Saturday, August 8, 2015

English footpaths

What can I say about walking in the Yorkshire Dales, except to note how different it is from walking in the mountains of the Northwest. Our trails are rugged and wild, while many of the footpaths in Yorkshire go right across farmer's fields and along gentle streams, in much tamer country.  However, the high moors and valleys can offer broad, lonely vistas and wild weather, and you still need to be prepared for sudden storms, even in summer.

One of the things we love about walking in England is that many of the footpaths are centuries old. They were essential for people to get to market, or from town to town, for a long time.

Many of the footpaths are centuries old. You often come across Roman or even prehistoric ruins along the paths. In former times, new footpaths were formed when a body was carried for burial across a new route. These "litchpaths" as they were called, then became incorporated as public paths. 

Most of the time, it's best to have a good map to follow a footpath, and then you simply look for the signposts.  Very old signposts have pointers that look more like fingers than arrows.  They are called "parsons," because they point the way you're supposed to go, even if the parson doesn't follow it! I'm not sure, however, if anyone still calls them parsons.

Today there are organizations that try and walk every footpath in Britain just to maintain these public rights of way as a matter of common law.  For if a path falls out of use, it will be much easier for the farmer to reclaim it.

Sometimes there is tension between the farmers and the walkers, which I can understand. As much as I like to have the freedom to walk the fields, the farmers have a point too.  They don't like their livestock disturbed--or even killed.  Sadly, we came across this sign in one area:

Why are there always people who think the rules do not apply to them? They are the people who ruin it for others.  We don't have a dog, but we do try and observe the rules and stay directly on the path, as we hike across the fields and go up and over stiles.

Are you having fun yet, Kevin?

1 comment:

  1. I have always wondered about the footpaths. Are they all over England?