'Beating the bounds', 'Between the Oaks, along the hedge and down by the brook', and other walks

'Beating the bounds' is a traditional Ascension Day ritual in which the whole parish territorially walked its perimeter and beat children so they wouldn't forget the precise features. There's probably a better explanation than this elsewhere but those are the points I remember.

'Between the Oaks, along the hedge and down by the brook' conjures an impression of bygone rural pedestrian days when meeting someone was arranged with reference to well known landscape features. In Colley Gate for example we had the 'Water Stile', 'The Gulley', 'Lutley Gutter' - a green lane, the Razzle Dazzle - a perilous, sloping brick paved cut through which was treacherous in icy conditions, the 70 Steps - to this day dividing opinion as to the exact number; all wonderfully nostalgic, echoing a time shift identity and a society of character born out of toil and hardship.
A Black Country Rural Idyl from the early-mid 20th Century

Nostalgia is a 'return to suffering or pain', but many of us view the old days and the old ways as something lost yet wonderful, and I think in many cases its the loss of simplicity combined with modern complexities in our day to day lives that creates a yearning for something closer to nature.

Exploring the locality in which we live can be a rewarding experience with positive mental and physical health benefits, especially if carried out on foot with a number of friends or like minded people. The exploration combined with research at the local archives is a most satisfying exercise and one which helps us bond with the land whether it be new or old territory.

A recent publication entitled 'Hidden Histories' provides a wealth of ideas and places to visit, prompting exploration and investigation of the British landscape.
We hope to have a hidden history walk with the writer at Highbury Park early in the new year. Highbury lends itself perfectly to the topic with heat shattered stones from a Bronze Age Burnt Mound, Mediaeval Ridge and Furrow, The Henbury Estate, Highbury - Joeseph Chamberlain's home from 1880-1914 and much more. 


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