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Ford in North Yorkshire

A ford is a flat spot ( shoal ) in a stream or river , by means of which the water can be crossed on foot, on horseback or with vehicles. This shallow point is therefore part of a higher-level road connection and determines the course of traffic routes. The settlement development was favored for a long time by the location at a ford.


The oldest fords arose on natural flat areas of a flowing water. The change in the morphology of the flowing waters was used to enable hazard-free passage.

In meandering flowing waters, fords are regularly found at the change from the impact slope to the glide bank . The section-wise increase in the bed level is an integral part of the typical ford-scour sequences of lowland rivers.

In larger rivers with branched sections, the fords are mainly located in the area of ​​river splitting areas. Since crossing several side arms was less risky than using the main arm, which has higher flow velocities and greater bed depths.

Water widenings are also suitable as shallow transition points due to the shallower water depth. The broader river bed is characterized by reduced bed erosion as a result of the reduced flow velocity and bed shear stress (drag stress).

Transport history and settlement development

Ti's burial chamber, scene: passage through the ford (Egypt, around 2500 BC)

Fords in rivers are known from ancient times. The location of natural fords was heavily dependent on the natural conditions and changes in the running water. For this reason, fords largely guided the historical course of roads and paths. Fords were - especially in the Middle Ages - the starting point for the establishment of larger settlements, as the inhabitants benefited from trade and traffic. Because on the trade routes in the area of ​​fords tariffs were sometimes levied. Even today, city names with the term ford remind of the historical significance of the possibility of crossing for settlement development.

Crossing a body of water with the help of a ford is also called ford .

Gué through the Rivière d'argent near Huelgoat

Fords played a decisive role in military operations, and advance troops had to track down and explore fords. The river was traveled by boat and the depth of the water was determined. In particular, the ford was checked for holes in the river bed. If the flow rate is fast and the trees are reflected in the water surface, one can assume that the water is deep, sandbanks and short waves in the wind are signs of a ford. Before passing a ford, a herd of cattle was driven through the ford several times (preferably cows, because they walk very slowly) to pound the river bed so that the wheels of the carts don't “get stuck”. At the river crossing, cavalry was set up above the ford to break the current, below the ford posts to pick up luggage and people who were carried away by the current.

Ford in Aufseß next to a bridge that carries only 1.5 tons

Even today, fords in streams are used when building forest or farm roads, if the expensive construction of bridges can be avoided. The wading depth marked on vehicles indicates the maximum immersion depth in the water.

A car crossing a ford in South Africa (video, 21 sec)

The river crossings were also called fords, which were characterized by the fact that they were easy to reach. This is particularly true of swampy areas in the north German lowlands. One example is the marshy floodplain of the Randow , which only offered “dry” bank access at one point; Löcknitz was created at this point .

Crossing ford in Mezilles, France

Crossings over wide or heavily traveled traffic, no longer water flows, are referred to in a figurative sense as pedestrian or cyclist ford.

Name customer


Many cities and towns have the term ford (h) in their names, which indicates their location. In northern Germany, the synonymous ending Wedel is common. The suffix -ford is used in English place names , e.g. B. Oxford or Stratford . In Dutch place names it is voorde or voort as in Vilvoorde , Zandvoort and Bosvoorde . The Latin trajectum ('ford') can be found back in Maastricht , Utrecht and Dordrecht .

Places with ford names

Crossing a ford in the Þórsmörk , Iceland
in composition

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Bavarian State Office for the Environment (ed.): Historical cultural landscape elements in Bavaria . tape 4 . Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-931754-54-9 , pp. 84 f .
  2. Brockhaus Encyclopedia: Volume 8, FRU-GOS . In: Brockhaus . 19th edition. tape 8 . FA Brockhaus GmbH, Mannheim 1989, ISBN 3-7653-1200-2 , p. 58 .
  3. ^ DWB: German Dictionary by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm , I-XVI, Leipzig 1854–1960, and list of sources (2nd edition ibid.) 1971; Reprint Munich 1984, I-XXXIII. DWB 2 : revision, Leipzig.
  4. a b Example: Explanations of the trips ( memento from January 18, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) “Larger rivers could be led.” Accessed on July 21, 2011
  5. Paperback for the officer. Compiled by FWDammeyer, Verlag von Carl Heymann, Berlin 1838, pages 304-307.

Web links

Wiktionary: Furt  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Fords  - collection of images, videos and audio files