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CHURCH WALK



Many old funeral paths and corpse ways survive in modern footpaths and metalled roads but few are so-called anymore. Occasionally it is possible to find an old sacred route that still retains its original name. One such example is a Church Path that runs from Gotherington village to Bishop's Cleeve, in Gloucestershire, just north of Cheltenham. In the Middle Ages Gotherington did not have its own church and its villagers were obliged to attend St Michael's church in nearby Bishop's Cleeve for baptisms, marriages and burials. A dedicated path existed for the purpose of getting to Bishop's Cleeve. This path, still traceable across the remaining fields, runs from Shutter Lane off the main street and runs between timber framed buildings on one of which is fixed a sign bearing the legend Church Walk (this was never a bridleway).

Beyond the village the path has been diverted to run through a modern mobile home park, but its original course is preserved in a bracken choked straight swathe that runs alongside the old field boundary. This relatively straight route emerges on a modern track and continues across the field beyond. This field is under the plough, but the route is carefully preserved by the farmer and kept clear at all times. At the time the site was visited the route could be clearly seen in the late harvest stubble heading directly towards the tower of St Michael's church. At the next field boundary the path veers to the right (although remains dead straight) and is demarcated as an unploughed berm about 12 feet wide of rough grass. This path is still regularly used by walkers.

At the end of this section the path disappears at a modern playing field and a housing estate beyond (c 1960s). Although the route can be traced on older OS maps it is impossible to follow the old route now. The path would have terminated at what was, until recently, the main road through Bishop's Cleeve to Evesham, in Worcestershire. Across the road from the end of the path is a piece of ground known as Gilder's Corner (SO 95152828) which is now built over with retirement houses. An archaeological investigation at the time of the development revealed a continuity of occupation on the site into the 2nd century AD and four inhumations aligned roughly E-W (two in stone lined graves) from the same period.

It may be entirely coincidental that four burials should have been placed at the end of what was a burial path. One has to assume that the funeral parties then made their way via the public highway around Gilder's Corner and up the main street to the church. This example is one of several dedicated funeral routes which converge on Bishop's Cleeve church. Unfortunately, for the modern geomantic investigator this area has been heavily developed over the last ten years, obliterating many old tracks and pathways and absorbing their routes into modern housing estates often redirecting them in the process.


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