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The area is characterised by attractive small towns and villages built of the underlying Cotswold stone (a yellow oolitic limestone).This limestone is rich in fossils, particularly of fossilised sea urchins.The official area of the Cotswolds AONB was increased to 2,038 square kilometres (787 sq mi).In 2000, the government confirmed that AONBs had the same landscape quality and status as National Parks.The town of Chipping Campden is notable for being the home of the Arts and Crafts movement, founded by William Morris at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.Tourism is a significant part of the economy in the general area, generating about £1 billion in 2016 and supporting 200,000 jobs; this data is for the Cotswolds Tourism area, including Stroud, Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury.The area still preserves numerous large, handsome Cotswold Stone "wool churches".
The highest point of the region is Cleeve Hill at 1,083 ft (330 m), During the Middle Ages, thanks to the breed of sheep known as the Cotswold Lion, the Cotswolds became prosperous from the wool trade with the continent, with much of the money made from wool directed towards the building of churches.
When weathered, the colour of buildings made or faced with this stone is often described as honey or golden.
The stone varies in colour from north to south, being honey-coloured in the north and north east of the region, as shown in Cotswold villages such as Stanton and Broadway; golden-coloured in the central and southern areas, as shown in Dursley and Cirencester; and pearly white in Bath.
The name Cotswold is popularly attributed the meaning "sheep enclosure in rolling hillsides", incorporating the term, wold, meaning hills.
Compare also the Weald from the Saxon/German word Wald meaning 'wood'.
This feature, known as the Cotswold escarpment, or sometimes the Cotswold Edge, is a result of the uplifting (tilting) of the limestone layer, exposing its broken edge. To the southeast, the upper reaches of the Thames Valley and towns such as Lechlade, Tetbury and Fairford are often considered to mark the limit of this region.