The North Cotswolds
A little bit about the North Cotswolds and its towns and villages
Most people think of the Cotswolds as being Gloucestershire but in fact little bits of it creep into other counties and this area of outstanding natural beauty (official designated as an 'AONB') spreads its rolling hills and wooded valleys into the counties of Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire although the latter four can only claim tiny little bits of it, not least our own village of Ilmington, lying on the borders of Gloucestershire and Warwickshire, being the only village in Warwickshire which is is also in the Cotswolds AONB. This whole area runs from just south of Stratford upon Avon, in the north, to Bath, in the south, but my guide (which will follow in due course!) will concentrate on the more northern villages extending down to the Cirencester area in the middle.
This is sheep country. You will not go far before you spot an actual sheep or lamb or some building or artefact from the past connected to the wool trade. Nearly all the manor houses in the villages would never had been built were it not from the wealth accumulated by the wool merchants in medieval times. The same is true of the churches which were generously endowed by the prosperous merchants. Monasteries accumulated wealth by keeping sheep and their much prized Cotswold wool was exported all over Europe. The wool trade begat the weaving trade in the 18th century and the weavers tended to concentrate in the southern part of the Cotswolds where there was more water power to power the looms.
Remarkable also in the North Cotswolds is the honey coloured stone of many of the buildings which glow golden in the sunshine. The Cotswolds has more listed buildings than any other region of Britain. Listed buildings are buildings of some merit and restrictions are placed on alterations so as to preserve the heritage. The walls in many of the fields are loose stone walls made with the same stone and no mortar. There is a precise art to this wall building and there are courses in the Cotswolds to teach and preserve the tradition. Our own house and holiday cottage at www.sansomecottage.co.uk (formerly a farm building) were built around 1720/1740, of Cotswold stone and the house has a typical stone slate tile roof as well. The craftsmen who can build proper traditional walls are few and far between. Recently we had a dog drive into our roadside wall (probably built even earlier than the 1700's) - yes, really, left in a pick up truck and he let the brake off and careered down a slope to demolish 6ft of wall. The wall builder took four months to arrive...