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#1 Saxon

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 03:24 AM

Having been out and about in Sussex and Normandy over the past few weeks this topic has come back to haunt me once more!

With the onset of the wet winter weather, the autumn leaves laying deep on all the track ways and the mud getting wetter, stickier and deeper, how did people get about. Many just stayed at home on the farm or in the town where they worked, but some had to travel. Even today with cambered surfaces of tarmac the roads are bad and the cross country tracks are dangerous even with four wheel drive.

Any thoughts?

Saxon
Hwt! Ic swefna cyst secgan wylle,
hwt me gemtte to midre nihte,
syan reordberend reste wunedon!

#2 Melisende

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 08:12 PM

Horse would be the most common form of transport.

I suppose only those who needed to get from one place to another went out - messengers, spies, brigands, etc.

Winter was definitely not the time for warfare - all good soldiers sitting by the fireplace. And I seriously doubt any of the nobility would be out in the weather unnecessarily.

The commonfolk - I guess they would be out attending to whatever chores needed doing.

Yes, the roads would be muddy, and many inaccessible.
~~~ Melisende

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#3 Saxon

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 11:08 PM

I was out in Sussex this weekend and drove down some of the local lanes. This is the modern world, but after some light rain over night many places were 6 inches deep in water that spread the width of the road and 30 feet along it. Pot holes were hidden and caused a few unexpected lumps and bumps. Off road down the tracks it must have been worse. Did the world realy stand still for the winter?

Saxon

Edited by Saxon, 08 November 2009 - 11:09 PM.

Hwt! Ic swefna cyst secgan wylle,
hwt me gemtte to midre nihte,
syan reordberend reste wunedon!

#4 Aelfwine

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 01:20 PM

The Black Prince did manage to bring his army from the Mediterranean coast to Gascony during November 1355 when the weather was bad. He took a southerly route to avoid the French, but this meant travelling over steep hillsides and stony tracks. It rained incessantly, the streams were in spate, and the rivers Ariege and Garonne were swollen,and these needed to be crossed. But despite the hardships, the Anglo-Gascons reached Bordeaux.

Edited by Aelfwine, 09 November 2009 - 01:32 PM.


#5 Melisende

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Posted 09 November 2009 - 04:49 PM

I guess if you are determined to travel - you will overcome whatever obstacles are in your path - literally!
~~~ Melisende

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#6 Saxon

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Posted 10 November 2009 - 09:37 AM

Wet feet, wet clothes that you cannot dry, a cold wind and some frost; there are obstacles and obstacles!

It is all too easy to overlook the travel problems of the medieval winter in northern Europe and thereby miss some inportant interpretations of events. The Shadowed realm was a very different place from the soft, cosy modern world

Saxon
Hwt! Ic swefna cyst secgan wylle,
hwt me gemtte to midre nihte,
syan reordberend reste wunedon!

#7 YeOldeVillage

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Posted 26 December 2014 - 04:00 PM

Some musings on roads...

 

For most of daily life roads weren’t really needed, certainly during the early-medieval period.

 

Houses/Families were largely self sufficient, with the few exceptions of production of metal and well... I can’t think of anything else! Even then metal was largely reused. Nails and clench bolts would have been pulled back out when the building was recycled (buildings were entirely rebuilt every now and again using the same materials where possible) so the need for new metal wouldn’t e a common occurence. It would have also been extremely expensive due to the difficulty of manufacture.

 

Obviously the Romans had annexed the British Isles quite well, providing some lovely straight roads for use. Unfortunately for the Anglo-Saxons, the roads didn’t really go where the locals needed. Roads went between where the forts had been built rather than where the people lived, quite unaccommodating really! There was also the issue of the Saxon ‘distrust’ or Roman structures. They certainly refused to use Roman buildings, and so probably had the same reaction to the road infrastructure. That being said these Roman roads clearly survived, many can still be seen today. This would not have happened without continuous use.

 

The next issue is that buildings were generally not grouped larger than Hamlets, with the most obvious exception being the burhs (fortifications) built to protect against the Vikings. The reason I mention this is that for a track to come to fruition through woodland, moorland or scrubland; you need several people to walk it every day. So unless there was need for people to walk these routes, paths would not really be formed.

 

However...

 

Peasants aren’t the only people to travel. Armies (and supplies), the Clergy and tradespeople do need to travel between populations.

 

During Medieval times packhorse routes would have been common, linking small towns together. These routes would have had origins in much older routes. There are well documented roads such as the Ridgeway http://en.wikipedia....ki/The_Ridgeway dating back to the Neolithic Period, and probably extending back much further.

The-Ridgeway.jpg

 

There is strong evidence of a prehistoric trans-Pennine highway, a route that would have gone right past where I am typing from now, hence my knowledge of it.

 

So, yes there would have been road networks, certainly to connect the larger population hubs, castles, forts and strongholds. But for the vast majority of Britain living a rural self sustaining existence I would expect there wouldn’t have been much in the way of roads.