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Drovers and packhorses around Salterwath by Jan Hicks

Monday 25 October, 2021, by Karen Griffiths

Local historian and archaeologist Jan Hicks has been carrying out some on-the-ground research for the ‘A Way Through’ project. She is part of the Lunesdale Archaeology Society and delivering the work on their behalf. One of her tasks has been to try and locate more evidence for drovers. In the following blog she describes evidence for both drovers and packhorse trains in the Salterwath area near Shap:

“On the fell a few miles south of Shap and just to the west of the M6 is the Galloway stone. The name suggests a link with [Scottish] drovers, and it may be a marker for droves coming across Crosby Ravensworth fell and heading south towards Orton. Although difficult to see on the ground due to the long tussocky grass and massive overgrowth with bracken, a Google earth image shows the characteristic braided paths caused by wandering herds of animals [or packhorse trains].

Galloway Stone. Courtesy of Jan Hicks
Galloway Stone. Courtesy of Jan Hicks
Aerial photo showing location of Salterwath Farm; Galloway Stone and area of braided paths.  
© Getmapping Plc and Bluesky International Limited 2021
Aerial photo showing location of Salterwath Farm; Galloway Stone and area of braided paths.
© Getmapping Plc and Bluesky International Limited 2021

The area has been much altered by the construction off the M6 and the railway. The track to Salterwath (wath = ford) is now a metalled single track road leading to the farm. The ford itself has been replaced by a metal bridge, although a short walled lane leads to it, suggesting that the bridge is on the site of the ford.

Bridge replacing ford at Salterwath Farm. Courtesy of Jan Hicks
Bridge replacing ford at Salterwath Farm. Courtesy of Jan Hicks

Before the ford, as you reach the farm, there is a couple of small fields. One of these contains the remains of a small building. Might this be a stance for cattle, with a barn for the drovers? The walls around the fields are certainly very old – probably mediaeval – as indicated by the large number of very large boulders incorporated into the lower courses.

Remains of building in small field near Salterwath Farm. Courtesy of Jan Hicks
Remains of building in small field near Salterwath Farm. Courtesy of Jan Hicks
Old wall containing large boulders around the small field near Salterwath Farm. Courtesy of Jan Hicks
Old wall containing large boulders around the small field near Salterwath Farm. Courtesy of Jan Hicks

Just upstream from the site of the ford is a footbridge over the river. This has wooden sides added, and is now simply farm access, but the remains of a cobbled surface and the lack of sides suggest that it may have been used by pack animals (this bridge is also discussed in the ‘A Way Through’ blogpost Medieval Trade Routes in Westmorland).

Salterwath footbridge, view from side. Courtesy of Jan Hicks
Salterwath footbridge, view from side. Courtesy of Jan Hicks
Salterwath footbridge. Courtesy of Jan Hicks
Salterwath footbridge. Courtesy of Jan Hicks

Over the main bridge a path heads across the fell to the A6, meeting the old line of the Kendal-Shap road at Wasdale Old Bridge. Climbing down into the beck and under the bridge you can see that this bridge has been widened to take road traffic.

The track approaching Wasdale Old Bridge, the current A6 behind the bridge. Courtesy of Jan Hicks
The track approaching Wasdale Old Bridge, the current A6 behind the bridge. Courtesy of Jan Hicks
Looking underneath the bridge shows where it has been widened. Courtesy of Jan Hicks
Looking underneath the bridge shows where it has been widened. Courtesy of Jan Hicks

Following the old road south over Wasdale bridge takes you over the lower slopes of Packhorse Hill and onto Demings Moss.”

< Previous ‘A Way Through’ blogpost Motorway Memories: George Horn

Next ‘A Way Through’ blogpost Early Routes between Kendal, Orton and Tebay by Jan Hicks >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Picture of Karen Griffiths

Karen Griffiths

Interpretation Officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

Website: www.yorkshiredales.org.uk

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