My illustration for this month highlights the importance of footpaths and the vital link they provide us with in accessing the open countryside.
According to the Countryside Agency we have somewhere in the region of 120,000 miles of public rights of way ranging from down land and coastal paths, Hadrian’s Wall, disused railway lines and river and canal towpaths. Our footpaths, apart from being a national treasure, symbolise rights of passage created by ordinary people going about their business and for hundreds of years they linked village with village, village to town and were essentially tracks or routes used by farm workers, drovers, smugglers, school children, churchgoers and pilgrims before the age of public transport and cars
There is no better time than the present to take to the footpaths. August is the school holiday month, it is also the traditional harvest month, the culmination of the farmers year which is probably why in the past country children at this period of time were expected to help in the fields rather work than in their classrooms.
Hopefully under cloudless sunny skies thousands of acres of cereal crops, principally wheat, barely and oats are now ripening. When I was an art student in London in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s I would always go back home to the downs in Sussex where I grew up in order to help with the harvest. Even then it was relatively labour intensive involving long days and a lot of hard work, but still nothing in comparison to the effort required by many more people only a hundred years earlier. What is remarkable is how in such a relatively short space of time so much has been achieved with the efficiency and speed of the modern combine harvester.
John Hinchcliffe 2010