The history of routes is an interesting one, it does not improve our vehicles in any way, it does not repair them or even modify them; what it does is give us a snapshot of the history and evolution of many routes we drive as off road drivers.
In the beginning there was man, they lived in whatever natural environmental conditions there were, it may be a cave or other natural feature which provided shelter from the environmental conditions, basically it kept them warm and dry. Travel requirements were small, they were hunter gatherers and hunted animals for food and clothing, they survived from naturally growing foods in their environment, and only operated within a couple of miles of home, They needed nothing more than a track, whatever they needed, they carried; and often there would be small groups of people operating within a defined area. Early settlements had no requirements for travel as everything required to survive was within easily walking distance, which explains why early settlements were within easy reach of what we would call local amenities, there would be water and food.
Early routes were therefore tracks, remember the landscape was considerably different then, there were vast forests, which, is why some of the oldest surviving trails meander, it was because they travelled around any obstacle. This was because they had no modern machinery or equipment to remove it and there was very little manpower or tools as we have today, and take for granted.
Natural evolution of man meant man placed these trails and paths in the best positions to suit them, and why many were along natural features such as the tops of hills or along natural rocky crags and outcrops. These early paths were made up of the natural ground conditions, in rocky areas they would be reasonably solid rock, in clay areas they would be clay and with a solid surface in summer and slippery in a wet winter; very few surfaces were hard surfaces. Early man knew his surroundings, they knew when the water from rivers or streams would rise, and when and where the best places were to ambush the larger animals when out hunting, basically they knew their surroundings well.
As man progressed we saw the earliest forms of roads develop, this was to accommodate the larger animals used for transportation, these were usually the oxen and earliest forms of other animals used to pull primitive sledges. This meant the narrow, winding paths were not suitable for these heavy beasts of burden, in addition people were forming colonies or settlements and these had to be connected. People within these settlements had begun to raise livestock and cultivate crops, these were self sufficient settlements which produced a surplus which could be traded with other local settlements, and this meant transporting them to trade.
Connecting these settlements meant the previous paths had become wider to accommodate the larger beasts, and more substantial to carry their weight and that of the cargo they transported, in addition man began using natural resources to build. This meant clearing areas of land and using the cleared trees and vegetation to build their settlements buildings and fencing, this was usually timber; they tended to clear straighter routes through the forests along a route to form a roadway. Now we had clearly defined roads through the heavily forested country, clearly defined routes which connected multiple settlements, and the most heavily used routes had hard surfaces installed. Most of these hard surfaces were made from natural materials, brush was commonly used as it spread the loads of heavy animals, and other natural locally available resources were uses which were normally primitive aggregates of stone. This led to the first primitive roads.
Crossing obstacles now became a necessity, rivers needed bridging and swamps or boggy areas needed solid routes to cross them for a direct route, instead of the previously meandering routes. With beasts and sledges available it became easier to provide these structures, larger rocks were transported to form parapets for bridges, these could be transported from several miles away and carefully placed to narrow rivers to form a crossing bridge. Bridge lengths were dictated by the lengths of trees available locally, and were used to create these bridges, and this led to easier transportation and the formation of the earliest forms of towns and cities as we know them today. These were originally trading posts for people to trade goods and offer services to other local people, but people still travelled relatively small distances, many people would not travel any further than their local trading or market town.
Many unique facts have emerged with the passage of time, how many people know the river Thames in London was not actually a river, it was around 2.5 miles wide and was nothing more than a series of natural drainage streams running in the same direction. These were shallow enough to walk across, and with lots of tracts of land between the streams, it meant crossing it was easily done by wading across the water of only a few inches deep, and then walking across a tract of land to the next stream. It was only in more recent times that the River Thames was narrowed and controlled into the river as we currently know it, much of this was the result of London growing and much of the space was needed for housing and businesses of the day.
Norfolk as a county developed another ingenious system of crossing the fens and swamps which existed there, these were small trees which were cut and stripped, the trunk was split along its length and pockets cut into them. These had their ends sharpened and they were hammered into the ground, the branches had their ends shaped to fit the pockets, and these were fitted to form an