In The Drovers’ Roads of the Middle Marches, Wayne Smith tells the story of the men who until as recently as the 1930s used to walk with their sheep and cattle out of Wales along the ancient trackways to the markets and fairs of England. The journeys were carefully judged – too slow and the expenses of feeding and accommodating men and beasts would mount, too fast and the animals would lose condition. Taking the easier routes meant the expense of turnpikes and tollgates, but going the long way round cost time. Droving was a steady trade, and it is no wonder that the drovers were often entrusted with commissions and even money to be taken to London, a practice from which the first banks developed. Along the way, they would stop at drovers’ inns, some of which still exist, and smithies where the cattle would be shod for the harder English roads.
It was the coming of the railways and other means of transport that ended the centuries-old practice of droving, but as the author explains, tell-tale signs of droving routes can still be discerned in the landscape today in the pine trees and ponds that marked the routes, and the names of farms, houses and inns.
Drawing on his deep knowledge and love of the Welsh Marches, Wayne Smith describes the routes the drovers took over the hills and through the valleys, and gives detailed guidance to 16 circular walks, all in places of great beauty, and provides information about castles, hill forts and other places of interest to be seen on the way, all illustrated with his own photographs.
Paperback with flaps | 176 pages | 148 x 210 mm | 2013
50 colour and 12 b&w photographs, 17maps
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