Northumberland is full of public footpaths, byways, bridleways, green roads and lonnens.
At the latest meeting of Glendale Local History Society, members learned how our rich network of rights of way came about, how to learn more about them and how to discover more to add to the list.
The speaker was Sue Rodgers and in a talk entitled Restoring the Record in Northumberland – Historical Paths and Tracks. Sue, with the benefit of a lifetime of private and professional interest in the subject, made her audience aware that our historic rights of way have origins that go back hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of years.
Ancient tracks from pre-history, Roman roads, drove roads, packhorse and peddlers’ routes, even paths made by schoolchildren on their way to lessons, have all contributed to what we take for granted.
Sue pointed out that in former times man rarely walked or rode for pleasure, there was usually some purpose behind it.
Routes went somewhere significant, perhaps to a livestock fair or a mill and had indicative names such Salter’s Drove or Jingling Gate – jingling coming from the bells that driven cattle wore.
Ways were often defined by trees, hawthorn hedges, walls or embankments. Stones or clumps of Scots pines were used as way markers.
After the Second World War, the Government decided upon a Rights of Way Act so in 1949 all parishes in England and Wales were instructed to register all tracks then in use.
These were subsequently recorded on Ordnance Survey maps. Additions and modifications were made in 1981.
However, in 2026 the situation is changing. After then no more rights of way will be eligible for registration.
At the next meeting in the Cheviot Centre, Wooler, on Wednesday, January 8, at 7.30pm. Paula Constantine will talk on Saxon and Viking clothing.