Visiting the Towns and Villages of the Cotswolds
The Cotswold towns with their distinctive "wool" churches came into being in the medieval period. This was the height of the English Gothic age, also called "Perpendicular." The wool trade grew in prominence and prosperity, reaching its peak in the 14th to the 16th centuries.
The historic market towns of the Cotswolds are still the main towns today. Sheep roam on the hillsides but the mills have turned into condos. This is no longer an industrial area, but is a wonderful rural area with market towns, villages and farms.
Why do several town names start with "Chipping"?
In medieval English a long market square was called a "Chepynge" which turned into "Chipping" for market towns such as Chipping Campden, Chipping Norton and Chipping Sodbury. Another old English word, "ceapen", probably derived from "chepynge", means "market".
When visiting a Cotswolds town ...
- Park in public parking lot. Every market town has a public parking lot - you will see signs for it as you come into the town. The parking lots are usually "Pay and Display", so be sure to carry coins around with you.
- Restrooms are easy to find. The public restrooms for the village are either near the public parking, near the Tourist Office or clearly signed on the High Street.
- Walk the length of the High Street and locate the interesting tea rooms and pubs. The High Street is the main street of the village and is frequently named "High Street".
- Visit the Tourist Office where you will find lots of free brochures for the area. Talk to the person at the counter. Tourist offices in the Cotswold are friendly and full of great information. In the smaller towns they are run by local volunteers who are happy answer all your questions and give you travel advice. They usually have local guides and walking books for sale (inexpensive self-published guides which are good resources).
- Go into the News Agent shop. You will find local hiking maps and local, self-published, hiking guides. Pick up a newspaper - the English newspapers are very good (The Guardian is my favorite).
- Find the town church. These are the famous "wool churches" built a few hundred years ago with the profits from the wool industry. Check out the grave stones in the church yard. Look up on the church to find stone carvings. Go into the church - they are usually open.
- Find the market sqaure. This is usually in the center of the town on the High Street. This is where the markets were held hundreds of years ago. Sometimes they are still used for farmers' markets.
- Look for Public Footpath signs and do a walk out into the countryside.
- Look out for pairs of villages. For example, Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter are called "the Slaughters". Too cute, isn't it? Upper Swell and Lower Swell are called "the Swells".