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These following photos are examples of Cornish stiles found in the field hedges on the farms in St Erth. The hedges are either made of local stone with no earth core but a turf top or earth hedges with no stone facing.
STRAIGHT COFFEN STILE.
Coffen is an old Cornish word meaning a man made hole in the ground and the treads are a means of crossing the pit. They are normally found in the estates on country mansions or wealthy farmers. They make it easier for gentlefolk, especially ladies in long dresses; and for labourers carrying pails, to walk over. It is the forerunner of the modern cattle grid and acts as a cattle and sheep barrier.
CURVED COFFEN STILE.
This curved type is often mistakenly referred to as a COFFIN stile in the belief that the curve was deliberately designed to prevent the bearers carrying a coffin across the fields to the local church. It was not. You will find them on the edge of deer parks. A deer will leap across a straight coffen stile, but will not leap across a curved one as it cannot see a clear view of its exit,
The height of the top barrier and the view of day light under the bottom barrier will prevent cattle and other large animals from attempting to cross but will allow smaller ones to pass underneath.
For obvious reasons cattle, sheep and other livestock cannot climb the steps because they are too close to the hedge and too narrow for their feet. However they are ideal for walkers.
This coffin stile has been converted into a cattle stile by using a piece of scaffolding pole to prevent the animals from even trying to cross over.
This cattle stile is placed over a stream which means the walkers should wear waterproof boots.
This is not a stile but just a barrier to prevent cattle from wandering through a flood ditch.
For those with a keen power of observation will realise that the top barrier to this cattle stile is unusual. It is the pinnacle from the tower of the abandoned and derelict church at Ruan Major. It was blown off in gales during the last century and was replaced with a new one at the time.