Roads and Trackways of The Yorkshire Dales

by David Murray on 12 January 2011

in History, Roads, Transport, Yorkshire, Yorkshire Dales NP

Last night, while scanning my shelves, I came across a book that I must have bought around twenty years ago, Roads and Trackways of The Yorkshire Dales, by Geoffrey N. Wright. I couldn’t recall reading it before so spent an hour or so, with everything except eyes under the duvet, reading the first few chapters.

Roads and Trackways in The Yorkshire Dales by Geoffrey N Wright

This book of over 200 pages (initially published in hardback in 1985, and reprinted as a paperback in 1990) provides an captivating  description of the way lanes and roads in the Dales evolved over many centuries.  Starting with ancient hunter-gatherers and the transportation across the region (even to continental Europe) of axeheads produced in the Lake District, through the needs of the Roman military machine , into the Middle Ages with the massive impact of agricultural development, especially under the Cistercian monks in their abbeys of Rievaulx, Fountains and elsewhere.

I found it especially interesting to see how the author explored the writings of travellers in the Tudor and Stuart periods, who seemed especially keen to record the bridges they crossed, and so gave hints as to the routes they followed from place to place.  Then of course, there were the almost regal journeys of Lady Anne Clifford, Countess of Pembroke, that doughty mistress of Skipton Castle and owner of castles, houses and vast estates from Skipton to Penrith and beyond.

This is a fascinating book.  Be warned, though, that unless you have a detailed map of the region firmly planted in your brain you will probably need one in front of you as you read. The book does rather assume that its readers know the territory quite well.  However, that’s a minor difficulty.

It’s a pity that Roads and Trackways of The Yorkshire Dales is not currently in print. I’ve checked, though, and paperback copies are available secondhand from Amazon here. (Buy a copy labelled “Very Good”; remember that “Good” in secondhand parlance all too often means “just about holding together” or “creased and stained but reasonably legible”).  There are also hardcover copies available.

Be Sociable, Share!

Previous post:

Next post: