We have a large network of public footpaths in the Deepings – some providing useful short cuts, and others routed across farmland in peaceful isolation, which people especially value at present. Some have been in use for over two hundred years.
When the open field system of farming ended here in the early 19th century, landowners fenced off their properties, and Commissioners were appointed by Act of Parliament to establish legal rights of way for local people to cross private land. A meeting was held in January 1809 at the New Inn (now The Stage) to discuss proposals for eighteen footpaths linking Market Deeping, Deeping St James and Frognall.
Let’s take a virtual stroll along one of these paths, which many people may use in small sections, without realising its full length or history. It starts at the top of the gravel lane by Market Deeping cemetery, then follows the cemetery hedge and continues straight ahead alongside a row of horse chestnut trees. In 1809 the grassland on the right was a glebe field, allocated to the rector, Joseph Monkhouse, as part of his benefits. His successor, the reverend William Hildyard planted it with “valuable timber”, but only a small number of trees remain. In the 1990s it was bought by the Town Council for community use, and now includes a cycle track.
This photograph shows the view looking backwards towards St Guthlac’s church, while our route continues over the pedestrian crossing in Godsey Lane. Take a few steps to the left, before entering Tesco’s car park along its boundary with William Hildyard’s School grounds. Both the school and the store are built on part of a nineteen acre field which was also allocated to the rector as glebe land. Originally, the footpath bisected this field in a straight line.
Reaching the front of Tesco’s, turn right and follow a path round the side of the building next to the school playground. It leads into a recent housing development called Jubilee Drive. Cross the paved roadway and re-join a tarmac path about one metre in front of the house windows.
Ahead is a tall hedge with a gap in it, which marks the parish boundary line between Market Deeping and Deeping St James. The footpath continues through the gap into part of a field which in 1809 was owned by farmer Francis Mawby. It is currently uncultivated and well-trodden earth shows the way forward.
Walk straight ahead, crossing over a small dyke, then continue alongside a deeper drainage channel. Until recently, crops were still grown in the field on the right-hand side, which was owned by Tyghe’s Charity, but it is now a construction site for Linden Homes.
The photograph shows a view looking back towards Market Deeping. The historic sight-line to the church is now blocked by new houses in Jubilee Grove, but the top of the tower can be glimpsed in the distance.
Our footpath leaves the field over a wooden bridge, and comes to an end in Linchfield Road.
Although their surroundings continue to change, the paths survive, well-used by people taking exercise, and it normal times by school children and shoppers.
We hope to resume our monthly meetings next season, whenever it is safe to do so, and wish everyone good health in the meantime.