Wall Mile 40 [HB 263]
Onward and upward: this wall mile will not only take us to the highest point of Hadrian’s Wall, but will also bring us to our half-way point. The climbing continues from Milecastle 41, taking us past the site of Turret 40b (nothing to write home about) and to another substantial gap, Lodhams Slack, covered by a traverse of ditch (Slack is a Norse word meaning stream in a valley). The curtain wall is still skulking beneath a modern field wall rather shamefacedly, given the spectacular nature of its surroundings. Courage, mes braves, as we are about to scale the final section that will take us up to that highest point (but don’t think for one minute that that is the end of going dramatically uphill, oh no; just the end of the general upward trend).
Now 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. We pass the site of Turret 40a and the trig point (at 345m – 1132ft – above Ordnance Datum) is in plain sight. Pause by the 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 by the Military Road, keeping as ever to the easy route.
It is now a fairly straightforward trudge to the site of Milecastle 40, with Steel Rigg plantation (concealing its car park) in the distance and the next set of crags beyond that, all the while accompanied by a field wall reminding us of the location of the curtain wall. The milecastle shows up just before a stile and at the point where there is a (milecastle-sized) gap in that wall to our left.
There now. We have walked half of Hadrian’s Wall, seen many wonders, and have many more yet to come.
Milecastle 40 (Winshields) [HB 261–2; haiku]
Unusually, Milecastle 40 (Winshields) has been placed at an angle in the curtain wall. It was excavated in 1908 and found to be a long-axis type with both gateways reduced to pedestrian-only access at a late date. What we see today is the bumpy aftermath of those excavations.