Cumbrian corpse roads

I’ve been forgetting to mention that I finished this book recently and loved it. It’s a wonderful collection of walks, history, folklore, maps, ghost stories, and pretty pictures of the Cumbrian countryside, and will appeal to anyone who enjoys any of those things. Most of all it’s a delightful potter through some of the lesser known places, traditions and tales of a Cumbria that has mostly, but not entirely, vanished.

In case anyone doesn’t know, corpse roads existed in the past between remote settlements and parish churches that were often many miles away. In order to make sure the dead were buried in consecrated ground, fellow villagers had to lug the corpses to the nearest church, and over the centuries paths were created that took the way of least resistance. Over time the routes became sacrosanct, so much so that mourning parties were often unable to deviate from them by so much as a step.

The practice died out when many settlements petitioned for a church, chapel, and burial ground of their own and most ceased to be used by the nineteenth century, but in many cases the footpaths still remain to be explored.

There are two companion books, one on “lonnings” (country lanes), and one rather wonderfully called ‘Get Lost’! I’ll be looking out for both of them in due course.

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