Thursday, 9 May 2013

Blackstone Edge Gathering & Roman Road

'Lancashire's Via Appia Antica'
NOT only the Chartists visited Blackstone Edge but local legend has it that the Romans built a road up it.  The leader of the Littleborough contingent that ascended it for last Sunday's gathering Fiona insisted on taking us up the steep 'Roman Road' as the Romans built in straight lines.

In his entry to 'Hidden Treasures of England,' Michael McNay writes:
'Anyone who has walked the old Appian Way in Rome will be familiar with the feel and look of a genuine Roman road: slabs of (in this case) lava rock laid with gaps between them of something like an inch.  This may not be the scientific way to argue that the remarkable half-mile stretch of paved road climbing to Blackstone Edge in the Pennines off the A58 above Littleborough is also Roman and not, as some doubters feel, a route laid down at some later date, but it certainly has all the appearances of the genuine article.  Moreover, there is no evidence that anyone bothered to build roads of this sort after the Romans until the coming of the turnpikes in the 18th century.  Quite the contrary, in fact:  the appalling state of the roads is why rivers and, later, canals were so important for transport.'

Mr McNay adds:
'The Blackstone Edge road has one other particularly Roman characteristic:  it goes straight up the hill the direct way.  It was part of the route from the fort at Manchester to Ilkley, and it is in excellent condition.  One explanation for the wide groove that runs down the middle is that it was made to help braking, but since the road has no camber, my own guess is that it was put there simply to allow water to run off.'

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