We did it!

After burning the midnight oil and a last minute dash to deliver it, we managed to hand in our report on the footpaths project in on time – just. We still have loose ends to tie up and some things we want to do to make sure others can enjoy the results but the major work is done (for now). Although we had been writing up the various parts as we went along, pulling it all together into a sensible document took a bit longer than we expected. Adding in all the photos and maps also gave us a few headaches. We found that a small team, each working on different aspects seemed to work best, as we each have different skills. The final push saw us working until midnight, beginning again the next day at 9 am, confident that we only needed to tidy up the loose ends with refreshed brains before delivering our tome to Katy at CPRE. Wrong! It wasn’t that straightforward and we kept finding things to correct. Then we learned Katy was going to be out of the office, but fortunately she suggested instead that we deliver it to the Chair, who was nearer. After a quick dash to a local office with a proper binding machine we could borrow, we headed off to deliver the precious cargo, conscious we had to be there by 3 pm. We made it, after some difficulty in finding the address, with five minutes to spare. We like working to deadlines! It concentrates the mind. We still have work to do to better preserve and present our findings for wider use. We really like Historypin and, now that the report is written, can turn our attentions back to adding more detail to that. We also want to improve and sift some of the photographs and create a DVD with all the materials, including the report, so that others, such as the UEA and local people, can view it. There is also more to write up on this website. The project won’t stop with the report. We have plans for walks, such as bat walks for youngsters, and history walks so that more of our community and beyond can see for themselves what we have discovered. We plan an event where we can exhibit examples of our findings and we hope to have an interpretation board unveiled at this event. We are excited that we have established that the paths close to the church are at least mediaeval in origin, the routes providing access to our Collegiate Church when it was at the height of its importance. We have also raised a few puzzles, some of which may never be fully answered. For example why did the road past the church, which seems to have followed the same route for many generations and which was confirmed as a public road upon Enclosure, fall into disuse? Today it is a bridleway and the present road follows that of a former private road. We cannot uncover when this changed and why, the only explanation seeming to be common usage – despite ‘officialdom’. We have learned to look again at the paths and in closer detail, noticing plants and trees with new eyes. We are certainly better at identification of species! Thanks to a member of our group who is an ecologist, we also have a helpful tree identification leaflet. We all thought we were familiar with our paths but we have gained new enjoyment from walking them, not least as group sharing our discoveries. Most of us had said that our walks were normally at pace, for health and exercise, leaving less time to notice the detail. The project made us walk more slowly, taking in all we could find and questioning it. We hope others will learn from our research and also understand why the paths need to be used and respected, so that generations to come can also enjoy them.