Wall Mile 44

Wall Mile 44 [HB 277–8]

The curtain wall trundles along the top of the crags in a north-easterly direction for about 200m before making a turn to a more southerly course and descending into Walltown Nick. We cannot easily follow it directly down but need to take a more southerly course, before finding a stile across a stone wall and then a paved causeway across the boggy base of this nick. To our right is a low mound surmounted by trees, known as King Arthur’s Well; this is not the last time we shall encounter the Once and Future King on our journey. We are now confronted by a steep climb up some rudimentary stone steps (they are modern and some have been cut with an angle grinder to give added grip). Ultimately this takes us to Turret 44b on Mucklebank Crags, but before we examine it, we can now turn and survey the path we have just negotiated and observe the Wall from our eyrie. The line of the curtain wall, although ruinous, should be clear, slightly to the north of the paved path. North of that again is the line of the ditch. Although not needed for much of the Wall’s course along the crags, the ditch reappears whenever a nick or gap appears where its defensive provision is deemed necessary. This, incidentally, hints once again at how important the ditch (rather than the curtain wall) may have been in deciding the course of the Wall and suggests that the latter was subservient to the former.

Walltown Nick

Walltown Nick

Turret 44b (Mucklebank) is unique in being set into a right-angled turn of the curtain wall, as it wends it way along the top of the crags. Still standing to about 1.9m high, it was excavated in 1892. Inside, the remains of an arch can be seen lying on the floor and that may originally have adorned the doorway.

Turret 44b at Mucklebank

Turret 44b at Mucklebank

After a brief exposure on either side of the turret, the curtain wall returns to being a low mound along the top of the crags for another 100m or so before descending into the next nick. Once again the curtain wall diverts south to embrace this and a short stretch of ditch appears to cover the break in the crags. It climbs again briefly and then repeats the performance with another diversion and accompanying stretch of ditch. This defensive trick is known as a re-entrant and allows a defender to dominate an attacker who might choose to assail a weak point (which has been helpfully reinforced with a length of ditch) from three sides. That is why the Wall does not run straight across.

Wall Mile 44 from the air

Wall Mile 44 from the air

After the third of these nicks the terrain settles down a little bit, we cross a stile and note that there is now a drystone wall on top of the curtain wall to our left and that a gateway through the wall we have just crossed marks the line of the Military Way, the road that links all the turrets and milecastles. The astute will even be able to make out the course of the road, about 35m south of the curtain wall. We pass Alloa Lee Farm (which you’ll usually see referred to as Allolee) to our right before encountering the site of Milecastle 44 just before a turn in the Wall slightly south of east. By now you should be getting your eye in for the humps and bumps of unconsolidated milecastles.

Milecastle 44 (Allolee) [HB 277; haiku]

The long-axis Milecastle 44 (Allolee) is visible as an earthwork. It has evidently been excavated at some point but when, by whom, and what was found remain a mystery. This is why excavation is sometimes euphemistically referred to as ‘preservation by record’; without a record, there is no ‘preservation’.

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