Gloucestershire stone stile project

Recording every remaining stone stile in Gloucestershire before they are lost forever.

Stone stiles are a characteristic of the Cotswold landscape of Gloucestershire, with many stiles over 200 years old. For centuries stone stiles have allowed pedestrian access across the countryside and as such indicated ancient pathways which predate land enclosure, and point to where farmsteads, barns and villages, long since vanished, existed. Despite their historic value there is no comprehensive record of stone stiles in our ancient county of Gloucestershire.

CPRE Gloucestershire volunteer Peter Wilson launched the Gloucestershire Stone Stile Project in the summer of 2020, with support from CPRE Gloucestershire and the Cotteswold Naturalists’ Field Club.

The Project

The Project was divided into three phases: Reporting of stiles, the indexing of those stiles and finally the production of an interactive OS map showing the location of the stile and information on it.

The support for the Project has been overwhelming with over 800 stone stiles reported and our thanks go to everyone who has contributed. There were duplicate sightings but often new information would be added such as the condition of the stile or its history. We now have an invaluable record of the stone stiles in our county which is a further step in securing their preservation and have expanded the scope to include historic metal stiles.

Phase two

And now the aim is to create an Index, with a unique number for each stile together with all the information received from the contributors. With the help of a small team of volunteers we have been able to start the second phase of the Project. This will bring together all the information received from the contributors on stiles located in each parish across the county.  Much of this is already available from the forms submitted together with at least one photograph but if more information is needed it will be necessary to visit the individual stile. The recording of 800 stiles across Gloucestershire needs to be tackled and this is where the team need your help.

We are looking for volunteers who are preferably fairly confident in using an Excel spread sheet to record the information which will be supplied to you from Peter Wilson. Each volunteer will receive the emails together with photographs of each stile and will be asked to enter the details onto a spreadsheet. Hugh Tarran, a member of the team has produced Guidance Notes and will be on hand if help is needed. We anticipate more volunteers will opt to use Excel however the details could be recorded onto a table in a Word document

This is some of the information which will appear on the spread sheet: – Location of stile, map ref, type of stile, which parish, condition of stile – in use and if not alternative in situ, on Right of Way or private land, where path goes to and from, and any additional information such as possible age of path, when stile was installed and any landscape features – geology, archaeology, history, etc.

It is so important to record our historical heritage and we hope that you can help. The project is one step away from producing an interactive App and with a team of Indexers across Gloucestershire we can achieve this.

For more information please contact Peter Wilson by emailing: peter.wilson@woodchestervalleyvillage.co.uk or Hugh Tarran on h.tarran@tiscali.co.uk

Jayne reports her 500th stile for Gloucestershire’s Stone Stile Project

Jayne Tovey from Ampney Crucis was inspired to find stone stiles in the Gloucestershire countryside after reading an article in her parish magazine on The Gloucestershire Stone Stile Project. In only six months she has just recorded her 500th stile!

The Gloucestershire Stone Stile Project was started by Peter Wilson who discovered there was no comprehensive record of stone stiles in our ancient county of Gloucestershire. With support from CPRE, The Countryside Charity and the Cotteswold Naturalists’ Field Club, The Stone Stile Project was launched in 2020. Since that time local people from around the County, including members of CPRE have reported over 800 stiles, and Jayne Tovey is the Project’s star contributor!

At this time of year many stiles, particularly if they have been bypassed are almost hidden in the undergrowth but Jayne, armed with her secateurs, can find them. Her searches have taken her to many areas where she often meets locals who are only too happy to talk about how stone walls on agricultural land and footpaths have changed the landscape in their parish. She hears tales of stone stiles that have been ripped out or bypassed and replaced with galvanised steel ‘kissing gates’. Thanks to Jayne, these stone stiles which are historic landmarks in our countryside are being recorded before some are lost forever.

Congratulations to Jayne and to all the other contributors to the Project, it has been a fantastic effort.

3 types of stone stile

There are three main types of stone stiles: slit or squeeze stiles, slab stiles, and step stiles.

Slit or squeeze stiles are usually two upright stones too narrow for farm animals to pass through. Slab stiles vary in height and can prove difficult to negotiate even for the most energetic walker! The less common stile is the step stile and again some of these can be tricky to climb over. For centuries these stiles have provided access to locals walking along pathways as they went about their business whilst preventing sheep and cattle from straying further afield. Examples of each are pictured below.

Squeeze stile in the village of Box by Sue Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bypassed squeeze stile on Besbury Common by Maggie Booth

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slab stile, adjacent to St Mary’s Church, Barnsley by Fay Britton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step stile on the Monarch’s Way, Tetbury by Jennifer Molyneux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you spot a stone stile…

When you are out walking, if you spot a stone stile, or if you know of an existing stile, please:

  • Photograph the stile, if possible from both sides
  • Download a Stile Recording Form here
  • Please give as much information as possible (If you have information about the OS location, history, geology and the landscape setting of the stone as well as its precise OS location, please include it. But don’t worry if you’re not able to give all that information, just include the location).
  • Email your form to: peter.wilson@woodchestervalleyvillage.co.uk