IF IT had not been for the diligence and perseverance of a group of people more than 70 years ago, there might not have been any of the public footpaths around Hittisleigh that there are today.

A basic history of how the paths would have been lost had it not been for their efforts was laid out on Saturday morning (August 14) at the first gathering of local folk back at Hittisleigh Village Hall for 15 months.

It used to be the time for the local produce market but this was a coffee morning where people could donate any spare produce, cakes, jams or anything else to help raise funds for the Village Hall.

There were bacon butties with local bacon from Oinkers a few miles up the road and sausage baps, the bread from Ellis Bakery at Okehampton.

Chris Hall, chairman of the Village Hall Committee, explained that the morning was to see if there was an appetite to reinstate the market.

In the hall was a fascinating story put together by Hittisleigh Parish Council member Gill Fisher who had spent some time during lockdown going through parish records to try to define the local footpaths, eventually putting it all together to form the display at the coffee morning.

As well as copies of documents in the records, Gill had set out activities - and disputes - since the 1949 Access to the Countryside Act when Hittisleigh Parish Council declared there were no public paths in the parish.

Strangely, it turned out that Hittisleigh was the only parish claiming this. It claimed that all 11 paths marked on a map were private paths used by farm workers and local people only and were not public.

Then came three-and-a-half years of argument with a public enquiry, which made six paths available to the public of the 11.

In 1975 came the opening of the Two Moors Way. Hittisleigh still claimed all the paths were to be closed, although acknowledging the Two Moors Way. The result was those paths that remain today. This, with newspaper cuttings and parish records made fascinating reading.

Part of the morning’s celebration of people being able to meet again was a visit by members of Winkleigh Morris and a presentation to former Devon County Councillor for the area, Nick Way.

This was a combined Hittisleigh Parish Council and Hittisleigh Village Hall Committee presentation. Nick was thanked by Richard Gard, chairman of Hittisleigh Parish Council who explained that Nick had helped both groups through the years.

He had been a councillor for 26 years, 16 of them as a county council member. Richard Gard said Nick had found funding from his county council “pot” with items such as framing the maps of the parish paths being paid for through the county council.

“It all helps when you do not have much money to begin with,” said Richard. “Money has also been available via the parish council for use by the Village Hall committee,” he added.

Nick was given an iced coffee cake decorated with walnuts which had a humorous significance only at Hittisleigh, plus a bottle of wine and a serviette.

Thanking them all, Nick said he had enjoyed representing the parish.

Members of Winkleigh Morris did several dances in the Village Hall car park, also enjoyed by a couple of Two Moors Way walkers.

The Foreman (Instructor) Colin Andrews was selling packs of the Morris’ 30th anniversary playing cards featuring a picture of each pub or festival they had danced at. This is their 31st year.

Other venues booked this year include the New Inn at Sampford Courtenay on August 24 at 7.30pm, the Globe Inn, Beaford for its Beer Festival on August 28 at 2.30pm, and the Red Lion at Exbourne on August 31 at 7.30pm.

September will see them at Lapford Revel at 7pm on September 3, hopefully at Winkleigh Fair on the 5th, off to Swanage for its Folk Festival on the 7th, and on October 3 the Morris is planning to be at RHS Rosemoor Apple Festival at Torrington.