From the top of Gatescarth Pass we continued down in the direction of Sadgill, but only as far as Brownhowe Bottom; seen here. It was here that we turned left to follow the path over to Mosedale Cottage.
The route between here and Mosedale Cottage is actually along a short section of what was at one time a vast network of drove roads. The transportation of cattle, or droving as it is known, was a thriving industry spanning the centuries between the late middle ages and the mid 19th Century when the movement of cattle in any great quantity was eventually taken over by the railways. Even by today’s standards the drovers were sometimes expected to cover vast distances. Up to 200 cattle and 2000 sheep would have been moved along the roads at one time, covering a distance of between six and twelve mile a day. Scots cattle would be transported to Yorkshire, Lancaster and on occasion even as far south as London.
Farmers from the central and the western areas of Cumbria started to take advantage of this thriving cattle trade during the 17th century. By this time they were already holding local markets such as the ones at Bootle and Arlecdon during April each year. The cattle from these local gatherings were then moved to the bigger markets and from there they would follow, what can be described as local drove roads which link up with the main route south at various points. These local drove roads essentially served as quick, but not so easy links to the main drove road in the east and in so doing, crossed some of the most difficult and inhospitable terrain in England.
Because of the quantity and complexity of the droving routes that were in use I can't describe them all here. This short section however, is part of the route between Ambleside and Shap; following a route which can still be walked to this day. Ambleside - High Skelghyll - Troutbeck - Garburn Pass - Kentmere - Stile End - Sadgill - Brownhowe Bottom - Mosedale - Wet Sleddale - Shap