Wall Mile 40 [HB 263]
There now. We have walked half of Hadrian’s Wall, seen many wonders, and have many more yet to come. Courage, mes braves, as we traverse the final section that will take us up to the highest point (but don’t think for one minute that that will be the end of going dramatically uphill, oh no; just the end of the general upward trend).
It is now a fairly straightforward trudge from the site of Milecastle 40, with one eye fixed on the trig point in the distance and the next set of crags beyond that, accompanied at first by a field wall to our right reminding us of the location of the curtain wall, although soon the consolidated curtain wall leaps up from its foundations to surprise us. After a 150m or so it subsides once more and the field wall is back.
At last, we are up on Winshield Crags, Francis Haverfield’s favourite part of Hadrian’s Wall (he named his house in Oxford after it), and so good it even has its own webcam. The trig point is at 345m – 1132ft – above Ordnance Datum). Pause by this concrete pyramid and take stock. You may have to lean into a westerly wind to stay upright, and you may even have horizontal rain lashing against you, but it is worth a moment’s consideration of how far we have come and, of course, how far we still have to go. To our south, the Vallum is way down near the Military Road, keeping as ever to the easy route along the base of the dip slope.
Now we can begin the gradual descent to the coast and the Solway Firth. We pass the site of Turret 40a and make our way down into another substantial gap, Lodhams Slack, covered by a traverse of ditch. The curtain wall is still skulking beneath a modern field wall rather shamefacedly, given the spectacular nature of its surroundings.
We climb again slightly, taking us past the site of Turret 40b (nothing to write home about) and then descend in our approach to Milecastle 41. We have already lost 60m in height from that last trig point.
Milecastle 41 (Melkridge) [HB 263; haiku]
This is a short-axis milecastle that survives as humps and bumps. This was also the original site of Shield-on-the-Wall farm, now relocated 500m to the south-west. As you cast your eye over the intermingled remains of farmstead and milecastle, you may recall what we mentioned earlier about the reuse of milecastles as settlements and wonder whether we are here dealing with continuity of occupation. We shall say more on this later.
By now, you are probably counting off your walk in milecastles and beginning to feel a creeping indifference towards them. Be patient: there are still some fine treats in store.