You probably already associate a Cotswold holiday with honey coloured villages and winding stone walls. They are a feature that is unique to this beautiful part of the world adding unity to the rolling countryside and scattered settlements. Beyond their pretty appearance however there is a long history and a lot more to learn…

Stone used is oolitic limestone and does vary in colour across the Cotswold’s giving each area it’s own local distinctiveness. From a honey colour in the North to grey and almost white in other areas. Walls are traditionally constructed without any mortar too, which makes constructing them a real skill.

 A prehistoric history…

The oldest known example of dry stone walling exists at Belas Knap (you’ll never cease to be amazed at the number of odd place names in the Cotswold’s!) – built around 2000BC. The vast majority however were built in the 18th and 19th century. A time when there was an abundance of the raw materials, cheap labour and livestock that needed enclosing. In the 19th century in times of depression large landowners also built walls around their estates to provide employment for those who were out of work. During the Second World War as well, at Stow Estate, women constructed the long stonewalls in return for food produced on the estate.

As farming changed in the 20th century towards more arable crop use and greater mechanization, these walls became redundant and fell in repair. Fewer people employed in agriculture also meant that skills for maintaining and restoring them dwindled.

A home for nature…

Just like our eco-friendly nature reserve at Log House Holidays, Cotswold dry stone walls offer a unique habitat that supports a number of flora and fauna. From feather and cushion mosses to pennywort, stonecrop, spleenwort, polypody and cranesbill. Animals that inhabit these walls include slowworms, bees, small birds, bats, fieldmice and hedgehogs. Bee holes were in fact made in some walls on purpose so that bees could colonize the wall and provide delicious honey. Just like hedgerows, this type of walling acts as a wildlife corridor rather than a barrier.

The art of stone walling…

A good stone waller usually has years of experience. They have a real eye for spotting the right stone amongst a large pile. There are a number of ways of building these walls and the variations of topping design can include anything from “cock and hen” (thin individual pieces of stone placed on their ends at right angles across the top of the wall), to coping stones or a mortar cap.

We have a pile of Cotswold stone on site, which came from the nearby town of Ewen. To date we have made a number of walls from this lovely material. Projects have included plinths, which the log cabins are built, a hot tub seating area at Mayo Landing and a raised walkway at Keno Lodge. We hope to make a couple of seating areas around the lake too with the stone soon.

Today there are over 4,000 miles of these walls in the Cotswold’s – as long as the Great Wall of China. Many of these walls are sadly in a derelict state however. Thankfully due to the work of a number of organizations, steps are being taken to both restore and better maintain them. The Cotswold’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership works to conserve and enhance this unique part of the Cotswold identity. Along with the Heritage Lottery Fund they provide grants for restoration as well as training programs for local people.

So next time you’re exploring the Cotswold’s keep an eye out for the historic stone walls and pass on to whoever you’re with everything you now know!

EXPLORE THE COTSWOLDS FROM YOUR OWN LUXURY LAKE ESCAPE...

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