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Take a walk in Blue Bell Woods listen to the sounds around you, of bird song and bees. Smell the flowers and the scent of Spring in the air. Every year is a new beginning and every day a blessing

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

English country walks.............

One big difference between Michigan and where I grew up is the freedom to go where we wanted. I have no idea if its still true but I know that it is where I was raised. There are "footpaths" .....one of the things I remember about my dad was us going for walks. Mum, Dad and myself would go off over the fields along the footpaths. He would be armed with clippers and would trim overhanging branches. One of the things to keep footpaths open would be public use, otherwise they could become overgrown and disappear.I think there are now real laws in place to protect that right. So off we would go and I would learn the names of the trees and about the hedgerows and the wildlife around and about. I would also go along the same trails on my own. I remember one such walk and drinking from a stream. Clear as Spring water can be. Sticklebacks are tiny fish and it was fun to try to catch some in little nets and keep them in a jam jar. Tadpoles too.
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The footpaths are usually well marked and the entry to fields are generally marked with a stile or gate that can open without letting the livestock out.

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The footpaths are pretty obvious and farmers appreciate it when people stick to them and not destroy the crops or bother the animals. Other than that people are usually free to come and go across their land
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I think its a part of our heritage dating back to before land ownership that freedom to wander. Later came the Kings who gave land to whomever they chose. Not a bad thing because it kept it in good shape and in later years prevented the encroachment of land developers. The farms that came were sometimes private owned but some were on crown property or a part of an estate. The hedgerows are ancient, many hundreds of years old. Its an art, a skill that should never be lost. The hedgerow is a haven for animals and birds and without those England would not be England. Then came the enclosure act and a lot of the privilege of hunting and foraging were taken away from regular folk and poaching became a sport. Over time common land was allotted and people could graze their animals on the common or the green in most villages. The Kings lands and forests were out of bounds for hunting as were the estates but the byways, bridle ways and footpaths came into being. I do not know off hand the exact history of this but many paths are hundreds of years old. I think people have a different attitude in the British Isles than in the USA. Here if its mine its mind and you stay out or else. I miss the more open feeling of being able to walk on beautiful farm lands. Now that does not mean mountain bikes or snowmobiles or any of those things popular in the States it means hiking on foot.
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There are also Bridle Ways for horses and all these things are marked on Ordinance survey maps. What better way to spend a vacation or a weekend or just a day than hiking through beautiful country.

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3 comments:

Tammy said...

A sad sign of the times.

Jackie said...

It is still lovely to walk along the footpaths here in the UK. We have one along the canal very near to our house also the Blackwater Valley.We are lucky to be within a half hour drive of Richmond Park, Bushy Park, Hampton Court and the Thames. I would much rather spend my time walking along towpaths than go shopping!!!!

The UK is a walkers paradise!

Jackie in Surrey, UK.

JOHNSON, Cotswold Hills, England. said...

The paths are still just as you remember them, Janice.

Tens of thousands of miles of paths that link village with village. Some, as you say, thousands of years old dating back to long before the Romans were here.

A new development is the creation of long distance footpaths. These often use the old paths but where needed, they have created linking paths with the permission of the landowners.

I horse ride, too, and often take the horses for miles along an old Roman road. It never is used by cars as it has never been redeveloped and it is a glorious highway used only by animals and people on foot, on horse or on bicycle.

Johnson