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The longest and hardest Welsh drove route, the route that required the most skill, started from the far north west.  Herds of black cattle, often between parallel lines of boats lashed together, swam the Menai Strait three hundred at a time.  There was only a ten-minute window either side of slack tide and sometimes they staggered ashore a mile or two down-current. 

In 1794 it is recorded that between ten and fourteen thousand cattle a year made the journey from Anglesey to the mainland.


This trade-route was vital for Wales.  The Bishop of Bangor, fearing a ban when the Civil War broke out, wrote to Prince Rupert in 1642: “It is our Spanish Fleet, and brings us what income we have.”


Once on the mainland – mountains.  The tough beasts took the slopes in their stride, but fodder was scarce and the cold intense.


The towns on the way were: Bangor – Ruthin – Wrexham – Whitchurch – Brownhills, north of Walsall – Meriden, west of Coventry – Kenilworth – Cubbington – Offchurch – Southam. 


Thereafter, the destinations – Northampton, Kent, Essex and the London markets of Smithfield, Barnet, Uxbridge etc. – determined the routes.  If one sees the drove as a river, the Welsh end was a mass of tributaries which converged in the Midlands then split up again as it neared the South-east.

Warwicks. image 1
Towns on the North West Route