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FOOTPATHS - HISTORY
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Many of Stoke’s footpaths originate from Anglo Saxon times, when the manor (then called ‘East Curry’) consisted of hamlets and homesteads such as Huntham, Sharpham, Pinkham, Stathe, Currilode and Woodhill. The connecting paths would be alongside streams, through uncleared woodland or across the commons. As fields were enclosed with hedges or fences, footpaths were incorporated along the boundaries, with stiles or footbridges, to enable workers to access different parts of the farms and for everyone to go about their daily lives. When Slough Lane and Dark Lane were dug out to create gradients that made it possible for a laden hay cart to be horse drawn up to the top of Woodhill, steps were added, such as the ‘Clammer’ in Slough Lane. Some of the old paths remain, though, as the few ‘cross field’ paths we have in the parish.
Nowadays our footpaths are mainly used for recreation, although some are still used for journeys to school, shop, pub and churches. Some have been linked with newly created permissive footpaths, to create the East Deane Way and the Parrett Trail. There are also interpretive trails at Coates Willow & Wetlands Centre.
The Open Spaces Society is Britain's oldest national conservation body. Much of the Society's work is concerned with the preservation and creation of public paths. Before the introduction of definitive maps of public paths in the early 1950s, the public did not know where paths were, and the Open Spaces Society helped the successful campaign for paths to be shown on Ordnance Survey maps. It advises the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and local authorities are legally required to consult the society whenever there is a proposal to alter the route of a public right of way.