It is estimated that there are over 140,000 miles of public footpaths in England and Wales. They go up mountains, cling to coasts, weave through forests, cross farmland, bogs, moors, industrial wasteland, village greens and parkland. They take you just about everywhere and anywhere and are part of our historical heritage, protected by the law.
When a footpath arrives at a field boundary, you will sometimes find a gate but more often you will find a stile. Stiles vary greatly in construction. Some are made from stone and others from wood. Some are "squeeze stiles" where you literally squeeze through a gap in a wall. The gap is too narrow for farm animals.
This is how one dictionary defines a stile: An arrangement of steps that allows people but not animals to climb over a fence or wall. (No recognition of squeeze stiles there).
A few weeks ago, a well-travelled American visitor called Mary pointed out that many of her compatriots may never have seen a stile. In fact plenty of Americans wouldn't even know what a stile was as sties are not a feature of the American countryside. The penny dropped for me in that moment. Remembering my various trips to the USA in years gone by, I suddenly realised that I had never seen a stile there. Mary was right.
Sifting through my geograph contributions, here's just a small sample of the stiles I have recorded in photographs. Lord knows how many stiles I have clambered over or squeezed through - thousands of them. Sartorially speaking, I may not be a stylish fellow but when it comes to rambling I believe I have earned the right to coin a new word and call myself "stilish"!