Welcome to The Cotswolds!

I love the English Cotswolds and think everyone should visit this beautiful place at least once in their lifetime. Having lived all over the world and traveled as much as possible, I still think that this little part of England is one of the world's greatest treasures. This site is dedicated to helping spread the word and encourage sustainable travel to the Cotswolds.

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Saturday, 24 October 2009

Waking a Sleeping Beauty

A Brit from the industrial north of England explores the storybook world of the Cotswolds, in a classic British sports car.

On this sunny afternoon, the bells are ringing as we motor into Blockley, a secluded village in the heart of rural England. We park outside the medieval church and ask what's going on. Is it a wedding? No, says a woman with a wicker shopping basket over her arm. It's the start of the local flower show.

We cross the churchyard and join the queue outside the community hall. We hand over the £1 entrance fee and enter, only to be engulfed by a scene of joyous, unmitigated Englishness.

During our four days in the Cotswolds, that most lyrically charming region of south-central England, nothing else quite so perfectly encapsulates the appeal of village life. At one end of the hall, a framed photograph of the Queen smiles down on a group of showgoers, who in turn smile down on a vase of artfully arranged daffodils judged best flowers in the show. The woman who grew them, Brenda Samuels, can hardly believe she has won. "I'm ecstatic!" she beams.
The flower show comes at the halfway point of a driving tour that my wife, Clare, and I are taking around this region of gently rolling fields and wooded hills west of Oxford and south of Stratford upon Avon. We're following the Romantic Road to the Cotswolds' most appealing towns and villages. These picturesque communities evoke an England of timeless calm and comfortable wealth, originally built on the wool trade. It's an almost mythical place which I, growing up 40 years ago in the industrial north of the country, could only read about in books, living as I did in a city of smog and steelworks. I still have some of those childhood books, and their photographs of the Cotswolds show Arcadian scenes that have hardly changed to this day. As the English travel writer S. P. B. Mais wrote in his 1932 classic, The High Lands of Britain: "[Nowhere] else in the world can you find beauty that is more completely soothing to the soul." This blissful land was less than a hundred miles away, but it could have been another planet.

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