The poor Cotswolds. This is a region of England forever being misrepresented. It's either portrayed as a posh, honey-coloured hideaway for harangued celebs and upper middle class mums on yoga retreats, or packaged up like a quaint Richard Curtis style film set for twee-seeking foreign tourists. There's *some* truth in both these clichés of course, as there always is, but you rarely get to see or read anything that presents the Cotswolds in any more depth, especially in a guide book. This book, however, is very different.
What Matthew Teller does really well in this new Rough Guide, is not to dispel these stereotypes as myths - because they're not, entirely - but to place them in their rightful context and then move on. The Cotswolds is an astoundingly pretty corner of the country, it's true, but that fact in itself betrays nothing of its heart and guts. This is an ancient patchwork of proud market towns and dyed-in-the-wool rural communities, working hard to overcome the realities of an economic situation which makes it almost impossible to maintain the agricultural way of life it's relied upon for centuries.
Where this book really succeeds is in bringing to light how this has affected the region, by revealing the reality of the Cotswolds today: a world of ancient or obsolete traditions revived in the spirit of "diversifying" (and because tourists love all that stuff), the localisation of the food chain and a subsequent glut of farmer's markets, and an astonishing gastronomic scene that's sprung up in the wake of all this. Add to this the region's plethora of oddball events and attractions, not to mention its serenity and obscenely beautiful views, and there you have it. A bucolic, distinctive, sometimes quirky, and above all - as Matthew writes himself - special destination. Who gives a toss if Jeremy Clarkson lives there or not? Buy this book, because you won't find a better - or truer - one out there, and you'll be led to a Cotswolds the hordes rarely see.