Droving in the Chilterns

Meat to Market – Phillip Clapham
In his Book, The Making of the British Landscape, the Time Team Archaeologist & prolific Author, Francis Pryor said the Road System of our Country had largely come about as a result of Farmers shifting Livestock around – or taking them to Markets.  Even Roads that only came into existence following the Enclosure Acts were designed for the movement of Livestock & other Agricultural requirements.  Turnpike Trusts were set up in the 18thC with the purpose of improving the Road System for the Coaching Trade and the Private Carriages of the Wealthy, as well as the increasing movement of Goods by Horsedrawn Carts. However, it was stipulated by Parliament that Turnpikes must cater for the movement of Animals to and from Markets – and Tolls should not be Prohibitive.  Most Toll Roads were constructed with wide verges so that Cattle & Sheep might forage as they went along.
Map of Oxfordshire by Phil Overton 1715
Passing through the Toll Gates was a laborious process for Drovers & other Travellers alike as the Livestock, often a 100 to 200 in a Herd, were counted by the Toll Keeper, which meant funnelling the animals through a narrow space.  Livestock also tended to wander across the whole Road space, even with dogs yapping at their heels, and presented a hazard to Wheeled Traffic.  It was also easy to panic Cattle & Sheep and, while the Drovers could control most situations, it must often have been a headache.
Green Roads were different. They were quiet and the Animals could browse in peace, without constant gathering up.  Cameron claimed the Welsh & Scots Drovers avoided the Turnpikes where possible and slowly worked their way via the Commons & Green Roads – which would have included the Icknield Way.  Others are not so sure. An examination of Account books of Drovers that have survived in Wales shows that half of them did use Turnpikes, and paid Tolls – but took advantage of Alternative Routes where possible.


Daniel Defoe, who lived through the late 17th and early 18thC, was in favour of Turnpikes. In his appendix to the 2nd Volume of ‘A Journey Through the Whole Land of Great Britain‘ (1724-1727), he describes in Graphic detail what was wrong with the Road System, and not least the vast tract of Clay Lands that run across the Midlands (including the Vale of Aylesbury) that was heavy, sticky, & troublesome to all Travellers, not just Wheeled Vehicles.  He added that Turnpikes reduced the amount of toil involved in Cattle working their way through heavy Clay soil so they were able to progress further in the course of a day than previously and were able to come to Market fatter.  The movement of Cattle & Sheep to English Markets in the Midlands & the London area was historically a massive Enterprise – but the Routes they took across the Chilterns involves mostly guesswork.  Routes weren’t written down, Oral History is largely lost, and the Welsh had their own Language and kept to themselves, mostly avoiding contact with Townsfolk.  They passed through the Chilterns a couple of times in the Spring, & again in the Autumn, making for the Seasonal Fairs such as Barnet & St Faith’s at Norwich, and major Livestock Markets such as Kingston, Billericay, & Smithfield. They would have had favourite Stopping Places & Lodgings, and their Accounts show they drank a lot of Beer.  This was not the strong Real Ale we have on sale nowadays but ‘Ssmall Beer’ that was quite weak and was preferred to drinking water.  Droving was a dirty and dusty trade – and copious amounts of liquid were required at the end of a day’s Drive.  The animals were purchased at the Fairs by Dealers and Butchers.  At Kingston there were many Fields used to grow barley for the numerous Malt Houses in the Town. The Maltsters purchased Welsh Blacks, fattened them up on the Barley Stubble and, making a nice profit, sold them on to local Butchers who shipped the Salted Beef down River Thames to London.

The Vale of Aylesbury has been Cattle Country for 100s of years – and became a Fattening Area for Cattle to put on Bulk after which they could be sold on at a higher price.  It is amazing how much weight a Bullock can put on just by eating grass – and grass grows thick & lush in the Vale.  Defoe said of the Vale, ‘it is eminent [well known] for the richest of Land, and the richest Graziers in England’.  In the 16thC, the Tudor Kings & Queens held Fields at CreslowWhitchurch, nr Aylesbury, one of which was reputed to be the biggest Field in the Land.  In 1486, custody of Creslow Manor was granted to Sir William Stonor (1449-1494) for a 12-yr Period, making him the 1st ‘Keeper of Creslow‘.   Creslow Manor was then sometimes referred to as Creslow Pastures as it was here that the Livestock used by the Royal Household were Pastured up until the English Civil War and the Establishment of the Commonwealth.  It should be noted that the Tudors had originated in North Wales and, during their Rule, the Droving Trade became an important part of the Crown Economy.  From the 12th to the end of the 16thC, only Royalty & the Nobility had the means to Purchase large numbers of Cattle & Sheep at once.  The Trade also supplied the Army which was involved in Wars, both here and on the Continent.  Northampton developed as a supply base for the Army and, after about 1580, the Trade became important as a supplier of Meat to the Navy.  This is an arbitrary date that reflects the importance of the Navy in the Tudor Period but it was essentially Nelson, in the late 18thC, who brought in regulations to make sure his Seamen were well fed & fit to fight – and this involved very large amounts of Salted Meat.  It was supplied on the hoof and there are some well known Green Roads between South Wales and the West Country & Navy Ports such as PlymouthPortsmouth & Chatham. These didn’t impinge on the Chilterns, but in the 17th & 18thCs the sharp growth in the Population of Towns & Cities across the Midlands and the expansion of London led to an increased Droving Market that reached its zenith in the 19thC.

The Scots Route was clearly via Harpenden Common on the Great North Road that led directly to Barnet & Smithfield.  The Annual Fair at Harpenden still involves Scottish Dancing & Games (with the odd Kilt coming).  For the Welsh to reach Smithfield Market, the biggest Meat Wholesale Market in Europe according to Defoe, Drove Routes must have crossed the Chilterns. The Welsh also had a series of well-defined Routes into London, and most notably the Route from North Wales via the old Welsh Lane that ends up in Buckingham.  Which way did they go from here?  This is what I shall explore.

Routes from South Wales & the West Country may have stayed South of the Thames, whilst the Ridgeway Route from near Avebury to Goring is more promising, crossing the Thames there or at Whitchurch (not by the Packhorse Bridge, but by Fording the River).  Once on the extensive Goring Heath with its many Tracks & Bridleways, the Icknield Way could take them around the foot of the Chilterns to Essex (not on the Escarpment itself but along the Spring Line), or they crossed the Chilterns towards London.  The Route from mid-Wales via Shrewsbury & Worcester is interesting as it appears to have avoided Oxford, with its Colleges, Rivers & Marshland, and General busy Commercial Centre, by skirting the Town on the High Ground via Islip & Wheatley. This Route is described by Ogilby on his pre-Turnpike series of Road Maps and in the Britannia Atlas 1675.

The problem we are interested in solving is what Routes Drovers took once they reached the Chilterns.  After 1850 the mania for Building Railways led to the rundown & disappearance of Long Distance Droving.  Livestock were loaded on to Rail Trucks, very often with a Drover to accompany them as they had to be sold on at the other end, and this involved a short journey to Market in most cases.  This critically reduced the journey time, avoided the Payment of Tolls and the increasing Traffic encountered on Roads.  What the Railways couldn’t do was buy & sell animals along the way.  Some Markets & Fairs fell into decline – and others diversified. Hence, as far as the Commons are concerned we have a narrow window of time to investigate, from around 1600 to 1850.  It is all a matter of guesswork, but we do have some Clues.


Local Droves & Summer Pasture
Examples of Local Drove Routes are fairly easy to spot.  The 1st example we might explore is the relationship between Coleshill, near Amersham, & Tring in Herts. In the Strip Parish System, Tring was awarded an Upland Area at Coleshill, a little piece of Herts inside Bucks.  Coleshill had few inhabitants but it was blessed with 2-Pubs, a very large Pond & a Windmill.  The term Cole, as in Coleman’s Wood in Holmer Green, has been interpreted as a reference to Charcoal Makers.  We know this at Coleman’s Wood as there are Iron Bloomeries nearby that would have required Charcoal to produce the necessary Heat to smelt Iron.  The situation at Coleshill is uncertain, but again, Charcoal production may have played a role as the Common was host to Itinerant Trades.  However, was it used for summer Pasture by the people of Tring?  It has been suggested, by John Trimmer, they had use of Common Land near Cholesbury, whilst Defoe records a dispute between a Landowner in Tring, who tried to enclose part of Wiggington Common, but was thwarted by the Commoners who were prepared to defend their Ancient Rights.  If people in Tring took Livestock to Coleshill, it is not particularly difficult as there is a direct Route using Common Land/Manorial Waste running along the Boundary between Bucks & Herts via Cholesbury Common & Hawridge to Chesham (with an isolated Pub on the way) and across Chesham Bois & down into Amersham.  At that point it was only a matter of going up Gore Hill to Coldharbour (those names again) which was situated on the edge of Coleshill. This little bit of Hertse became a refuge for Religious Nonconformists in the Reign of Charles II, another Story.  The Turnpike road between Amersham & Beaconsfield did not exist in the 17thC (see Map).


Several Maps show Coleshill as Herts within Bucks. This one is from the John Sellers‘ Map of Bucks, 1693 Edition. It also shows quite clearly the old Road via Winchmore Hill & Knotty Green to Beaconsfield.


Instead, the road went by way of Winchmore Hill and Penn Street, along Clay Lane to Knotty Green.  At Beaconsfield Crossroads it continued all the way to Windsor.  Coleshill, being part of Hertfordshire, was by-passed, until the Turnpike was built in the late 18thC.
Local Droves & Summer Pasture.
A series of Hollow Ways have been cut out of the Scarp Ascent from Little Missenden to Holmer Green, made by generations of Farmers taking their Animals up to what was then Wycombe Heath.  This includes King Street Lane & Penfold Lane (Pen & Fold refer to a place where animals were Penned or a Pound).  Featherbed Lane ran from the Heath down to the Manor Farm at Africks, which developed into Little Kingshill.  You may also note Watchet Lane on the West side of this Map
This was originally Watts Hatch Lane but somebody mistranslated the local dialect, as they were inclined to do, and wrote it as Watchet (which is a Town in Somerset).  Watchet Lane would have been a Track over the Heath, a Route from Wycombe to Missenden Abbey by way of AfricksWatts Hatch lies in a hollow in a Strip of Woodland and is now Workshops (formerly a Farm) and the Settlement has migrated up the Hill to Little Kingshill.  Harpenden in Hertfordshire and Harpsden near Henley-on-Thames, both situated in the Chilterns, are place-names derived from a Here (path) and a Dene (a Dry Chalk Valley).  Harpsden is in effect the Natural Route to the Uplands, taking the slowly ascending way rather than climbing steeply, on to Rotherfield Common (Rother being a word denoting Cattle Pasture). Another fairly obvious example is Sheepridge Lane which runs from Little Marlow to the Upland of Flackwell Heath. It even has the isolated Crooked Billet Pub halfway up the Hill, and widely spaced Hedges.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is droversroutes.jpg

Map From K T Bonser,The Drovers: Who they were and where they went” Macmillan (1970) pp 186-7.  Shirley Toulson has a similar Map in “The Drovers” Shire Books (1988) pp 42-3. These Maps are not exact but rough Guides to the Routes taken across the Chilterns.  Toulson’s work is mainly centred on Wales and that part of England bordering the Principality.  Outside that area, it is all guesswork!
The Village of Gt Haseley was on the Route of an Old Drovers Road and many Drovers stopped there for Refreshment.  In the 18thC the Village was reputed to have had 18Alehouses or Inns.

Long Distance Drovers
An example of a Drover using the Turnpike Road is Lee Henry Uff.  His Account Books ended up in the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies only because he went Bankrupt – and they were held by the Court.  In the 1820s he was making a weekly Drove of Cattle from either Bicester or Buckingham, the destination being Southall which at that time had developed into a major Market for London Butchers.  He paid his Tolls but also made use of Common Land (possibly Manorial Waste) at Ham Green near Kingswood, and the more extensive Hillingdon Heath (which can be seen on early OS Maps).  He also paid for his Lodgings on a succession of Nights at undefined Pubs.  One example was the Ivy House, with a Field and access to the Misbourne, which still exists in spite of being in an isolated position.  He also paid a Toll at Walton Gate (which is on the Eastern side of Aylesbury) and then pitched nearby for the Night.  Outside the modern Police Station there are 2 large Ponds and in what was the old Village of Walton there are 4-Pubs, all close to each other.  Near one of the Ponds is another, the Broad Leys Pub.  This suggests it had a Field or Fields attached.  Lee Henry Uff made regular Weekly Droves over many years, stopping at the same places for the night, and he records the whereabouts of all the Toll Gates (which were paid without any evidence of rancour).  After Walton, the next Gate was at Missenden, then at the Chalfonts & finally at Uxbridge.  He also lists the Gates on the Road from Bicester, and those on the Turnpike from BuckinghamColyer claimed a lot of Welsh Drovers used the Turnpikes and the above Accounts appear to bear this out.  However, he also said that many Drovers did not.  They got up to all kinds of tricks to avoid Toll Gates, from short diversions from the Turnpike to Alternative Routes which in the Chilterns would have involved making use of the High Ground, the Commons & their Ponds.  Note, this is fairly late in the life of most Commons and the Landowners were less willing to uphold Common Rights; they had an eye on Enclosure which was happening in other parts of the Country.  The Seasonal & occasional Overnight stay by Long Distance Drovers mattered very little – all Grist to the Mill.  It probably involved local Agreements. We actually have an example of this somewhere in the Parish of Hughenden.  The Western Mail (Cardiff) of Monday 28th January 1895, in a Column ‘Wales Day by Day‘, reads – ‘a Legend dies hard, especially where there is some practical benefit attending its Preservation. To this day Welsh Drovers taking Cattle to London, Pasture their herds freely on the Heath & Common Land near Hughenden.  So the Story runs that, once upon a time, a Great Battle was raging there between the Saxons & the Danes when a party of Britons coming up gave their Aid to the Saxons who thus won the day.  In memory of this …. the Valley is free for Welshmen‘  The Newspaper actually describes it as a Legend – or a very Ancient Incident. It also says it was a place near Hughenden (and not necessarily within Hughenden). It seems we might actually have a Welsh record of Drovers making use of Downley or Naphill Common in the 18th or 19thCs.

However, all had not been roses for Welsh Drovers as they were sometimes likened to ‘able-bodied Beggars‘ and it became necessary for them to carry their Droving Licences with them in order to avoid being Imprisoned or Coerced into local Labouring projects, or even driven out of Town without their Animals.  This Law was revoked from the Statute Book in the 1770s – rather late in the day; it had been initiated by Henry IV for various reasons.

Packhorse Routes
In general, Market Towns were laid out in the Medieval Period, which would include the Missendens, Wendover & Amersham, and the Roads leading in & out of them would not have changed a great deal – which is what Ogilby’s Maps of the late 17thC show.  Turnpikes improved the Roads and may have had a slightly different trajectory between the Towns, but in general, the change was slight. Alternatives involved the old Packhorse Routes, a Trade that was on its last Legs.  For example, one Packhorse Route appears to have run out of Wendover; Coldharbour Terrace is a Tow of Thatched Roof 16thC Cottages (with The Pack Horse Pub on the end), and following the Road directly opposite them, running at the back of the Town, went past the Church (now in an isolated position) to Well End (the Well at the end of the old Town) where there was another Pub (now closed) and continued down Hogstrough Lane, a deep Hollow Way that has been subsumed within the Ridgeway National Footpath.  This Bridleway emerges at Kings Ash.  Here the Route forks, Kings Lane is a fairly straight & wide Lane that ends up at South Heath & Hyde Heath, situated on a High Plateau above Great Missenden. It may be that this was a Packhorse Route but used primarily by local Farmers.  In fact, the King in the name is not a reference to Royalty but is a common Surname in the area, including local Farmers.  The King Family owned Town End Farm in Little Missenden, for example, but see www.stuartking.co.uk for some information on them.

Moving from what might be described as reasoned speculation, we have an Interview with an old Chap living in Hyde Heath, one Bernard Beardmore. He was a boy during the 1930s and a Lad in the WW2 years.  He had a Teacher, he said, an old Country Chap, not a Teacher of Reading & Writing but a bit of a Character who was Teaching them a spot of Horticulture as part of the Dig for Britain Government Campaign.  The Village children grew Potatoes, among other things, during the War to augment Rations & for their School Dinners.  Anyway, this Teacher left a lasting impression on Bernard, regaling his young charges with Tales of the late 19thC, and these included stories about Welsh Drovers who stopped Overnight on the Common before moving on in the direction, he said, of Watford.  He claimed the Drovers came by way of South Heath & Ballinger Common, and the Village (with Pond) of The Lee (just up the Lane from Kings Ash) (see Map).  So, we have 2 possible lines of Travel out of Wendover to avoid the Toll Gates.


From Hyde Heath he thought they made their way down to Amersham Common by way of Weedon Farm, where there was a Pond – but this appears to be located in the Farmyard and therefore a general line to Chesham Bois might be in order, with Ponds. The term Bois is Norman French for Bush or Thicket – as in Bushey near Watford, Shepherds Bush in Middlesex, Harlow Bush in Herts, & Blackbushe in Surrey.  In effect, it is another word for a Common or Heath.  There is still a Pond at Hyde Heath and a few houses, notably Troy House.  When this was being renovated around 30-yrs ago, a huge Bread Oven was found and Bernard had the idea that Drovers were being supplied with Victuals, including Fresh Bread. However, Bread Ovens were common in Houses of substance at that time but it is an interesting idea.  According to Bernard, there were 3 Pubs on the Commonside in his youth, The Plough, The Eagle, & The Red Cow, and in addition, at the Top of Frith Hill, in an isolated position once again, there was the Barley Mow (now boarded up). Bernard claimed that Edwards & Evans were Surnames to be found in the Village when he was younger, indicating some of the Drovers may have Settled down.  Bernard’s Teacher, if he was 60, would have been born in the late 19thC and may have related what he or his father & grandfather had witnessed.  G Edmonds, in the 1860s, came from Gloucester to the Metropolitan Market in Kentish Town, by way of Princes Risborough, Hampden & Great Missenden, and seems to have avoided the Toll Gates.  It is likely that he also went by way of Hyde Heath, and this appears to support Bernard’s story.


From Chesham Bois (see Map above) a Route through the Chess River Valley might be worth exploring, leading as it would to the Outskirts of Watford (as Bernard said) but Drovers seeking to miss out Toll Gates on the A413 may have gone via Amersham Common (which stretched as far East to what is now Little Chalfont) and turned South on the Road to Chalfont St Giles (which has wide verges) (see Map below), veering off at Shortenhills Common which naturally led into Chalfont Common (above Chalfont St Peter), past Chalfont Lodge & along Slade Lane and down the Hill to Denham Village. Here there was a Ford across the Colne, behind the Church, and then by way of Ickenham & Long Lane to Hillingdon (a large Tract of Heath). Three Toll Gates could be avoided just by doing this Diversion from Great Missenden.


The Greensand Way
From Buckingham, Welsh Drovers could go by way of the Wendover Gap. Alternatively, if they were heading towards Barnet Fair or Essex they would have gone via Leighton Buzzard (an important Livestock Market).  This provided a direct Link to the 2 Upland Ridges that run across Herts, one on the High Chalk where the Icknield Way ran on its journey to the Cambridgeshire Hills – and all points beyond (as described by Hippisley Cox). This divides the catchment of the Ouse from the catchment of the Thames.  The other is a Terrace formation above the London Clay, a sort of lip on the edge of a Bowl.  The Chalk Bedrock here has been buckled & forms a huge Basin that was subsequently filled in with London Clay Deposit. The line of the Ridge runs across Bushey Heath to Elstree, Arkeley, High Barnet & Epping Green.  In all instances, Drovers moved East from Buckingham across the High Ground of the Greensand Geology, via Swanbourne, Mursley & Wing, reaching Leighton Buzzard. Here the natural lie of the Land led to the Scarp Break between Totternhoe & Ivinghoe, the Dagnall Gap. This ran roughly along the County Boundary between Herts & Bucks (once again).


Chiltern Society Footpath Map  Note the Springs & Stream Northeast of Dagnall, and the Spring & Stream in Coombe Hole beneath Ivinghoe Beacon at the Dagnall Gap.  

In the vicinity of Ivinghoe, below the Scarp, there are 2 Gullies, or Coombes,  ideal for holding Livestock Overnight.   A chap from Weston Turville, who lived at Ivinghoe as a Lad, said you can see one of these from the Top of Ivinghoe BeaconJohn Trimmer supplied an exact Location.  Incombe Hole, beneath the Beacon & Coombe Hole, were formed as a result of water & ice, and freeze & thaw, during the Ice Ages.  Pitstone Hill, nearby, has a section of the enigmatic Grim’s Ditch overlooking the Scarp Edge – and there is another Section at Steps Hill.  Aerial Photography has picked out a series of Hollow Wways, some with a deep V-shape formed by the hooves of Cattle over many Centuries, ascending the Scarp (Dyer & Hale, Archaeological Survey in the 1960s).  Little Gaddesden, reached directly from Ivinghoe, has a large Pond and is blessed with very wide Verges – the Houses, some of which belong to the National Trust, are set way back.  The Church, however, is ½-mile away, and it is thought the original Village was built on a former Roman Road that has since been Lost. A view from the Graveyard looks across the Ashridge Estate towards the Dagnall Gap & Whipsnade.


However, there is another Route from the vicinity of Ivinghoe, and this may go all the way back to the Plantagenet Kings, leading as it does to Kings Langley Palace & Berkhamsted Castle (also a substantial Palace). In the 19thC, this Route became unattractive as the Bulbourne Valley had a lot of Mills, Heavy Traffic, and several prominent Towns, as well as the Grand Union Canal & the Railway. Instead of threading a way across the Plateau beyond the Escarpment, large Tracts of which was Common Land (with Rights), Welsh Drovers in all likelihood reached their Royal Markets by the existing Road System.  The Road to Aldbury over Pitstone Hill (Stocks Lane only goes back to the 19thC & Enclosure changes, although there may have been a Track) runs down to the A41 (Akeman Street, a former Roman Road). Cow Roast does not seem to be a place name on early Maps – but an isolated Inn is marked.


A Field attached to the Inn may have provided Grazing, but most importantly, the locality of Cow Roast was historically associated with Springs that fed the Bulbourne Stream.  In the 18th or 19thC water was pumped from the Chalk Aquifer to feed the Canal on its journey across Tring Summit & the Bulbourne now rises near Dudswell, a mile or so down the Valley.  Cow Roast was formerly known as Cow Rest (according to a Notice Board by the Lock on the Canal) which would reflect a Drover connection, an idea that suggests some Publican changed the name to attract a new kind of Clientele.   The line of the Turnpike & modern Road runs at a slightly lower level to that of Akeman Street, which probably survived into the late Medieval Period.  Parts of it are preserved near Boxmoor, running parallel with the modern Road, but much of the former Course has been lost by the construction of the Canal & Railway.  At Mill End the Bulbourne joins the Gade and this enlarged River flows South of Watford, through what had been the Grand Estate at Cassiobury Park & eventually merges with the Colne.

Covered in dust & smelling of Animal dung kicked up by the Hooves of Cattle, Drovers were the sort of people to keep Downwind.  They were also inclined to drink a lot of Ale and, being generally Unkempt, were avoided by the Great & Good.  In other respects they were far from Rogues; the Head Drover was in charge of valuable Beasts, and on the return journey carried large sums of money.  Farmers passed their Animals over to the Drover and expected a return, which was duly delivered in Hard Cash (carried all the way from the London Area).  The integrity of the Drover amongst the Farmers was Paramount and we have no way of knowing how often they were Waylaid & Robbed.  Eventually, one of them had the bright idea of setting up a Bank, the Black Ox, in Wales. This later merged with Lloyds, the Black Horse, but the idea of a Bank meant that Promissory Notes could be written and the Farmer & the Drover were both protected Financially.  It is also known that some Drovers were esteemed enough to be entrusted with Rent Money paid to Absentee Landlords in London (& elsewhere). Charles I used Drovers to collect Ship Money in Wales & Cromwell also used them to collect Taxes.  At the time of the Civil War, in the mid-17thC, Drovers had something of a dispensation, treated by both Sides as neutrals, even though the Welsh, in general, supported the Royalist Cause.  The reason was that the Parliamentary Army relied on them for Meat just as much as the Royalists, which illustrates just how entrenched the Trade had become.

Hollandridge Farm Barn

Pyrton Drift Way
The word Drift is an alternative to Drove and occurs most often in East Anglia – but we have what was known as the Pyrton Drift Way in Oxfordshire.  On modern Maps it is now known as the Oxfordshire Way, a Long-distance Footpath that has suitably taken over the Mantle of an old Route.  It has been suggested that although the Route was used by local Farmers in the Vale to move their Animals on to the Escarpment in the summer at Christmas Common & Turville Heath, it was also used by Long-distance Drovers coming from Worcester via Chipping Norton, Islip & Wheatley.  Instead of following the Line of the A40, they cut diagonally across the Vale by way of Haseley to Pyrton via what is now the Stoney Lane Bridleway & Knightsbridge Lane and the Base of the Scarp.  The obvious Route up the Scarp is by way of Watlington Hill, which leads directly on to Christmas Common & Northend (to the South-east) where there were Commons, large Ponds & Pubs.  Here they might have taken one of 2 routes, possibly from Christmas Common via Hollandridge Lane to Stonor & then Henley with its River Crossing & Markets.  The other possible route was from Northend via Turville Heath along Drovers Lane to The Drovers Pub at Southend (now closed) and down the Hambleden valley to the River Thames

Chiltern Society Footpath Map

Why would they do this? – to Avoid Tolls is the obvious answer, and to avoid the Town of Wycombe and its busy Stream with its Mills.  They may also have earned Rights of Passage.  The Route avoids the Town of Watlington by crossing the main Road and joining up with the Icknield Way, the Section directly below Christmas Common. This short stretch has one Hedge on just one side of the Track – but this is dense & thick and very wide and a distinct Barrier to the Fields behind.  It is full of wildlife and is a pleasant walk in the summer.  Drove Routes had Hedges to avoid contact with local Livestock, but Tracks through Land without Animals did not necessarily require a Hedge – hence the single example.  Local Drove Routes up from the Assendons to Southend & Summerheath, or from Lewknor & Chinnor, occur all the way along the Scarp in Oxfordshire.  Any one of them could have been adopted by the Seasonal Welsh DroverSteep Hills presented no problem as the Cattle were reared in a Mountainous Landscape.  Lots of possible Routes can be visualised – but this is where the guesswork comes in.  Lots of people can find intimations of Drove Routes anywhere in the Chilterns, and suggestions would be welcome.


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