Green lanes of all shapes and sizes

21 August 1998

Green lanes of all shapes and sizes

MOST of us will have wandered a green lane or two in our time – they are something country people take for granted – but read Valerie Belseys well illustrated book* and familiar places will be seen with fresh eyes.

Green lanes can be hard to define as they come in many guises, but as Valerie tells us, these lanes developed according to their users requirements. Packhorse lanes needed to be no wider than the loaded animal so would be much narrower than a lane that had to accommodate 50 or so cattle.

Drovers, smugglers, tinkers, traders and others used the lanes. The two main types of dealers in perishable produce were known as badgers and higglers. Badgers were the middlemen for the corn trade and sometimes for butter and cheese. They had to be registered officially at the Quarter Sessions and be married and often these traders were women.

Higglers dealt in poultry and eggs, buying direct from farmers wives and sometimes paid for these with mugs and other utensils.

Salt was another commodity transported on these tracks and place names ending in wick or wich often indicate a place where rock salt was to be found – such as Nantwich, Northwich and Middlewich.

This book is a mine of information and an eye opener as to the history and ecological value of green lanes. TG

*The Green Lanes of England, by Valerie Belsey, Green Books (£12.95).

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