Second Green Lanes talk at Sidmouth

Popular Green Lanes talk is choice for Update on History series at Sidmouth

EVERY lane tells a story.

In the last talk of the series Update on History at Kennaway House on Wednesday, November 23, Valerie Belsey looks at the Green Lanes of Devon and the historical background that produced them.

It is a return visit to Sidmouth for Valerie, who is fascinated by our county’s wealth of old highways, now used mostly by walkers and riders.

She said: “I was inspired by the words of a great Devon historian: every lane has its history and it is not just there by accident – every twist it makes once had some historical meaning.” She worked for many years as a Green Lanes officer and has produced a series of books and maps to encourage walkers to discover their own local networks.

Valerie’s other passion is her work for Anti-Slavery International.

“It’s a little-known fact that over a million children are involved in mining and quarrying throughout the world, in slave-like conditions, so when I noticed that many of our lanes led to workplaces such as mines, quarries and old lime-kilns, I was moved to write a play on this theme.”

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This was performed at the Underwood Discovery Centre, near Kingsbridge, with musical support by Jim Causley and Jackie Oates, two favourites of the Sidmouth Folk Festival.

Valerie illustrates her talk with songs and music as well as images of our magical lanes.

The previous week, John Allen, former curator of antiquities at Exeter Museum, gave people a glimpse of Tudor Devon and its church carvings.

Ffiona Eaves, who organised the series of talks, said: “People were amazed to hear ‘aliens’ had settled in almost all the coastal towns and villages of Devon, including Sidmouth, and Budleigh Salterton.

“Registered for tax purposes as early as 1522, they were mostly from France, particularly Brittany, and many were carvers.

“Detailed paintings of a Tudor house in South Street, Exeter, now demolished, show its plan and magnificent oak staircase with carvings, including a life-like jester, can be compared closely with houses in Morlaix, a rich port which had trade dealings with Exeter.”

She said roodscreens from a number of Devon churches also find their closest similarities in Brittany.

“Tudor Devon was rich and merchants could afford the best for their houses, while towns vied with each other for elegant churches.”