Wall Mile 7 [HB 158–62]
We have been enduring limited amounts of Wall for some distance now, but at last our patience is to be rewarded. Some 275m beyond the first footbridge, which marks the location of Milecastle 8, we find another, and then a short distance beyond that we find a short length of curtain wall, perched up on an embankment immediately south of the roaring A69, thereby proving that the road is now on the line of the ditch (in case you were doubting this revelation).
The adventurous can take a brief detour down into the housing estate along Southway to examine a stretch of Vallum that is preserved as open grassland around 150m south of the curtain wall. Although the ditch and mounds have been worn down, they are very clear from the air and worth seeing at ground level, even if the surroundings are a little incongruous (but nowhere near as strange as the Benwell Vallum Crossing and Temple of Antenociticus, as we shall see).
Returning to the curtain wall, our next task is to negotiate the A69/A1 interchange by means of a subway that cunningly turns into a footbridge over the A1 (and this is probably the loudest experience you will have on your journey along the Wall). When this, the Western Bypass, was constructed, the curtain wall and Vallum were excavated and it was at this point that discussion of whether or not the Wall was plastered or not was once again raised, since some evidence of what may have been rendering (or perhaps over-generous pointing) was recovered.
To the east of this traffic-filled trench we finally come upon our last turret, Turret 7b, embattled and proud, its site graphics care-worn and battered, all set within a small area of grass next to a bus shelter. A fine piece of curtain wall survives to either side of the turret, but it is worth noting that this was not excavated until 1929. When the housing estate was built to the south, just before the Second World War, examination of the Vallum produced building stones recording construction work by cohors I Dacorum.
The turret, with its door on the eastern side, has what may be a ladder base in the south-west corner, designed to afford access to its upper levels. Next to it was a hearth to provide some warmth and cooking facilities for those posted to it.
We are not yet done with Wall Mile 7, but already the hill up to Benwell looms large, the straightness of the road still reflecting the course of the Wall. We continue east to the pedestrian crossing at the crossroads and, near the library, we find a small piece of curtain wall at Denton Burn which, when Hutton saw it, had an apple tree growing out of it, although by the time that Collingwood Bruce had woodcuts prepared for his Handbook, it had died and was little more than a stump. The burn itself was carried through the wall by means of a culvert, long vanished.
After admiring this piece, we can then head towards the service station at the corner where, nestling up against the Indian restaurant, there are a few stones of the north face of the curtain wall. This is the smallest consolidated piece of Hadrian’s Wall you will see, but it is far from the last. Now we must with all due caution cross the road and head uphill towards the site of Milecastle 7 (Benwell Bank). All the time the road is on the line of the ditch and the curtain wall approximates to the property boundaries fronting onto the pavement (which is roughly the line of the berm).
Milecastle 7 (Benwell Bank) [HB 158; haiku]
After we have crossed five roads on the southern side of the Military Road (50m beyond the last of these, Gretna Road) we have reached the measured position of Milecastle 7, although it has never been located.