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Trackway

A trackway is a routeway linking two or more places together which has not been deliberately constructed but which has been worn down through prolonged use. They are recognised in the field as sunken linear features, double lynchets, parallel boundaries or corridors defined by usage; they are most clearly identified from aerial photographs as earthworks or as cropmarks, but also visible at ground level as depressions, sometimes cut down to such an extent as to form hollow-ways. There are many hollow-ways in Buckinghamshire, such as those in Penn Wood. Many are still in use today as farm tracks, bridle paths, footpaths and field boundaries; others have been covered by post-medieval and modern roads and lanes.

 

Trackways are extremely difficult monuments to date, and can usually only be dated by association with settlements and monuments which they served; occasionally a trackway may be stratified with earlier or later features and thus may be datable. One such trackway was excavated at Lake End Road West in Dorney, it dated to the Saxon period. Trackways were in use throughout the whole of the medieval period for the movement of goods and livestock. All rural settlements probably had a complex system of trackways linking villages with other settlements, fields, pasture, woodland etc; most were probably used for agricultural purposes. Trackways are associated with the earthworks of deserted settlements in Buckinghamshire, such as at Quarrendon.

 

View down a medieval trackway now built over in Weston Turville.Weston Turville.

 

Since trackways in themselves are mostly undatable it is very difficult to assess the lifespan of individual examples. Some trackways, especially long-distance routes such as the Icknield Way or the Ridgeway, may have been in use from prehistoric times onwards. Because of the unsurfaced nature of trackways many followed ridgeways and higher land in order to avoid wet conditions; this is certainly the case with many of the older trackways.