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Kathryn Gillett, Elizabethan HistorianTours > Sir Francis Drake > Ancient Tracks

In Search of Sir Francis Drake
by Kathryn Gillett, Elizabethan England on Britannia

Ancient Tracks
Particularly prominent in the Cotswolds

Public Footpath by Lawrence Ross In addition to being a native of England, and accustomed to driving on the left, Lawrence was happy to be assigned driving duty. And it was my luck to have a traveling companion who preferred taking little country roads instead of racing from one town to the next on major highways. With no destination in mind, we headed in whatever direction took our fancy. Our carefree route took us along charming lanes lined with beautiful stone walls that lead us through a tranquil landscape of gentle green hills and verdant pastures.

We leisurely passed through one charming village after another with names like Quenington, and Coln St. Aldwyn, stopping frequently to watch the wild quail and pheasant, walk on frosted footbridges, and along a picturesque public footpath.

This was an unexpected historical find for me. Lawrence told me that these public footpaths have crisscrossed England since Roman times. It would have been on such a path, then, that Drake would have traveled to court from his home in Devon. We walked a while in restful silence. On a sloping grassy hillside to the left, sheep soundlessly grazed, fully indifferent to our presence. And as we passed a pond stretched out placidly on our right, the only sound was of our feet crunching the fallen leaves that now sparkled with frost.

While we easily trod over this now-rarely-visited route of damp earth and grass, I thought how 450 years ago travelers would surely have gotten mired in muck in their heavily-laden carriages.

As we walked, Lawrence identified the near-bare trees as Beech, and made the connection that what we now saw as sturdy English Oaks would have been but young saplings when Elizabeth Tudor was Queen.

We headed back to our car and continued our journey through time. Along one road, a medieval church sat serenely atop a quiet grassy hillside, while below a gentle stream carried a gathering of swans that floated lazily by. In my imaginings I went back four hundred years - and the scene did not change at all.

Photograph of public footpath by Lawrence Ross.

Next Stop: Northleach

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