1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cotteswold Hills

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15413771911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 7 — Cotteswold Hills

COTTESWOLD HILLS, or Cotswolds, a range of hills in the western midlands of England. The greater part lies in Gloucestershire, but the system covered by the name also extends into Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Somersetshire. It extends on a line from N.E. to S.W., forming a part of the great Oolitic belt extending through the English midlands. On the west the hills overlook the vales of Evesham, Gloucester and Berkeley (valleys of the Worcestershire Avon and the Severn), with a bold escarpment broken only by a few abrupt spurs, such as Bredon hill, between Tewkesbury and Evesham. On the east they slope more gently towards the basins of the upper Thames and the Bristol Avon. The watershed lies close to the western line, except where the Stroud valley, with the Frome, draining to the Severn, strikes deep into the heart of the hills. The principal valleys are those of the Windrush, Lech, Coln and Churn, feeders of the Thames, the Thames itself, and the Bristol Avon. The last, wherein lie Bath and Bristol, forms the southern boundary of the Cotteswolds; the northern is formed by the valleys of the Evenlode (draining to the Thames) and the Stour (to the Worcestershire Avon), with the low divide between them. The crest-line from Bath at the south to Meon Hill at the north measures 57 m. The breadth varies from 6 m. in the south to 28 towards the north, and the area is some 300 sq. m. The features are those of a pleasant sequestered pastoral region, rolling plateaus or wolds and bare uplands alternating with deep narrow valleys, well wooded and traversed by shallow, rapid streams. The average elevation is about 600 ft., but Cleeve Cloud above Cheltenham in the Vale of Gloucester reaches 1134 ft., and Broadway Hill, in the north, 1086 ft. These heights command splendid views over the rich vales towards the distant hills of Herefordshire and the Forest of Dean. The picturesque village of Broadway at the foot of the hill of that name is much in favour with artists.

In the soil of the hill country is so much lime that a liberal supply of manure is required. With this good crops of barley and oats are obtained, and even of wheat, if the soil is mixed with clay. But the poorest land of the hill country affords excellent pasturage for sheep, the staple commodity of the district; and the sainfoin, which grows wild, yields abundantly under cultivation. The Cotteswolds have been famous for the breed of sheep named from them since the early part of the 15th century, a breed hardy and prolific, with lambs that quickly put on fleece, and become hardened to the bracing cold of the hills, where vegetation is a month later than in the vales. Improved by judicious crossing with the Leicester sheep, the modern Cotteswold has attained high perfection of weight, shape, fleece and quality. An impulse was given to Cotteswold farming by the chartering in 1845 of the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester.

A number of small market-towns or large villages lie on the outskirts of the hills, but in the inner parts of the district villages are few. The “capital of the Cotteswolds” is Cirencester, in the east. In the north is Chipping Campden, its great Perpendicular church and the picturesque houses of its wide street commemorating the wealth of its wool-merchants between the 14th and 17th centuries. Near this town, in the parish of Weston-sub-Edge, Robert Dover, an attorney, founded the once famous Cotteswold games early in the 17th century. Horse-racing and coursing were included with every sort of athletic exercise from quoits and skittles to wrestling, cudgels and singlestick. The games were suppressed by act of parliament in 1851.

See Proceedings of the Cotteswold Naturalists’ Field Club, passim; W. H. Hutton, By Thames and Cotswold (London, 1903).