Wall Mile 9

Wall Mile 9 [HB 162–4]

A sign proclaims that we are entering Blucher Village, reflecting the name of the coal mine that once stood here, named after Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, the Prussian general who saved the day at the Battle of Waterloo.

The road descends very slightly past a terrace of houses to the left then starts to rise, opening out into fields again. We pass the village sign for Walbottle and soon come to a junction, which we need to cross carefully and carry straight on westwards along the southern pavement. We are rewarded with the sight of the road (and, by implication, the curtain wall under it) beginning to descend gently. We walk past a primary school built over the Vallum to our left, then begin to climb once again, always gently. This is a 3km straight stretch, still on the same alignment as that section lost under the interchange with the A69.

Recent study of the building stones from along here has suggested it was being rebuilt by the Sixth Legion as early as AD 158. Hadrian’s Wall began construction around AD 122 (some think it was already under way when Hadrian visited in that year), but was abandoned in AD 138, soon after completion, in favour of the new turf wall across the Forth–Clyde isthmus which we call the Antonine Wall. That, in turn, did not last long and evidently by 158 Hadrian’s Wall was being recommissioned. Was the work needed another hint of the shoddy building that we shall see dogged the original fabric of the Wall?

Past the school, the fields appear to the left again and, although nothing is obvious yet, the Vallum often shows up as a a differentiation in the vegetation here.

The Vallum as a crop mark west of Walbottle

The Vallum as a crop mark west of Walbottle

Heading uphill towards the site of Milecastle 10, the fields to the left often contain parch or crop marks defining the course of the Vallum

Although the curtain wall usually seems to have been beneath the southern (westbound) carriageway of the Military Road, at this point the 18th-century road-builders chose to swing slightly southwards and the road passes straight through the middle of Milecastle 10.

Milecastle 10 (Walbottle Dene) [HB 164; haiku]

The deviation in the course of the Military Road means the north gate of Milecastle 10 survived and was duly excavated in 1928. The southern wall was examined in 1999–2001, revealing the milecastle to be of the long axis type. Milecastles came in two basic flavours, either ‘short axis’ (broader east–west) or ‘long axis’ (longer north–south), with the odd square example thrown in for good measure. Wall scholars have decided that these features may have been characteristic of the different legions’ preferences. There is, as you might have guessed, nothing to see any more, other than to appreciate that the milecastle is perched on the eastern lip of Walbottle Dene.