In the 1820s, Mrs Henry Keary went for a walk. She wandered up a ‘shabby little bye road‘ and mounted a stile which gave her access to a deer park. It was a big, up and over stile. She was so impressed, she wrote about it in her diary as soon as she returned home. This is the first known written record of this particular stile and it’s in Farnham Park. Mrs K went on to say it was in a pretty sad state.
After the installation of a turnstile in 1881, following the purchase of a bit more land, rather than removing the stile, for some reason, it was retained. Subsequently, it has gradually rotted away over the years. The deer park also changed. The resident deer herd was removed and access to the park was changed, making the stile redundant. But no-one took the stile away. It stood like an old but slightly sad reminder of a bygone age when such things were necessary.
The only times the stile seems to get used are when it snows and the wood is less slippery than the path and when kids just feel the strange urge to climb steps rather than walk up a slope. Though, to be fair, I have heard many a parent warning their kids off it because it ‘looks dangerous.’
Why am I talking about this? Well, a couple of weeks ago, it vanished and was replaced by a big empty space. I’m not sure why but I felt a great loss. Apart from anything else, I hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye to what has been a permanent part of the park.
It was then, as I stood in silent mourning, that I spotted an announcement declaring the stiles fate. It had become far too decrepit and so had to be removed. Given it served no useful purpose, this seemed fine. But that was not to be the end of the story for our stile. The notice went on to inform the idle reader that a brand new oak stile would be put in its place.
This brand new oak stile was put up yesterday and I saw it this morning. I have to say, it looks very different and, once the notice has been taken down, will be quite odd for anyone who doesn’t know why it’s there at all.