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Icknield Way near Lewknor in Oxfordshire. Source: David Hawgood / CC by SA 2.0.

How England's Oldest Road Was Nearly Lost Forever (Video)

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Discovering the ancient secrets of England's oldest road, the Icknield Way, is a fascinating journey. Stretching over 100 miles through southeast England, it has been trodden by humans for millennia. However, parts of this historic path were almost lost forever due to inconsistencies and local opposition in mapping public rights of way in the '50s and '60s. The process of rectifying this began with the Countryside and Rights of Way Act in 2000, giving England until January 1st, 2026, to document all footpaths. The Ramblers charity stepped up to the challenge, engaging thousands of people in a collaborative effort to locate and record the missing paths using modern technology.

While some landowners may have been less keen on the public discovering rights of way through their properties, the project aims to rely solely on historical evidence. As we approach the deadline, England is witnessing the end of a millennia-long process, bringing the ancient Icknield Way and countless other paths back from the brink of obscurity. A unique moment in history, where modern mapping technology intersects with a tradition rooted in folk knowledge, guarantees that these paths will either be preserved for posterity or lost forever.

Top image: Icknield Way near Lewknor in Oxfordshire. Source: David Hawgood / CC by SA 2.0.

By Robbie Mitchell

 
Robbie Mitchell's picture

Robbie

I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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