How did our network of ‘green lanes’, rights of way and forest tracks come about?
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Green lanes were used by custom, droving roads to move cattle, sheep and even pigs and poultry across country either for sale or for summer pasture or pannage. Green lanes are wider where driven livestock could bed for the night, often with a pond for drinking. Other users were packhorses, carts, riders on horseback and pedestrians.
Most local drover routes were south to north to Wealden summer grazing. In Rudgwick and Loxwood, routes led to bridges at Onslow Arms, Brewhurst Mill, Drungewick, Gibbons Mill, and Wanford Mill.
The turnpike (toll road) was built through Loxwood in 1757. The Bucks Green road was turnpiked in 1809. New routes were created. Traffic was taken from the green lanes, but for a time lanes were used to join the Loxwood turnpike – e.g. from Rudgwick by Hook Street to Alfold Crossways and by Loxwood Road/Station Road. This road got a further boost when Rudgwick Station opened in 1865, taking even more traffic and livestock off the roads. Rudgwick Vestry decried the damage to the road from Loxwood by ‘foreigners’! Driven animals continued to Loxwood Fair right up to the second World War. The Wey and Arun Canal played a part in moving bulky loads such as timber from 1816 to 1871.
Most old green lanes are now Public Rights of Way (PROW). Banks and ditches can be seen. From Hook Street in the north there is a bridleway south to Pephurst, the main spine of the woods. However, there is a missing link complete with banks and ditches, on the eastern side of the proposed development, which is not a PROW.
As in photo; can you see the banks either side?
Find it on the OS Explorer map. It was proposed by Protreat as a possible access to the site in the first webinar! Another section not a PROW is to Brewhurst on the line of the old Rudgwick-Loxwood road.
A bridleway from Tismans Common at Barnsfold crosses the one above and continues west, on the northern edge of the proposed clay pit, to Alfold Bars via Pigbush Lane, which itself joins Hook Street at Monkton Hook (site of an old manor house).
Both the missing link adjacent to the proposed site, and the missing link to Brewhurst are shown below marked in pink.
In the 19th century, as exploitation of the timber from the woods increased, so the number of new tracks, or rides, grew. Some of these have been almost lost in the jungle, but others such as the LCP lorry route have been upgraded. Whatever their age or origin, all these different ways are helpful to wildlife as the canopy opens a little, letting in some sunlight.
Written by Roger Nash, local historian and geographer.