It is my birthday next week (I have stopped counting, so don't ask) and friend G has bought my present already (she always is an early present-giver). It is Robert Macfarlane's latest book "The Old Ways". As you know from my blogs I am a tremendous fan of Ronald Blythe, Richard Mabey, Roger Deakin and Robert MacFarlane. This book does not disappoint.
He talks about the old ways in the countryside - not just in this country but around the world. We tend to forget in these days of dashing from A to B along the motorways, or meandering more slowly along B roads, that for far longer than there have been roads of any kind there have been 'ways'.
Many of them are still there even if they are secret to all but a few folk. We have several footpaths round here. Two cross our land and are well-used by ramblers and dog-walkers. But in the centuries gone by they were well-used by anyone who needed, for any reason, to get to our village (there has been a village on this site for centuries).
The other things which have stood here for centuries of course are the field boundaries. Many of ours are stone walls - a real feature of the Yorkshire Dales, but we have quite a few hedges too. It is said that for each species in a hedge you can say the hedge has been there for a hundred years (don't ask me how they come by this arbitrary figure).
Our hedges have field maple, blackthorn, hawthorn, holly -that's four hundred years for a start. And in addition most of our fields have a name. Peacock's - why is it called Peacocks? No idea but it is called that on the map, so presumably sometime in the distant past it belonged to a Mr Peacock. Another one is calledd Commons - does that mean that it was once common land - presumably. But the one I like best is the latest field which the farmer bought just a couple of months ago - on all the maps it is called Todelands. I presume this is Yorkshire speak for 'the old lands'.
How much history there is lying around us. I read in his book that a Holloway is a footpath which has been trodden lower and lower over the centuries until it becomes deep in the ground. Near to where we lived for many years in Wolverhampton was a road called just that - and I must say I had never though of it, in spite of the fact that the road has indeed very steep banks on either side.
Do get hold of a copy if you can - it is an interesting read.