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Sunken lane

Sunken lane

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A sunken lane is a road
Road
A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two places, which typically has been paved or otherwise improved to allow travel by some conveyance, including a horse, cart, or motor vehicle. Roads consist of one, or sometimes two, roadways each with one or more lanes and also any...

 which has over time fallen significantly lower than the land on either side. They are created incrementally by erosion, by water and traffic. Some are very ancient with evidence of Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 or Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 origins, but others such as the Deep Hill Ruts
Oregon Trail Ruts (Guernsey, Wyoming)
Oregon Trail Ruts is a preserved site of wagon ruts of the Oregon Trail on the North Platte River, about .5 miles south of Guernsey, Wyoming. The Oregon Trail here was winding up towards South Pass. Wagon wheels, draft animals, and people wore down the trail about two to six feet into a...

 in the old Oregon Trail
Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail is a historic east-west wagon route that connected the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon and locations in between.After 1840 steam-powered riverboats and steamboats traversing up and down the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri rivers sped settlement and development in the flat...

 at Guernsey, Wyoming
Guernsey, Wyoming
Guernsey is a town in Platte County, Wyoming, United States. The population was 1,147 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Guernsey is located at ....

 developed in the space of a decade or two.

Where ancient trackways have lapsed from use, the overgrown and shallow marks of hollow ways through forest may be the sole evidence of their former existence. On disused ridgeways
Ridgeway (track)
Ridgeways are a particular type of ancient road that exploits the hard surface of hilltop ridges for use as unpaved, zero-maintenance roads, though they often have the disadvantage of steeper gradients along their courses, and sometimes quite narrow widths. Before the advent of turnpikes or toll...

 in central Germany, the hollow ways often mark inclines.

The earth banks on either side, sometimes topped with hedges and trees, give the impression of a tunnel enclosing the traveller. Because the roadway is restricted by the banks on either side, sunken lanes typically admit the passage of only one vehicle; that is, they are single track road
Single track road
A single-track road or one-lane road is a road that permits two-way travel but is not wide enough in most places to allow vehicles to pass one another . This kind of road is common in rural areas across the United Kingdom and elsewhere...

s. Occasional passing places may be provided, but a meeting of vehicles in a sunken lane often requires one party to reverse to a suitable passing place. In Central Germany, "dual carriageways" have been observed with two trenches side by side where a trackway was in such heavy use that it had lanes dedicated for each direction.

Up to the present day, some writers have assumed that low banks were deliberately created with shovels as a means to hem in cattle, but there is no evidence for this, and in any case, banking only appears intermittently in certain types of soil. When metalled, sunken lanes are unlikely to erode any further down.

In the UK


Sunken lanes are a characteristic feature of the landscape of southern England
Southern England
Southern England, the South and the South of England are imprecise terms used to refer to the southern counties of England bordering the English Midlands. It has a number of different interpretations of its geographic extents. The South is considered by many to be a cultural region with a distinct...

, especially in greensand
Greensand
Greensand or Green sand is either a sand or sandstone, which has a greenish color. This term is specifically applied to shallow marine sediment, that contains noticeable quantities of rounded greenish grains. These grains are called glauconies and consist of a mixture of mixed-layer clay...

 areas of the North
North Downs
The North Downs are a ridge of chalk hills in south east England that stretch from Farnham in Surrey to the White Cliffs of Dover in Kent. The North Downs lie within two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty , the Surrey Hills and the Kent Downs...

 and South Downs
South Downs
The South Downs is a range of chalk hills that extends for about across the south-eastern coastal counties of England from the Itchen Valley of Hampshire in the west to Beachy Head, near Eastbourne, East Sussex, in the east. It is bounded on its northern side by a steep escarpment, from whose...

, and the Weald. Seal Hollow Road in Sevenoaks
Sevenoaks
Sevenoaks is a commuter town situated on the London fringe of west Kent, England, some 20 miles south-east of Charing Cross, on one of the principal commuter rail lines from the capital...

 is a fine example of a sunken lane in southern England
Southern England
Southern England, the South and the South of England are imprecise terms used to refer to the southern counties of England bordering the English Midlands. It has a number of different interpretations of its geographic extents. The South is considered by many to be a cultural region with a distinct...

.

They are a particular feature of the West Country and west Wales - areas unaffected by the land enclosures of mediaeval England.

While many sunken lanes are now metalled, some are still unsurfaced Green lanes, typically now designated as bridleways. A few sunken lanes are open to vehicular traffic as Byways Open to All Traffic, although the severe potential for increased erosion means that such usage is increasingly restricted.

A sunken road is a cross country equestrian obstacle
Cross country obstacles
Various obstacles are found in competitive sports involving Horse jumping. These include show jumping, hunter, and the cross-country phase of the equestrian discipline of eventing. The size and type of obstacles vary depending on the course and the level of the horse and rider, but all horses must...


In Germany


One of the largest networks of such routes in Germany is to be found in the municipalities of Alsheim
Alsheim
Alsheim is an Ortsgemeinde – a municipality belonging to a Verbandsgemeinde, a kind of collective municipality – in the Alzey-Worms district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.- Location :...

 and Mettenheim
Mettenheim, Rhineland-Palatinate
Mettenheim is an Ortsgemeinde – a municipality belonging to a Verbandsgemeinde, a kind of collective municipality – in the Alzey-Worms district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.- Location :...

 in Rhineland-Palatinate
Rhineland-Palatinate
Rhineland-Palatinate is one of the 16 states of the Federal Republic of Germany. It has an area of and about four million inhabitants. The capital is Mainz. English speakers also commonly refer to the state by its German name, Rheinland-Pfalz ....

, where there they make up over 30 km of hiking trails
Trail
A trail is a path with a rough beaten or dirt/stone surface used for travel. Trails may be for use only by walkers and in some places are the main access route to remote settlements...

. Some of these sunken lanes can be up to 5 metres deep.

In the US


A sunken road played a major role in many military operations, such as the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 battles at Antietam
Battle of Antietam
The Battle of Antietam , fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and Antietam Creek, as part of the Maryland Campaign, was the first major battle in the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with about 23,000...

, Fredericksburg
Battle of Fredericksburg
The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought December 11–15, 1862, in and around Fredericksburg, Virginia, between General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside...

, and Shiloh
Battle of Shiloh
The Battle of Shiloh, also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, was a major battle in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, fought April 6–7, 1862, in southwestern Tennessee. A Union army under Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had moved via the Tennessee River deep into Tennessee and...


In Galicia and Asturias



In Galicia and western Asturias
Asturias
The Principality of Asturias is an autonomous community of the Kingdom of Spain, coextensive with the former Kingdom of Asturias in the Middle Ages...

the sunken lanes are usually called congostras or corredoiras, from Latin coangusta 'confined' and curro, currere 'run', being a common and characteristic feature of rural areas. Some lanes are now being recovered as hiking trails.