Why join our journey through the Cotswolds?
As a local, there is more than a little pride invested in this itinerary. I love the Cotswolds, and I want to show you the very best the region has to offer. As a minimum standard, I aimed for a trip that I knew my family would enjoy. In fact, my mother-in-law and her walking group (all long-time local residents) have all said they’d sign up in a heartbeat, which was probably the best feedback I could ever have!
Let’s start with the human historical elements of this itinerary. There will be moments when your Expedition Leader or one of our local experts delves back to pre-Roman invasion, but I pretty much took the Romans as my timeline starting point. Thanks to their advanced building techniques and love of improving their conquered territories, we can actually show you the impact they had. The Cotswolds was a major center for Roman activity with the town of Corinium (now Cirencester) functioning as the beating heart of their military and trade activities. You will visit one of the best-preserved Roman villas in the country at Chedworth with incredible examples of their design ingenuity and style. You will travel along roads built by the Romans and still in use today!
The beautiful architecture of the region will help tell the story of its human inhabitants. Oxford is a remarkable starting point with some of the finest buildings in Europe that highlight almost all of the major architectural trends since the Middle Ages. Christ Church College is generally considered to be the most impressive university building in the town—Sir Christoper Wren’s designs have been the inspiration for campus design the world over. Oxford is also home to the incredible circular library building known as the Radcliffe Camera, the neoclassical Ashmolean Museum and the gothic spire of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin to name just a few of the classics.
To continue this historical theme we have included Sudeley Castle which has been impressing visitors for 1,000 years. Kings, queens and armies have all left their mark on this castle which has played a part in some of the country’s most turbulent times. In contrast to the internationally known Sudeley, we have included a visit to the ‘forgotten’ mansion at Woodchester Park, which has an equally fascinating story. What is totally unique to this mock-gothic masterpiece is the fact it was never finished, and we can clearly see all the secrets of construction, something no other Cotswold mansion offers.
England is known for its fine country gardens, and we are spoiled for choice in the Cotswolds with wonderful examples. We wanted to introduce them to you in a variety of ways. You will explore the National Trust managed masterpiece, Hidcote Gardens, considered to be the very finest example of the Arts and Crafts style on a private tour before enjoying drinks with the garden archivist. Garden expert and historian Marion Mako will guide you on a private introduction to some of her favorite gardens, closed to the general public. Finally, you will join a tour of Prince Charles’s own gardens at Highgrove House, his country residence.
Whilst you are traveling to and from these unforgettable locations, your Expedition Leader will show you beautiful sites off the main tourist routes. The Cotswolds are blessed with incredible views, pristine scenery and an endless stream of charming villages which you don’t always have to share. We have devised several days that involve relatively easy walks in quintessentially English landscapes. These include nature reserves, private estates and open countryside to provide as wide a selection of habitats as possible. The farming culture of the region has shaped the land, but it has also conserved it with livestock left to graze in wildflower meadows and secluded valleys. The immense wealth generated through the wool industry here has left a living legacy in the form of the fine architecture you will enjoy each day.
Nature is at the heart of everything we do at Natural Habitat Adventures. Despite the more obvious attractions mentioned above, you will learn about the diverse and often subtle wildlife of the region. The Cotswolds is the largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the UK, and as such, offers a protected environment for many species. Woodchester is home to a valuable roost of greater and lesser horseshoe bats, the subjects of ongoing research since 1959. The woodlands are home to deer, including the dominant fallow and the diminutive muntjac species. The clear limestone streams offer a rare haven for water voles which have lost much of their natural habitat in the UK, as well as otters. Brown hares box in the fields and birds of prey such as buzzards search out field mice. Areas of unimproved limestone grassland (untreated by fertilizer) are home to a range of butterflies, including the large blue, which has been saved from extinction here. Ash, birch and oak are dominant in our ancient woodlands.
So there you have it, a journey as diverse as the region itself. If you are wondering about extending our core trip, you will find William Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon and the city of Bath right on your doorstep. London is just an hour from Oxford, or you could travel further into the southwest to Devon or Cornwall.
By Ben Forbes