Our ancestors in 1500 looked out at a landscape little different from what we see today: mountains, plains and bogs drained by the same rivers and lakes flowing into the same seas and most made their living from that landscape.

The soil provided the poor with all their food, clothing and even the walls and roofs for their houses before finally absorbing them in death. There were fewer fences and hedges, though corn and other crops had to be fenced in from the huge herds of cattle which grazed on open plains and commons. Vast expanses of forest still survived but would be felled in the seventeenth century to make ships and barrels for exporting Irish products.

The best way to travel was by water. There were few roads but many pathways on which one could travel on foot, horseback or in horse-drawn vehicles but most poor people stayed near home.

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