The Climbing Pole

by Karen Simons

When browsing through the daily updates that our colleague Christine is posting from her English Coast Path walk, I spotted a strange looking pole in the middle of a field.

From afar it looked like a marker post — a white-painted pole in the distance. On closer inspection, you can see that it has footholds on it, so that it can be climbed.

Gino the chocolate labrador approaches a climbing pole in the middle of a farmer's field

These poles were placed in farmers’ fields for that very purpose: to be climbed and used as a lookout post to check on the animals.

These climbing poles may be in other parts of the country, but the only places we can recall seeing them is along the Devon and Cornwall coastline.

A climbing pole, much like a telegraph pole with wooden steps leading up its side.

At first sight they could be mistaken for a marker post, as I said, but most markers in the west country are granite and not wooden.

They are not always white, as seen in another post further along the coast, but they are similar to the top part of a telegraph pole.

Placed on cliff tops and uneven ground, they enabled the farmer to climb to the top of the pole to search for his animals in the lower lying areas.

This saved the farmer walking considerable distances, bearing in mind that in the days when they were placed, farmers were walking or riding on horseback as part of their daily husbandry.

The poles are no longer used today, as farmers have quad bikes or even drones to help them tend the land, but cattle do like them as a scratching post.

A climbing pole protrudes from a grassy field near the coastline.

Originally published 02/07/21

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