I confess to liking old roads and old ways. I’m not much of a historian, nor much for history; however, perhaps because I spent a lot of time travelling in my Dad’s lorry when I was young, old roads and trackways intrigue me. If I catch sight of a linear hollow in the landscape, I always wonder if it is the remnant of a holloway.
The black and white photo at the head of this post shows various tracks and holloways leading up over a ridge on Salisbury Plain. The area of the Plain shown in the photo is under military control; a training area covers roughly half of the Plain and is the largest military training area in the United Kingdom. The photo shows various tracks cut by military vehicles over the years, but very obvious is the holloway curving across the hill, upward and to the left, and then straight up across the landscape to the horizon.
Here is a view from a slightly different angle, and in colour. I couldn’t resist photographing it again yesterday; the shadows and curves always catch my eye.
I have confirmed that, at least in the 1890s, this was the most obvious “way” to Market Lavington, as can be seen here, the 1889 Ordnance Survey six-inch map for the area — look for Candown Farm and Grove Down in the top right-hand quadrant of the map (and if you like maps, check out the treasure trove of maps at the National Library of Scotland).
If you check that map, and look at the Google Maps aerial views for the same area, you can trace the way across the Plain. The Plain is now crisscrossed with tracks — the older byways and tracks often head into areas littered with explosives, and the military have rerouted byways or added new ones.
If you were to follow this way across the Plain, however, you would end up at a junction with the old toll road that crosses the Plain and connects Devizes and Salisbury. At that junction is the old iron finger-post that would have given directions on the roads.
Here, you can see on the left of the photo the trackway that leads from this junction and would, in a couple of miles, sweep you down the hill, around the bends, deep in the holloway, through Candown Bottom and then on to Market Lavington.
If the signpost still had its fingers,I’m sure the one on the left would indicate Market Lavington, the one on the right, Devizes (or possibly Urchfont), and the one facing us would say Salisbury.
When looking at the OS maps, and the Google Maps images, it becomes obvious what a web of small tracks and byways once crossed the countryside, joining together farms, villages and towns, and connected to the toll-roads and highways.
Expect further way-related musings in the future…