Gothic building abandoned mid-construction in 1873. Hidden in a secluded Cotswold valley, the Grade 1 Listed building has been saved from dereliction, but will never be completed. Because of Woodchester’s isolation and its Gothic character, it has attracted the attention of many with a belief in the paranormal, and ghost stories abound. The Mansion is home to two colonies of rare bats, who use the building as a roost for new babies (pups) before flying off to hibernate elsewhere during the winter. A visit to Woodchester Mansion typically costs around £7.50 for an adult.
Bath to Chipping Campden
A National Trail that offers over 100 miles of scenic walking with panoramic views of the Cotswolds, stretching north-eastwards from Bath to Chipping Campden. There are many shorter walks that encorporate the trail, taking you around the characterful Cleeve Common with its wildflowers and limestone grassland, pretty market towns like Winchcombe, Chipping Campden, Stanton and Snowshill, Broadway with its eye-catching folly tower, and more. Take a look at this five-mile taster walk from the Cotswolds Conservation Board, and read Sue Wise’ blog as she tackles the Cotswold Way stage by stage.
At 330metres, Cleeve Hill and Common is the highest point of the Cotswolds and offers views to the Malverns and into Wales on a clear day. The old English name of the hill is Cleeve Cloud, or ‘Lump on a Cliff’, and the common is great all year for walking - but walkers should be careful during bad weather. Centuries of quarrying have left rocky notches in the landscape of interest to geologists, and nature lovers come to this corner of the Cotswolds for the rare plants and bird breeding areas on the limestone grassland.
Stroud Farmers’ Market is a multi-award winning market held each Saturday, and attracts hundreds of visitors to sample the mouth-watering range of organic and local produce on offer from across the area. The market, in its 16th year as of 2015, typically features around 60 stalls at each market, with occasional cooking demos, entertainment throughout the morning and the “al fresco” market cafe. The market won Radio 4’s Best Farmers’ Market competition in 2010 and has featured in the Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, The Independent, The Guardian Weekend, Rick Stein’s Food Heroes and the Country Living Guide to Farmers’ Markets.
For more about the Cotswolds Conservation Board, visit their website.