Wall Mile 56

Wall Mile 56 [HB 328–9]

Proceeding east from Cambeckhill Farm, the ditch can just be distinguished as a slight depression, whilst the line of the curtain wall is indicated by a modern fence to the south of the Trail.

Looking towards the Cam Beck

Looking towards the Cam Beck

Castlesteads

To your south, amongst the trees on the high ground beyond the Cam Beck (a tributary of the Irthing), lies the site of Castlesteads (Camboglanna), one of the detached forts immediately south of the Wall (the others being Carvoran, Vindolanda, and – probably – Newcastle). Neither Carvoran nor Vindolanda were within the Vallum, but it makes a very deliberate detour in order to include Castlesteads. The fort lies 12.8km (8.0 miles) east of Stanwix and occupies about 1.5ha (3.7 acres: an informed guess, since the western defences have been eroded by the river). The site is on private land and has effectively been razed by the formal garden of a late-18th-century listed building, Castlesteads, constructed on the site of an earlier Walton House belonging to the Dacre family. No trace of the fort is visible from the air, although the civil settlement has been detected by geophysical survey and the fort itself was summarily trenched in 1934, allowing the extent of its defences to be defined and the fact that the stone fort was preceded by a turf-and-timber one to be determined. However, even if you could see it, there is little to see.

The site of Castlesteads fort from the air

The site of Castlesteads fort from the air

Inscriptions reveal that the units based here included the part-mounted cohors II Tungrorum and cohors IV Gallorum (who were also to be found at Vindolanda). The Notitia Dignitatum omits the garrison of Camboglanna whilst mentioning the fort, possibly a scribal error. Old Ordnance Survey maps equated Castlesteads with Uxelodunum, all part of the confusion caused by thinking the well-preserved Watch Cross camp (now under Carlisle Airport) was a fort.

The ditch running up from the Cam Beck to Sandysike

The ditch running up from the Cam Beck to Sandysike

Back on the National Trail, before long we reach the wooded valley of the Cam Beck itself, a small wooded gorge that almost certainly had to be crossed by the Wall, just as the Trail now crosses it, by means of a bridge. Once over the far side, the line of the ditch climbing up towards Sandysike is very prominent, although near the top the Trail takes a detour off to the north alongside Swainsteads, before heading south again towards Sandysike itself. We dive into woodland and emerge to cross a small burn, another tributary of the Irthing, before climbing up the hill towards Walton. Here, uncharacteristically, the line of the Wall is to the north of us, crossing open ground, and the field boundary immediately to our south has nothing to do with it. Finally, we emerge into the western outskirts of Walton, where the measured site of Milecastle 56 is assumed to be, although another minor road must be crossed before we can proceed.

Milecastle 56 (Walton) [HB 328; haiku]

The site of Milecastle 56?

The site of Milecastle 56?

Milecastle 56 (Walton) is assumed to lie beneath the now-defunct Centurion Inn (which boasts an amusing cod-Latin date on its western gable end) but no trace of it has ever been found.

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