Wall Mile 41

Wall Mile 41 [HB 263–4]

Carrying on, we are soon descending into Bogle Hole, then back up, and then down again, this time into Caw Gap. The curtain wall to our right is under a modern drystone wall. Here, a minor road passes through the Wall.

The Vallum immediately south of Caw Gap

The Vallum immediately south of Caw Gap

The adventurous Vallumophile can now take a brief detour down the road to say ‘hello’ to their hero, which is in fine earthwork form along here and only some 150m south of the curtain wall at this point. Having scratched that itch, return back up the hill to where the rest of us are patiently waiting for you, having handed round the emergency chocolate in your absence.

The curtain wall and ditch in Caw Gap

The curtain wall and ditch in Caw Gap

We now cross the road, noting that we are joined by the consolidated curtain wall to our left, accompanied by a length of ditch beyond it, and after only a short jaunt (and a change onto a more north-westerly course) reach the remains of Turret 41a.

Turret 41a

Turret 41a

Turret 41a

Turret 41a, like many others we have seen, was demolished almost to ground level when the Wall was briefly abandoned in favour of the Antonine Wall. The recess within the curtain wall was filled in and the turret never reconstructed.

Soon we reach a small re-entrant at a slight nick, with a gate through the curtain wall. This is Thorny Doors, and the curtain wall plummets down it and it is here that the highest surviving piece of curtain wall is to be found. When consolidated, it is said that putlog holes for wooden scaffolding were found in the outer face of the wall and that it was eroded in an unusual manner, perhaps because of the way in which the wind is funnelled through the nick. We can only admire the horizontal coursing of the curtain wall as it seems to descend the crags effortlessly.

Thorny Doors and Cawfields Crags

Thorny Doors and Cawfields Crags

The going is now much easier and we pass the site of Turret 41b (nothing to see) and we trudge downhill towards Milecastle 42, with the Claytonized curtain wall to our right, perched on the edge of Cawfields Crags. On our way, we cross The Great Googlegurgleblend, the point where something goes horribly wrong with the alignment of their air photos, making Hadrian’s Wall ‘jump’ a couple of metres to the north (most likely a parallax effect caused by combining images taken from slightly different positions). Fortunately, ‘ground proofing’ shows that the effect is not manifested in reality and the Claytonized Wall is seamless here.

The Great Googlegurgleblend

It has been mentioned several times, but what is the Claytonized Wall? John Clayton, who owned this stretch of land during the 19th century, had his workmen consolidate the curtain wall by excavating the tumbled facing stones that lay to either side of it and reconstructing them as coursed drystone walling on top of the surviving in-situ courses. This remained the National Trust style for the Wall, but differed markedly from the preferred Ministry of Works method of ‘as found’ consolidation in later years. A compromise was reached whereby the newer was combined with the older to preserve the unusual character of the National Trust-owned stretches on top of the more accurate modern approach. So, strictly speaking, Clayton Wall is reconstructed, Ministry Wall consolidated as found.

Having safely crossed that aerial photographic paradox, we arrive at Milecastle 42, seemingly draped across the dip slope.

Milecastle 42 (Cawfields) [HB 264–6; haiku]

Milecastle 42

Milecastle 42

Milecastle 42 was first excavated by John Clayton in 1848, re-excavated in 1935, and finally consolidated in the 1960s. The outline of this somewhat drastically sloping short-axis milecastle is clear but no internal structures were identified (or survived). The gateways are rather noteworthy, the south for the height of its masonry, the north for its marking-out lines (used to align its now-missing masonry) and for the remaining sockets for its gates. A fragment of tombstone and a Hadrianic building inscription come from here.