Pathways to History: researching footpaths and 'green lanes' in Norfolk

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: History

Abstract

Considering the amount of use and attention they receive from the general public, minor rights of way, public footpaths and 'green lanes' remain remarkably under-researched by academics. Recent initiatives by Natural England have emphasized the importance of green lanes as habitats, which has led to some surveying and recording by local naturalist groups, including the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists Society. But the history of these features has received little attention, and that of public footpaths virtually none.

Pathways to History aims to encourage local communities to research and record the public rights of way (PROW) within their own particular area. Communities would be supported by training sessions delivered by landscape historians from the School of History and our partner organisations. Training in the use of oral history will also be offered, so that participants can effectively record reminiscences about the use of particular routes in the past, lost names for lanes, and local stories and traditions attached to them. In addition, communities will be strongly encouraged to undertake fieldwork to record the physical features of PROW. Participating groups would then be encouraged to upload the results of their research directly onto the project website, which would be designed and maintained by the University, and publicised with the assistance of our project partners. We would also organise a number of guided public walks, each hosted by one of the local groups involved, where they would be able to communicate their findings directly to a wider audience. In addition, the research team will produce three articles presenting the overall results of the project to an academic audience.

Planned Impact

The project will benefit a wide range of potential users, and has significant implications for the formulation of public policy. Public rights of way are important for many groups and individuals. They are regularly used by members of the public, and represent one of the key ways in which the public physically engages with the countryside. In the present climate of economic austerity, when local authorities are obliged to restrict the amount of money available for the maintenance of rights of way, green lanes and footpaths will in many cases only remain open and accessible if current levels of usage are maintained or increased. Encouraging communities to engage with the history and archaeology of their local paths is likely to increase the frequency with which they are used, thus ensuring that the direct benefits of the project are passed on to the wider community, whether or not its members have been involved at the outset. This project aims to encourage local communities actively to explore their local footpath network, and by extension will promote the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle for all ages. The public health benefits of walking have been recognised by the National Health Service and by charities such as Age UK and Macmillan Cancer Research UK.

The project will also prove invaluable to those involved in the management and conservation of public rights of way within Norfolk. They include Norfolk County Council, which maintains the 'definitive' map of public rights of way and oversees their maintenance and accessibility. The data collected as part of this project can be used directly by the local authority in its daily management of the rights of way network. In addition, the data and other research carried out by communities will be uploaded onto the Norfolk Historic Environment Record (NHER), which is compiled by Norfolk County Council. The NHER provides information on the historic environment of the county to researchers, academics and members of the public and to commercial clients, including developers and archaeological units. In terms of national policy frameworks, the findings from the project would be of direct benefit to national organisations, such as Natural England. Public sector organisations and charities including the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and The Ramblers, would also benefit from the proposed project. All of these organisations could use the data and research in formulating local and national policy relating to public rights of way, rural accessibility, the management of the historic environment and public health. Public rights of way are also a vital part of our cultural heritage as well as our physical heritage. This project will bring together raw data and historical research to produce a rounded view of green lanes and footpaths in Norfolk, which will help to place the rights of ways network within a wider historical context. Local communities, as well as regional and national organisations, will gain a new appreciation of the importance of public rights of way to rural communities both past and present.

Publications


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Gregory, J. (2014) Pathways to History in Rural History Today

 
Title Pop Up Exhibition 
Description The project team produced a small pop-up exhibition on the history of public rights of way in Norfolk for use at public lectures, workshops and other events during the life and the project and afterwards. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2013 
Impact Further interest in the research generated by the project, and in getting involved with the research process from members of the public. 
 
Description A key achievement of the Pathways project has been the creation of a new dataset on the history and archaeology of public rights of way in Norfolk, generated by volunteer members of the public working across the county. This includes new evidence about their physical character and their historical ecology, as well as an analysis of their legal status and history on historic maps and other archival sources. This dataset, linked to GIS mapping, has led to new conclusions on the history and distribution of public rights of way in Norfolk. The dataset was created through the involvement of volunteers who received training from the project team in carrying out both fieldwork and archival research, based on a clear methodology developed as part of the project which could be used elsewhere in the future. In effect, this has created an enthusiastic volunteer network across Norfolk which could be further developed in the future. The dataset will be made available freely online during 2014, representing a significant new resource for researchers, policymakers and members of the public who are interested in managing the modern public rights of ways network.
Exploitation Route The findings of the project can be taken forward in a number of ways. Within academia, the dataset produced has opened up a range of research questions about the archaeology and history of public rights of way, particularly the history of their legal status. Outside academia, it could be developed by local authorities and local parish councils investigating the history and distribution of the modern public rights of way network, including evidence for disputes over public rights of way. Members of the public and local community groups (including parish councils) can utilise the data already generated, and can also make use of the methodology for surveying public rights of way in their own parish (a methodology which could be applied anywhere in the UK).
Sectors Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
URL http://www.pathwaystohistory.co.uk
 
Description A key part of the Pathways project has been the training of volunteers in both fieldwork and archival research - 300 people across Norfolk have attended training sessions run by the project team. The dataset created by the volunteers, in collaboration with the project team, has been used for a variety of purposes, including evidence in footpath disputes and exhibitions, events and guided walks organised by local communities. Throughout the project has encouraged people to explore the countryside on foot by using public rights of ways, enhancing quality of life by promoting countryside access and the benefits of walking for health. The dataset produced during the project will become freely accessible online in 2014, enabling local parish councils to use the findings of the project to support their own research and work into maintaining and managing the modern public rights of way network.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services
 
Title Pathways Dataset 
Description A database relating to historic rights of way in Norfolk, based on a mixture of fieldwork and research carried out by volunteers and members of the project team. The dataset identifies physical features, such as erosion and earthwork banks and ditches, as well as historic vegetation including hedgerow species and ancient trees. It also includes brief details about the nature and status of public rights of way on historic maps and photographs of many of the paths surveyed. Each footpath that was surveyed has a unique ID number which is the same as those recorded on the Definitive Map held by Norfolk County Council. The database has been converted into a dataset using ArcGIS, which is being developed as a freely available online resource linked to Google maps (it is currently only accessible in a beta version - see link below). 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact An enhanced understanding of, and interest in, the public rights of way network in Norfolk, and its development from the general public. 
URL http://www.pathwaystohistory.co.uk/aboutproject.php
 
Description Engagement Masterclass (Pathways) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact An engagement masterclass held at UEA on the Pathways to History project to share best practice in engagement activities.

Increased interest in participating in both fieldwork and research for the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Guided Walk - Beachamwell (Pathways and Ideas Bank) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A guided walk around the historic footpaths of Beachamwell, with members of the project team and members of the public. The walk was organised by the Beachamwell group as part of the CPRE Connecting Threads HLF funded project, supported by the Ideas Bank team at UEA and also linking with our Pathways to History project.

An increased interest in historic public rights of way in the parish for both our own project and the Beachamwell group.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.exploringourfootpaths.co.uk/beachamwell/2013/06/25/an-evening-with-the-experts/
 
Description Guided Walks (Pathways) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The project team led a series of guided walks for different groups across Norfolk to increase interest in the use and maintenance of public rights of way alongside their history and archaeology. These included walks with the Caistor Roman Project group, a local history group in Felmingham, and with a Julian Support group completing a Discovery quest.

An increase in interest in maintaining and using public rights of way, and a number of new volunteers interested in participating in the research process.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://uealandscape.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/pathways-to-history-little-walsingham/
 
Description Guided Walks - Horning (Pathways and Ideas Bank) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Guided walks and pop-up exhibition on historic footpaths in the parish of Horning, attended by volunteers from the project and members of the public, and members of the project team. The group in Horning is part of the CPRE Connecting Threads HLF funded project, supported by the Ideas Banks team at UEA, and linking with our Pathways to History project.

Increased interest in participating in both fieldwork and research for the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.exploringourfootpaths.co.uk/horning/2013/11/25/horning-history-walkst-benedicts-church-to...
 
Description Guided Walks for Schools (Pathways and Ideas Bank) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A guided walk with Year 3 pupils Reepham Primary School investigating the history of their local footpath network, which led to questions and discussions about the nature of historic paths, trees and hedgerows. This was held in conjunction with the CPRE Connecting Threads HLF funded project as part of our support through the Ideas Bank project, and also linked to our Pathways to History project.

Increased interest in public rights of way in local schools.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.exploringourfootpaths.co.uk/reepham/2013/07/30/8-july-2013-walking-with-year-3-from-reeph...
 
Description Norfolk Association of Local Councils Training Sessions (Pathways) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact Members of the project team attended three events with the Norfolk Association of Local Councils, attended by parish councillors and Norfolk County Council to discuss the status and maintenance of footpaths, and how we can relate the history and archaeology of public rights of ways to issues surrounding management, maintenance and access in the present and future. Between 30 and 50 councillors attended each session, which were held at the Norfolk Record Office, West Dereham village hall and Tasburgh village hall.

Local councillors gained new insight into investigating the history of their footpaths, whilst the project team gained a better understanding of the value of public rights of way in parishes, and the issues which affect current use and management.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Public Lectures (Pathways) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Members of the project team gave public lectures around Norfolk to share the results of the project to date, and to stimulate discussion on the management and maintenance of public footpaths. These have included lectures at the Centre of East Anglian Studies, the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society, Blakeney Historical Society, the U3A, Reepham Local History Group, the Loddon local history group and Carleton Rode local history group.

Increased interest in participating in both fieldwork and research for the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014
 
Description Research Workshop and Fieldwork - Thompson (Pathways and Ideas Bank) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact A research workshop and fieldwork activities with the local history group in Thompson, including discussion of evidence from archival sources and field evidence. The Thompson group were part of the CPRE Connecting Threads HLF funded project, supported by the Ideas Bank team and linking with our Pathways to History project.

Increased interest in participating in both fieldwork and research for the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.exploringourfootpaths.co.uk/thompson/2013/10/23/visit-by-sarah-spooner-and-john-gregory-o...
 
Description Volunteer Training Workshops (Pathways) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Members of the public and members of various local history group attended a series of ten training and information workshops about participating in the project. These were held at the UEA, at the Norfolk Record Office and at various locations around the county.

Increased interest in participating in both fieldwork and research for the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL https://www.uea.ac.uk/history/pathways/events