Midsomer Murders History Header Public Footpaths

Public Footpaths

(Caution: Contains spoilers for Episodes: 02×03: Dead Man’s Eleven, 09×02: Dead Letters, 13×01: The Sword of Guillaume, and 14×04: The Oblong Murders)


The Barnaby family are looking for a new place to live in Fletcher’s Cross and have a bite to eat in the Queen’s Arms, outside, in the garden. As they leave the pub, they are approached by Zelda Frasier. She is collecting signatures for the petition of the Fletcher’s Cross Ramblers Association, who are fighting for the right of way through Robert Cavendish’s estate. It’s a public footpath, but the landlord has blocked off part of it without permission.

Nothing that would only happen recently or only in Midsomer. A little later we learn that green oak branches are a very important symbol of the right of villages to walk in the woods and on public footpaths. This is the basis of the Midsomer Barton Oak Festival.


Rights of way

„What is a right of way? A right of way is a path that anyone has the legal right to use on foot, and sometimes using other forms of transport.“ (Source: Open Spaces Society)

The Fletcher’s Cross Ramblers Association is not unique. In fact, there are associations such as the Open Spaces Society (OSS) in Barnaby Land, which works from Henley-on-Thames to ensure that public footpaths remain public. The responsibility for maintaining and recording public rights of way lies with local authorities.

Public footpaths have often existed for centuries, if not millennia, linking villages to villages and villages to markets or places of worship. Often the age of the path can be determined by the places it connects. Furthermore, a footpath that is well below the present ground level is often an ancient trackway from the Neolithic, Bronze or Iron Ages. They also tend to follow the lie of the land.

If, on the other hand, the path is not near a wood, but there are bluebells, dog’s mercury, primroses, old trees or stumps, it is a sign that the path dates from the Anglo-Saxon period and that a wood has been cleared.


Munden Estate

Munden House
Brian Smith: Munden House. CC BY-SA 2.0.

The real Cavendish Estate is the Munden Estate in Hertfordshire and, yes, there are indeed 6 mi (10 km) of public footpaths. A third of these are permissive footpaths. They link Aldenham with Bricket Wood and form part of the path between St Albans and Watford, whose histories are intertwined. In the 12th century the Abbot of St Albans was granted a market as lord of the manor. This was the origin of Watford.

The footpaths that run through the Munden Estate probably date from the same period. By this time there was already a building here called Meriden, which belonged to the Abbey of St Albans until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It was first mentioned in 1097 and “it is believed that the estate was acquired by Robert de Meriden and that Munden is a derivation of his name“. Monks might have stopped here on their way to or from Watford.

The settlement is even older, however, as the remains of a Roman villa have been found here.

The present house was built in 1795 and has been owned by the Hibbert family since 1828. Listed as a National Heritage Site since 12th August 1985, the manor was the setting not only for Cavendish House. But is was also used for also for Mr Toad’s, er, Freddie Butler’s Haddington Hall (09×03: Vixen’s Run), Edward Milton’s house (13×02: The Made-by-Measure Murder) and Germaine Troughton’s house (19×03: Last Man Out).


Illegal restrictions on public footpaths in other episodes

Similarly in Midsomer Parva, where the right of way is stopped by Hugh Dalgleish, and the Oblong Society in Midsomer Malham.

First, Midsomer Parva: We first hear of it in the town hall in Causton, where Hugh Dalgleish, unloved by everyone, has just entered the room. Tom Barnaby is patted vehemently by Lucy Terry, who sits behind him and startles him. She demands to know if the DCI has spoken to Hugh Dalgleish, who, like Cavendish, has no interest in anyone trespassing on his property.

(More Midsomer Parva history? —> This way, please.)

Tom Barnaby tries to calm and end the situation, clearly not wanting to have this discussion here and now. He points at Ben Jones, who is sitting next to him.

The issue of the right of way comes up in passing a few times in the episode. And the dispute between Terrys and Dalgleish is only resolved indirectly in the episode, as Hugh Dalgleish is one of the murder victims in the episode. Who inherits his estate is not addressed in the episode.

And in Midsomer Malham, the bizarrely shady Oblong Society blocks a public footpath through the grounds of Malham Manor. The society has acquired the property through one of its members, Ruth Lambert. Various dog owners still use the path to a certain extent, including dog sitter Millie Bullard, George Bullard’s sister.

John Barnaby has just come to collect Sykes from his first day with her. They are both standing in the garden watching Sykes run around and mess up the other dogs.

Read more about Midsomer Murders & History

The Chronology of Midsomer County by Year or by EpisodesDeep Dives into Midsomer & History.





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Petra Tabarelli has studied history and has earned an international reputation as an expert on the history and development of football rules. But she is also a big fan of Midsomer Murders - and that's why this website about history and nostalgia in and around Midsomer exists. She was looking for a website like this, couldn't find it, so she madw it. For others who, like her, are looking for the website, and now can find it.


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