One of the pleasures of wandering along paths and track across our landscape is the notion that we may very well be treading the same ground and following the same routes that generations before us have done.
Footpath 10 in Beachamwell certainly has a claim for ancient roots (see what I did there?). The path closely follows the line of a track marked on an 1842 map showing ways into Beachamwell Warren from one of the gates on its perimeter (in this case Wellmere Gate) to the central warren lodge. However its historical links go back even further since this path also crosses Toot Hill where numerous archaeoligical finds have been discovered stretching back to the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods (10,000BC – 2,500BC) and on into Roman, Saxon and medieval times. Of course hills in Norfolk are not quite in the same league as hills elsewhere; nevertheless the slight elevation here does give a view over the surrounding countryside, and probably for this reason, it would have been a favoured site for human activity and settlement. ‘Toot’ is a Saxon word for lookout place, and occurs quite frequently in the place names of hills and elevated spots.
Times change however and nowadays Toot Hill is rigorously farmed and cultivated. The consequence is that a cross-field path like this needs to be re-instated every time the soil is ploughed, harrowed or drilled. Growing crops have to be cleared to allow passage. In recent times the path has been re-made on occasion but the situation is patchy. At present (29 September 2015) a significant portion of the path is planted with potatoes and not walkable, ; another part can be walked but there is no sign of the route on the ground which is cultivated with a crop emerging and so difficult for anyone unfamiliar with the path to find their away. In addition the belt of trees planted across the line of the path some 30 years ago has become a barrier with low-growing branches and piled up brushwood and logs on the ground impeding the way (not that the way is visible at this point).
However a pleasing development is that Beachamwell Parish Council is talking to the farmer who has agreed to re-instate the path. On 29 September it could be seen that some action had been taken, and hopefully the whole of the path will soon be made good again
The pictures below show the situation on 29 September 2015: