Wall Mile 25 [HB 187–8]
We continue along the upcast mound north of the ditch until the Trail takes us across the line of the ditch and onto the berm. Before long, after a few more gates, some steps, and industrial quantities of gorse bushes, we are deposited by the side of the Military Road and then it is only a short stagger to the St Oswald’s tearoom which (when it’s open) provides a welcome haven for the tea-crazed lolloping murophile. To our left, we catch sight of the Vallum, still a healthy earthwork until now, being adopted by the Military Road as it leaves the all-too-direct course of the curtain wall plunging into the valley of the North Tyne.
Leaving the hamlet of St Oswald’s, we pass through a gate and then head westwards along the edge of the field. At the point where we are level with the giant cross next to the entrance, the Trail heads north-westwards.
All signs of the Wall have disappeared, but to the north of us is the 18th-century Heavenfield Chapel, 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 place-name 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.
We dutifully follow the Trail and make for the trees of Dixon’s Plantation to our west, with the ditch to our right, enjoying the protection from ploughing afforded by the plantation. Passing through the trees, we reach a field wall and find ourselves at the edge of the plantation and near the top of a field, with a fine view across the valley of the North Tyne, and with Limestone Corner in the far distance on the horizon. Descending towards the site of Milecastle 26 (near the field gate opposite the farm), the ditch is a gentle ripple to our right.
Milecastle 26 (Planetrees) [HB 188; haiku]
This was a long-axis milecastle, excavated in 1930. Nothing remains to be seen now.