Pathways to History




Why did we do fieldwork?


Surveying the physical character of footpaths and green lanes can help us to understand more about their history and development.

Very old lanes and paths are often characterised as being deeply sunken or eroded, with species rich hedges and distinctive flora like bluebells, primroses and dogs mercury. On the other hand, unbounded footpaths are not always so clearly physically defined. How does this relate to the history and development of green lanes and footpaths?

Community Involvement 


Volunteers from across Norfolk have helped us carry out a survey of green lanes and footpaths in the county.

We were interested in recording both the physical character and the historical ecology of green lanes and footpaths:

- Are there hedges and ditches?

- Is the path or lane sunken?

- How wide is the path or lane?

- Are there any large trees?

- Is there any distinctive vegetation?

- Does the path or lane have a name (either shown on the map, or a local name)?

You can download a copy of the recording form below.

Fieldwork Recording Form (pdf)

Fieldwork Recording Form (docx)

Fieldwork Guidance Notes (pdf)

Tree Recording Sheet (pdf)


Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find recording forms and maps?

You can download forms from this website, or contact us if you require printed copies of the forms. Please contact the project team if you need a map of your area.

Do I have to use a separate form for each footpath?

Yes please - this will make it much easier to process the results. The form asks for the start and end point of the path as a grid reference, or you can mark it clearly on a map.

Should I take photographs?

If you are able to take digital photographs, then please do - email them to the project team. You will retain the copyright on your photographs, and we will not use them without your permission.

How can I find out if anyone has already surveyed the paths in my area?

Contact the project team before starting your survey and we will be able to tell you whether any work has already been carried out. You can also explore the interactive map to see which paths have been surveyed.

Can I survey footpaths anywhere in Norfolk?

Of course - you don't have to stick to your own village or area, but please check with the project team to find out whether any survey work has already been carried out.

Should I record the access arrangements and state of footpaths?

If you wish to do so for your own use, then you can, but current state and access are not a key part of this project.

What should I do if I cannot access a footpath or green lane?

Please do not worry if you cannot gain access to a particular footpath or green lane, or feel uncomfortable about following a path that is not clear on the ground. Please let the project team know for our records.

Should I survey tracks and paths which are not public rights of way?

No - we only ask volunteers to survey public rights of way, as shown on modern Ordnance Survey maps. Please do not attempt to survey tracks or paths which are not public rights of way.

Which species of flora should I try and identify?

We are interested in the following - bluebells, dogs mercury, barren strawberry, wild garlic, wood anemone, wood avens, primroses and yellow archangel. We are not recording common plants and flowers, like cow parsley.

Dog's Mercury - often used as an 'indicator species' to detect areas of former ancient woodland. Photograph by Ken Hawkins.

I'm not sure how to identify different species - what should I do?

You don't have to record these if you don't want to - at some times of year it may be difficult to do so anyway!  If you want to know more, then have a look at our guidance notes, or contact the project team.