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General Wades 18th Century Military Road Today - Scotland
an 18th century military road in the scottish highlands and 3 of its bridges

Wade' Road, The Land And The People Today

the military roadThere is still a community at Corgarff where this section of the military road ends but the population is much decreased and fewer and fewer of the people make their living directly from the land. There are a few farmers, and much of the land, which is owned by owners of large estates, is used for recreational hunting. The population is in part sustained by people who have come to live there, but earn their living from passing tourists, or through jobs or incomes from outwith the area.

Some newcomers seem to understand the land and develop a feeling for its history quickly. Others are less successful in this. The old route between the bridges reflected the skills of the road makers just as did the bridges. For example, small streams that flowed across the paths could have washed it away, but well laid paving at these points prevented this. Flows from other streams were directed into well-constructed stone “culverts,” that is small tunnels under the road. These features endured for centuries and walking along the road and seeing them and others imparted a sense of the age and history of the route to the walker.

new road surfaceThe techniques employed by the military engineers in the manufacture of the road would have exploited local skills and linked these with the imported military engineering techniques. The roads for example might have used alignments of old hill tracks, the lines of which would have been established over hundreds of years of local knowledge. The effectiveness of this fusion of skills and knowledge is clear in that very limited maintenance in a harsh environment maintained these structures for 250 years. Can even the great Victorian engineers say as much?

banking of the roadShortly after the restoration of the bridges was completed, new shooting tenants, who had rented the recreational hunting rights, “improved” the road using mechanical diggers. Old features like those mentioned above were buried or removed. The bridges remain but some of the sense of history and age that was so much a part of the road between has gone. Ironically, the “improvements” were done with poor understanding of management of local soils and drainage conditions. The improved road will also be a testimony to its makers, but perhaps of a different kind.

borrow pitIf there is a lesson, it is that unless we value our history and what it conveys to us, and take the trouble to understand how to manage the land sensitively, our history will be lost to us, and what replaces it will be in many ways inferior. Whatever the impact of these most recent roadworks, the land will continue to act as host to whatever form of human social and economic society next comes to dominate this environment. The old system, which provided a lowly state of human comfort but lasted here for hundreds of years, will not return. The current unsustainable system, subsidised by remote economic success, will go in time. The hills remain an asset to be used under whatever set of circumstances comes to dominate this remote but potentially self supporting landscape. Like the bridges, the efforts of those to come will remain written on this landscape for future generations to read. next

| Introduction | The Drovers of Cattle | The Military Roads | The Whisky Road | The Walkers Roads | The Road Today | Tornahaish Gallery | Delavine Gallery | Allt Damh Gallery | Delavine Technical Paper | Links and Credits | Bibliography |

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General Wade's Military Road Today - Highlands, Scotland