The Ancient Holloways of Dorset

holloways holloway dorset england UKEarly last summer I was in the U.K. and paid a visit to a friend living in the Dorset region on the south coast of England. The two of us went on a day-hike through the rolling green hills and pastures surrounding his town. At one point we entered a forest enclosure and found ourselves in a deep gully running through the foliage.

My friend said we were walking through a ‘Holloway’ – a sunken rut in the ground made by centuries of plodding feet, cartwheels, livestock and erosion from rainwater. The name “holloway” comes from “hola weg,” meaning sunken road in Old English.

What made that moment doubly surreal (standing in a holloway is a hauntingly beautiful experience) was that the year before, while teaching a travel writing course, my students and I had read a newspaper article in the Toronto Star about that exact same Holloway in Dorset. I’d never heard of the hidden trenches prior to reading about them in class. Nor did I imagine afterwards that I’d ever set foot in one – let alone that same one.

Holloways are found all over rural U.K. and can date as far back as the Iron Age. Each has a different appearance depending on their size and shape, and the region in which they are found.

You can see a variety of U.K. holloways here.