The Well Trodden Path

by Heather MacDermid

This book written in 1987 to celebrate and mark the first 100 years of the Leicestershire Footpath Association is now available to read on line. The pages have been scanned and saved as .pdf files and cover the following sections of the book. You can also read a summary of each chapter further down this page.

Chapter 1   Leicestershire Footpath Association Centenary
Chapter 2   The Records
Chapter 3   The People
Chapter 4   The History of our first 100 years
Chapter 5   The Rambling Section
Chapter 6   LFA Now
Chapter 7   Living Memories
Chapter 8   Swithland: A disputed path
Chapter 9   Tribunals and The Definitive Map
Chapter 10  Blackbrook: A Tribunal Case Study


The Well-Trodden Path tells the story of Leicestershire Footpath Association, one of the oldest associations for footpath preservation in the country. This lively study of the last hundred years, includes many original photographs, maps and documents, and personal memories of local walkers. The book includes details of the ‘behind the scenes’ work in relation to footpaths, bringing to life the official documents relating to diversions and closures and obstructions of ancient footpaths in a much loved part of Leicestershire.

Published in 1987 to mark the centenary of the Leicestershire Footpath Association, the book is 92 pages 250mm x 175mm and has a hard spine. It is black and white only with photographs, line drawing and maps.


To Gordon Lilly for hours spent in the Records Office researching material for the history of LFA. Gilbert Odell for consultation and advice. The LFA Centenary committee, Jon  Berry, Mary Essinger, Brian Jenkinson and Steve Westby. Vaughan College Historical Research class 1985-6 run by Ron Greenall. Betty Hodsall, Win Mills and other members of the Grasshoppers for old pictures and photographs. Mollie Rippin for photographs of her father. To Barbara and Kendal Clark for the article written by their grandmother, published in the Daily Chronicle in the early 1880’s and to Helen Clark of Somerset for permission to use it. To the Leicester Mercury, the Leicestershire Record Office and other officials. To Martin Wadd for cartoons. To Jean Harrison for illustrations and E. A. Holmes for the design and cover.

Chapter 1 – Leicestershire Footpath Association (LFA) Centenary

Celebrated in 1987 .

Records of the Association have been methodically deposited at what is now the The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland situated in Wigston Magna.

The main theme of the Association’s history is the work carried out to protect the footpaths of Leicestershire for the preservation of rights of way for the enjoyment of walkers.

Chapter 2 – The Records

The LFA seems always to have had a strong sense of history collecting Enclosure Awards, old maps, journals, pamphlets, booklets explaining the law and details of Acts of Parliament, all relating to footpath matters.

Across the border matters were not ignored and the documents include a pamphlet  on a meeting to protest about the Earl of Derby closing a path in Pilkington.

There are minute books back to 1887 and Annual General Meeting (AGM) minutes all in leather bound volumes with a picture of the founding secretary Mr A.J. Gimson.

1924 – concern was raised about the whittling away of landmarks such as Croft Hill, Bardon Hill and Mountsorrel Hill.

1926 – it was stated that vigilant attitude of the committee was necessary because Leicester was spreading rapidly and swallowing up fields and their paths.

1927 ……..No difficult was experienced as Mr Rippin (Alderman Rippin) had removed a quantity of barbed wire the previous week.

Plus a mass of correspondence with parish councils from and to the secretary of the time H.H. Peach.

Chapter 3 – The People

The leading founder members of Leicestershire Footpath Association were respected, even comparatively wealthy members of the Leicester community. Many of the original committee were clergymen and County Councillors and members of well-established Leicester families.

This chapter includes:-

Napier Reeve (1811 – 1888)
Arthur J. Gimson – First Secretary and Treasurer (1887 – 1911)
J.M. Gimson
S.A Gimson
R.F. Martin
Alderman W.H. Rippin (1871 – 1949) President of Leicestershire Footpath Association and First President of Ramblers Association.
Harry H. Peach, Secretary of Leicestershire Footpath Association until 1912. Founder of Dryad.
Sidney J. Pick Treasurer, Leicestershire Footpath Association 1912 -1969.
Robert Freer, Leicestershire Footpath Association Rambles Secretary 1929 – 1934.
Sir Robert Martin, Leicestershire Footpath Association President for 27 years.
Gilbert Odell, Leicestershire Footpath Association Secretary 1948 – 1977
Press clipping 1857 re Kibworth stile and action of Rebeccaites.
1931 National Conference of the Commons and Footpath Preservation Society,

Chapter 4 – The History of our first 100 years

Harry Peach wrote a history of the first 25 years, in it he compared his generation to that of the giants from the early days of the Association. This was written in 1928 when the Leicestershire Footpath Association hosted the first National Conference for the Countryside which resulted in the formation of the Ramblers Association.

A report of the 8th annual meeting in 1895 was reported in the Leicester Daily Mercury and in 1947 the AGM believed that”Parish Councils are not fully conversant with all the public rights appertaining to their respective parishes,…….”

The Association printed posters offering a reward of £5.0.0 “To prevent damage to trees and ferns such as at Easter two years ago (1891) caused the Park (Bradgate) to be closed to the Public.

A booklet of Footpath Rambles with Maps was published in 1910 no doubt based on the detailed research that had gone into the publication in 1904 Footpath Map of Leicestershire.

During the Great War the local press published articles on rambles and after the war the LFA for the first time had a Rambling Section but in 1928 acknowledged that “While rambling is perhaps a lighter and less serious phase of the association’s activities,…….”.

Between the wars members of the Leicestershire Footpath Association were busy in other spheres. The Council for the Preservation of Rural England was the brainchild of H.H. Peach and in 1931 the Ramblers Association was inaugurated in Leicester with the LFA chairman W.H. Rippin it’s first chairman.

Lots of work was created for members by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949 which required at long last a Definitive Map of rights of ways to be prepared. Here the 1904 Leicestershire map provided a foundation for the task.

The final section of this long chapter reports on the plans to create a 100 mile walk around the county to celebrate the Association’s centenary The Leicestershire Round. At that time Rutland was a reluctant part of Leicestershire so the route briefly passes through that county which is today proudly independent.

Chapter 5 – The Rambling Section

In 1920 Mr Rippin proposed that during the summer months conducted walks over the least known paths in the district would do much to popularise the association.

1921 It is hoped to continue these rambles this season if more volunteers will come forward to help.

A representative of the Boy Scout movement was on the committee.

It was agreed that Mr G. Waddington should arrange for advertisments to be placed in the local paper on a Friday night.

A programme of 1925 lists Easter April 19th until September 26th. These fornightly walks started by a train, tram or bus journey.

The rambles committe in 1925 consisted of: Miss Benson, Miss Fox, Miss Joyce, Mr H.H. Flower, Mr S.J. Pick, Mr W.H. Rippin, Mr C.R. Robson, Mr J. Sanders, Mr J.J. Wheatley & Mr J. Howard Wright.

From the Commons, Open Spaces & Footpaths Preservation Society a note on the legal position “The Barbed Wire Nuisances” dated December 1937 is reproduced.

Chapter 6 – LFA Now

Changes in the countryside are a feature of this chapter. Until 1981 bulls were prohibited from fields crossed by footpaths. LFA deplored the proposal as set out in the Wildlife and Countryside Bill of 1980.

In response to comments by Mr T.F.N. Johnson of the Market Harborough Rambling Club, Harborough M.P. Mr John Farr objected to the waste of money being incurred on the resuscitating ancient paths across the middle of fields although he was in favor of a national network of footpaths.

Chapter 7 – Living Memories

Interviews with older members. In 1985 Marry Essinger talks to Mr Ernest Smith of Carisbrooke Road who was made a life member for his services over many years as Treasurer. Mollie Rippin, daughter of Alderman W.H. Rippin talks to Mary Prior also in 1985. Miss Gabbitas, aged 76, of 59, Anstey Lane interviewed by Martin Wadd in 1986.

Snatches of converstaions with Gilbert Odell and Gordon Lilly in 1984 and comments from Katy Marson, Win Mills and Jo Thorpe including mention of the influential Jack Garner.

A personal view by Mary Essinger of the Winter Rambling Programme for 1985 plus pictures of that period and earlier supplied by members of the Grasshoppers walking group.

An article by Lucretia Clark, appearing in the Daily Chronicle in the early 1880’s “Hints for Holidays – A Walking Tour”.

Chapter 8 – Swithland: A Disputed Path

The story of a dispute over a footpath. An example of the kind of work done by the Leicestershire Footpath Association.

It shows the process of:

  • Reporting Obstructions
  • Collecting Evidence
  • Corresponding with persons concerned
  • Searching for legal evidence
  • Removing Obstructions
  • Reporting dangerous situations
  • Taking cases to law

This story starts in 1886 with letters from J.M. Gimson to the Loughborough District Highway Board complaining that a path in Swithland across land of the Reverend J Murray Dixon had been stopped up and a stile removed.

Chapter 9 – Tribunals And The Definitive Map

Parish councils and others were invited to help prepare the Definitive Map of Rights of Ways as required by the National Parks and Countryside Act 1949. Walkers were keen to ensure all paths were shown on the map, landowners may have been less enthusiastic. Therefore Tribunals were held to establish whether paths were to be recorded.

At the AGM of 1952 it was reported that the draft map would be available for public inspection for four months and members were concerned that paths missed off this map will probably be lost for ever.

The Leicestershire Footpath Association submitted 400 objections relating to paths which had been omitted from the draft map. The Association’s resources were obviously stretched to attend all the tribunals with detailed knowledge of the paths in dispute. They did not manage to save every path they defended but it was not for the lack of trying.

Chapter 10 – Blackbrook: A Tribunal Case Study

Blackbrook was some distance from Leicester so fell beyond the scope of the 1904 Map of Leicestershire paths. In the mining district of Northwest Leicestershire between Whitwick, Thringstone and Shepshed the land was owned mainly by Ambrose Phillips,  the de Lisle family of Garendon with smaller plots awarded to William Fenton and Charles Bennett.

Paths in the area had been in dispute in the early 1930s. Chairman of the parish council J.B. Martin of Charley Hall confirmed the correct line of paths in 1938 but………

In 1954 a Tribunal recommended the path not be added to the map. Gilbert Odell appealed against the judgement and approached Dr. Parker, the County Archivist, to act as witness.

George Green of Loughborough made a long statement at the appeal, Ernest College of Shepshed presented evidence collected from many old people. Mr Gorman the gamekeeper had greeted passers by (not warned them of trespass), but the appeal was lost. Read the chapter for the final outcome in 1986.


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