…drove road snaking off across the hilltops in the distance.
Taken in the lovely scottish borders just above Peebles with a lumix panasonic TZ10 compact.
With a fascinating history this was an old Drove Road along which thousands of cattle annually were walked from the Highlands to Norfolk for fattening prior to their final journey to market in London, for sale. This was an arduous journey of between 400 and 500 miles!! . The two clearly visible dykes (dry stone walls) on either side stopped the cattle from wandering off the track.
Drovers used to herd several hundred head of cattle along such routes, chosen, not for shortness, but to avoid the cattle losing unnecessary condition, and to miss turnpike tolls where they could be charged per animal!
They were paid little, were expected to provide their own food, plus make the return journey at their own expense! I even read that when food got short they would ‘bleed’ the cattle then mixed it with oatmeal to make their own ‘black puddings’ (not a favourite of mine still – yeuck!)
The head drover (the only one with horse) often rode ahead to check the route, and search for a suitable grazing place for the night. The other drovers covered the distance entirely on foot, and had to make many detours along the way to retrieve straying cattle. Progress was slow, covering only ten or twelve miles a day. During these long treks the cattle progressively lost condition, and their value diminished. Poor drovers could accentuate this by driving the cattle too hard, or stopping places where the grass was poor.
Apparantly droving like this was common from the 16th century but declined rapidly in the mid-nineteenth century when first steamships and then the advent of railways took over the work of the drovers.
Cheers and thanks so very much for looking