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East Claydon south - 1

East Claydon - Aylesbury

 

Instead of turning left to Winslow at New Farm, walk straight on past East Claydon Church.  You are now walking on to the richest grass Welsh cattle would ever taste (#1, the best grassland in the world, according to some...  After a few hundred yards, veer right through a gate (#2) and three fields to Lower Farm. 

 

Merlyn Powell, who farms there, said that the herds used to go through the farmyard, but we’ll pass to the north of the farm and take a right turn through ‘Dead Man’s Gate’ into Dead Man’s Lane (#3), which goes almost due south towards Aylesbury.   It was the London Road, maybe even in Roman times: it’s straight enough.

 

(The dead man?  At ‘Dead Man’s Gate’ there was a huge elm, which blew down in the 1987 gales.  In its youth it had been a hanging tree.  Another story is that the tree fell on a coachload of passengers, much earlier.  I prefer the first story.)

 

 DML is gated, just as all the old ways used to be where one property ended and a new one began(#4)1.  The herds or the coaches thundered through, but as soon as they were gone, the road reverted to a linear meadow, extra grazing for the farmer.

 

The best grass is on the hills, for some geological reason.  It’s too good for common herds these days, so it’s bloodstock country.



 

1 #4 shows DML at SP 755238.  It runs almost due south from East Claydon towards Aylesbury before becoming Carter’s Lane then Berryfield Lane.

 

Ogilby’s 1675 map (#5) shows it used to be part of the main London to Buckingham Road, an important trading-route.  

To read the map you would normally follow the strips from left to right & bottom to top. The miles from London are marked.  The drovers would of course be going in the opposite direction.  Go down the third strip from the right, and below East Claydon, between Merston Uving - now North Marston & Oving - between mile-markers 52 and 51, is the stretch in #4

Dead Man's Lane is now used by dog-walkers and the travelling community, but it’s how I imagine a drove road used to look: a narrow track down the middle, wide verges at the side, thick hedges to contain the beasts.

 

The gates intrigue me.  With them, the main road – really just a track through a field – becomes little more than a series of meadows, the verges probably used for extra grazing by the farmers either side of it.  I imagine there was a gate at the beginning of each new property.

 

Marjory Snedker of Northampton has told me how, before The Great War, her mother Amy Chilton (b. 1903) used to help her family deliver bread down Welsh Lane that runs from Syresham to Banbury.  (It’s now the A4525.) Her job was to jump down from the cart and open the gates – a terrifying job because of the stares she would get from the gypsies and the growling menace of their dogs.

East Claydon south - 1 image 5
Ogilby's Map of 1675