Malta – Clapham Junction (Dingli Cart Ruts)

The Dingli Cart Ruts are one of those spots on Malta that brings history and mystery together, with quite a bit of geology thrown in too. As I was walking the Dingli Cliffs on the western edge of Malta there were signs inland to a place known as simply ‘Cart Ruts’ or maps saying ‘Clapham Junction’!? It was time to investigate of course.

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Once you park up you cannot miss them. A large field of limestone paving with parallel tracks leading across in all directions. I have come across Cart Ruts before on the Oregon Trail. In so many ways the ruts seem very similar in depth and width. The ones on the Oregon Trail though were definitely made by carts and single file. But who and what made these here in Malta? And such a mass in such a criss-cross. Similar tracks are found elsewhere on Malta and Gozo but here at Misraћ Gћar il-Kbir they are most impressive. The way they are interwoven en masse led to an Englishman in history handing them the name Clapham Junction, as it reminded him of the busy London railway station.

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The debate is actually still open as to why and by whom. Limestone is of course very soft and erodes with water, so any continual track use will easily carve out ruts in this manner. That is if they are even man made, but if you ever get chance to see them with your own eyes as I did then you would find it hard to say they weren’t man made. A best guess made so far is they were made around 2000 BC by Bronze age settlers. Another svhool of thought is it was the Phoenicians in only around 7 BC?  Heavy wooden wheeled carts being the best guess by archeologists to date for the physical cause.

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Back to the mysteries of the ruts shortly, the plot does thicken, but there is more here to view than the cart ruts too. At the far end of the field is a series of caves that look like small holes within the rock but open up into grand dry interiors. More mystery…….

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Large caves appear under the rock in all directions. The feeling straight away upon entering is that these were most definitely living areas back in ancient history. Indeed cave dwellers lived here in the above cave all the way up to the 19th Century!

This area is not just a stop off on a tourist route I must admit. It would be best to go armed with some sense of what you are looking at. Otherwise it would just feel like an inconspicuous limestone field with grooves. But if you are knowing, you can stand in the middle and look down and out at all the tracks. You can start to get a good sense of awe at the scale of them, along with much how and why.

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Contradictions to the wagon rut theories? There are so many, they criss-cross all over, and at some points there are 10 tracks abreast! Also these tracks have been seen to lead to the edge of cliffs and can also be seen under the seas around Malta. Fascinating…

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Written by Paul Steele

Paul is the founder and Editor of the site. An avid hiker and trekker. Travel, adventure and photography are passions that he combines to make his articles here. Likes to see the positive in everything.

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