With enormous help from well over 100 enthusiastic countryside walkers we have recorded 90-95 per cent of the county’s stone stiles which are an historic part of our Cotswold landscape.
Project contributors are reporting that stone stiles are being removed and replaced with noisy metal kissing gates or just removed leaving gaps to ease the passage of ramblers. it seems our efforts to photograph all our stone stiles may just have been in time before many vanish. We have an enormous amount of work to do indexing them but the evidence has been assembled.
In April 2021 a new Countryside Code was launched and the wording of this may be encouraging the wanton destruction of stiles. The guidance includes making rights of way more accessible for visitors and goes on to suggest to land managers that they should ease access ‘for visitors with different abilities and needs. Create gaps or put up accessible self-closing gates instead of stiles where there is public access, if possible.’ British Standard BS 5709 also suggests for gaps gates and stiles replacement with self-closing gates.
There is nothing wrong in easing access but does not mean destroying ancient stiles, often 300 or more years old, and an integral part of the countryside.
They should not be destroyed. It is perfectly reasonable to treasure them by placing alongside each a more rambler friendly access. Why not fund this through from ELMS – public money for public good. ELMS (Environment Land Management Schemes which are replacing the current financial support to farmers) funds stone walls, for their landscape value, so why not stone stiles as well and for their additional historic value.
Will you publicise the plight of our stone stiles and seek help to have them protected?
Peter T Wilson, Professor, Retd.