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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.

Visit by Sarah Spooner and John Gregory of the UEA

On Friday October the 18th we were able to enjoy a day with Sarah and John, revisiting some of our paths and discussing some of our research findings. Both said they had enjoyed visiting the paths and were able to confirm some of our findings and add their own knowledge to help us
During our visit to the Record Office, where we had studied the Enclosure Map and Award, we discovered that the present road through the village does not follow the route laid out by the Commissioners. The designated route remains a green lane. We had hoped to be able to shed some light on the reasons, but so far there is no evidence as to why the ruling was not followed. We have come to the conclusion (supposition only) that it was simply down to common usage; there having been several dwellings in the area of the villagers preferred route. Although unable to answer our question, Sarah and John were able to tell us what to look out for in documents which might help. .
Another puzzle is the origins of some earthworks in the same area. Although the archaeological unit at Gressenhall is aware of this feature, they can offer no answer as to what the earthworks were. Being able to be ‘on the ground’ and see the surrounding landscape for themselves Sarah and John were also intrigued. The site was clearly of some importance at one time because all the routes in that area avoid it, despite creating twists and turns in the roads.
Sarah and John expressed the opinion, from all we had found in terms of tree sizes, species, layout of the paths, buildings nearby, etc, that this was an area of paths with medieval origins. Were the earthworks the original site of Thompson Hall?
After a very useful and enjoyable day we agreed that, despite a few answers, we seemed to have ended up with even more questions! We were given several useful pointers as to where we can ‘tidy up’ our research and what to focus on. At least we don’t feel we have been heading in totally the wrong direction so to speak.
Thanks Sarah and John – I am sure we will be in touch many times before the project closes.

Wayland villages join the UEA project

Following a talk by Sarah Spooner and John Gregory to the Wayland Partnership Heritage Group in Watton, of which Thompson is a member, a few of the Wayland villages have joined the UEA footpaths research project.  The group were interested to hear of Thompson’s involvement in the CPRE project at recent meetings, and, although the other villages were unable to join this part of the research the interest led to a request for Sarah to talk to the group about the UEA’s role.

Carbrooke has now benefited from Sarah’s expertise and have begun their own project, while Scoulton, which has only one footpath, has offered to research a neighbouring village.  Each has taken advantage of some training sessions.  Meanwhile other villages in the Group are also considering how they might contribute.

Norfolk Record Office Visit

We had a really useful visit to the NRO recently.  Our main purpose was to study the Enclosure Map and Award to gain more information on our existing roads and tracks.  It took a while to get used to, especially as it had been re-bound in the wrong order after the Record Office fire.  Even the archivist was puzzled at first!  However, once we got to grips with it we began to learn quite a lot.

We now have a better idea of the layout which was created in 1817 and which saw many sheepwalks and common land disappear.  We did find one very surprising feature: the road through our village was not intended to take the route it now does.  Instead it was planned for it to follow part of what, today, is a green lane.  The route it follows today was intended as private roads to property and part of it was not linked together as it is now.  Now we have to discover when this change took place!

As well as the Enclosure map we have copies of earlier estate maps which show the sheepwalks and tracks prior to Enclosure and also the old strip farming field layout.  It would appear that Enclosure in Thompson was a source of dispute between two major landowners and there are many accompanying documents which we hope we have time to delve into.  Many affidavits exist, taken from villagers for their evidence as to how the land had been used within living memory. We hope these will add to our picture of why certain routes in Thompson became more important and what the purposes of many of them were in the distant past.

It would seem the more we learn the more there is to uncover!