Cornwall's Ancient Ways - A Study...

Following the success of my Devon study which is still ongoing I decided to extend the project to cover Cornwall as well. This would take some time and I began the Cornwall study in January 2017. In particular I wanted to study how Cornwall compared with Devon since it was once part of the ancient region occupied by the Dumnonii tribes but was less settled by the Saxon's than the Devon area was. I expected that much of Cornwall's landscape would differ the further west the study went, also with the vast mining heritage of the county I imagined that trying to seperate the ancient routes from the many paths caused by mine operations would be complicated but a useful project!

I began the project the same way as with Devon by stitching together many maps then plotting on all the tracks, roads and possible lost tracks which were still visible by clue's. I began in the area west of Penzance and my first thoughts were that it was complicated because many of the small square field systems forming a maze through which the tracks seemed to zig-zag but some similar patterns to Devon did emerge. Most of the small farm yards in this part of Cornwall seems fragmented, moreso than in Devon. You get tracks leading off that change course to go around fields and you also get footpaths nearby which almost follow the same line. Below are a couple of typical examples.

In the map at the very top of this page I had detailed all the ancient tracks and lanes including modern roads and plotted them onto the outline of the coast. I then added parish boundaries, Parish churches and old chapel sites. Also I added in yellow all prehistoric sites as well as hill forts.

Looking at the map you can see how the trackways spread out from some of the parish churches (the red dots) and how some concentrations of tracks in other places could almost suggest they were leading to a village site which is not there now. Also remember a lot of church sites were built on top of very ancient sacred sites.

Around the middle of February 2017 I had completed the far west third of Cornwall. I had been over all the maps and marked all the finer lines and from this did an overlay in red which picked out what I thought were the most important routes around the region. Obviously the picture is more complicated since in past times people used many other routes all criss-crossing to get from one place to another but I think the red lines on the following maps are a fair indication of many important one's. I discovered that a lot of the modern main roads (not very recent) follow the same courses they have done for centuries but there were some other more subtle systems which seem older hidden within the landscape.

I have done an overlay of coloured topography on these maps which fits nicely and reveals how the older routes fit in with the landscape. These maps are uploaded to my website on a scale that if you save the image it should be bigger than the images you see on the screen which are sized. If you need more detailed images write to me.

By the end of February 2017 I had completed the centre portion of Cornwall and so present here my findings of what I believe to be most of the main ancient routes around that region.

By March 2017 I had completed the East portion of Cornwall and so present here my findings of what I believe to be most of the main ancient routes around that region.

This shows an overlay of all the major route directions in Cornwall which was derived from the above maps. The thicker purple lines should give the historian an idea of the main ways people got around the landscape in the past. Note how the area of North West Devon has a number of routes which fan out towards Cornwall, then there are north/south routes through the Tamar valley regions. You have the predicted main spine route that passese right down through Cornwall and also you will note some larger triangular patterns that are formed from other routes too.

Go to the Main Devon Index Page...