Wall Mile 32

Wall Mile 32 [HB 224–5]

Soon, we cross a drystone wall by means of a ladder stile and then it is a long trek walking along the line of the upcast mound, with the ditch to our left, hard up against the roadside wall. There are various rivulets, quagmires, and other generally squelchy bits to negotiate along here. Sometimes there is help in the form of stepping stones or plastic mats, but more often not. On we trudge and then, evidently in a bit of a huff, the Military Road suddenly swerves off the curtain wall and onto the Vallum. We then cross over the ditch (yes, this bit can get a bit boggy too; wet years can see it filled with liquid gloop, concealing the stepping stones) and embark on one of the most controversial sections of the Trail.

Crossing the ditch

Crossing the ditch on a dry day

Here we are walking along the berm and amongst the rubble spread of the curtain wall, as the field wall to our left is unusually not on the Roman wall but immediately south of it. Look to your right;  notice how the land falls away to the north? The ditch-diggers were using the foreslope trick again: advantage Hadrian’s Wall!

Between wall and ditch with Milecastle 33 in sight

Between wall and ditch with Milecastle 33 in sight

We are now in what footpath people call a pinch-point, where walkers are squeezed between that field wall and the ditch. In all of this, it is Hadrian’s Wall that suffers, for as soon as there is any erosion, the archaeology of the Wall (for the most part unexcavated along here) is endangered. Unfortunately, the most pinchy pinch-point comes at Milecastle 33.

Milecastle 33 (Shield-on-the-Wall) [HB 225; haiku]

Milecastle 33

Milecastle 33, with the path eroding through the grass

Once we are at the milecastle, it is plain how the line of that field wall sits south of the curtain wall, for here the north gate of the fortification is still exposed (too much so, for those who worry about potential damage to the monument). One interesting detail to note is how excavation has changed the flora of the fortlet and made it stand out. Examined in 1935–6, it usually shows as a patch of bracken, with an old spoil heap standing proud at its south-east corner (it is not generally thought good practice for archaeologists to leave their spoil heaps lying around, but it sometimes happens). Please treat these unconsolidated ruins with care as you pass by; they need love, really, not feet.

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