Wall Mile 25

Wall Mile 25 [HB 187–8]

As we climb the hill from the site of Milecastle 25, the ditch is a gentle ripple to our left. Upon reaching the field wall near the top, it is worth turning to view the valley of the North Tyne, with Limestone Corner in the far distance on the horizon, and contemplating this short stretch of our journey; it seems a long time since we were examining the abandoned ditch, let alone striding along the crags. To the south of us, the Military Road briefly flirts with the course of the Vallum in its efforts to get to the top of the hill. Onward and upward, we head into the trees, with the ditch still to our left but bolder, thanks to the protection afforded by the plantation, and then we are on the level and entering a broad, grassy field. Is this Iowa? No, this is Heavenfield.

The ditch amongst the trees near Heavenfield

The ditch amongst the trees near Heavenfield

All sign of the Wall has disappeared, but to the north of us is the 18th-century Heavenfield Chapel and to our right, next to the gate, is a giant cross, for this is the traditional site of the Battle of Heavenfield in AD 633/4 (or Hefenfelth, as Bede called it). ‘Traditional’ of course means there is no actual evidence of a battle being fought here, just a tradition that one was. It is complicated by a reference in the text to Deniseburna, an unknown stream which seems to have featured in the battle and has been suggested as being located (on placename evidence) to the south of Hexham, some way away. Luckily, this is not our problem, so we can pass on, safe in the knowledge that we may, or may not, have seen the site of a battle that was fought a long time ago somewhere in the vicinity.

Heavenfield chapel

Heavenfield chapel

We head towards the gate and then eastwards along the edge of the field before we emerge into the hamlet of St Oswald’s (which has a handy tearoom). On the other side of the road, we catch sight of the Vallum breaking away from the Military Road and heading across a field as a shallow, but recognisable, rolling earthwork.

The Vallum at St Oswald's

The Vallum at St Oswald’s

The Trail now takes us across the line of the ditch and up onto the counterscarp and we proceed in this fashion until we reach the site of Milecastle 25.

The Wall ditch near the site of Milecastle 25

The Wall ditch near the site of Milecastle 25

Milecastle 25 (Codlawhill) survives as an earthwork, although there is nothing for us to see as it is on the far side of the Military Road and well out of our reach or sight. Like its neighbours on either side, it is a long-axis milecastle and was excavated in 1930.

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