Wall Mile 71

Wall Mile 71 [HB 349]

The trail continues along the lane before we emerge into more open country. The line of the curtain wall ahead of us is marked by a series of gnarled old hawthorn trees. Amongst the roots you can occasionally glimpse pieces of stone from the fabric of the wall.

The line of the curtain wall marked by hawthorn trees

The line of the curtain wall marked by hawthorn trees

We move down a slight slope, where a shallow, marshy depression resembles the ditch but is in fact later disturbance (a fish pond, in fact). We cross a small bridge and head south towards the road. We exit the field and turn right, but are soon directed into another field, taking us the opposite side of the hedge to the road. The line of the curtain wall enters Burgh-by-Sands more or less on the line of the road, having made a turn to the north-west about 150m east of the eastern end of the churchyard.

Burgh-by-Sands fort (ABALLAVA) [HB 350–4]

As with the earlier fort sites, Roman Burgh (one of those Burghs pronounced ‘bruff’) is all around us, quite literally. Many of the buildings and much of the church are built out of the red sandstone blocks originally used for the curtain wall and fort. Otherwise, there is nothing to see of it now. A visit to the church will, however, reveal a stone in the chancel that is claimed (somewhat implausibly) to be a Roman or ‘Celtic’ moustachioed head. ‘Celtic’ heads tend to draw the strangest people out of the woodwork and this one did not make it into the definitive account of Roman sculpture, the Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani; make of that what you will.

Burgh church

Burgh church

There were three distinct sites at Burgh. Burgh I was a late-1st-century AD turf-and-timber fort, possibly belonging to the Stanegate series of sites. Burgh II was the Hadrianic Wall fort (Aballava) and covered an area of 2ha (4.9 acres). It was situated on top of Turret 71b, near Sandwath ford, one of the lowest crossing points of the Solway Firth. In the 3rd century, the garrison was a numerus of Mauri from North Africa – recalling an episode in the Historia Augusta when Septimius Severus had an unpleasant encounter with a Moor near the Wall. Other units recorded include ala I Tungrorum, cohors I Germanorum Nerviana, part-mounted and milliary, and a cuneus Frisiorum (also found at Housesteads). Burgh III, once thought to be another fort, is now identified as a temporary camp.

We carry on through the village, and arrive at the recreation ground to our left, with a statue of Edward I, next to the Greyhound pub (which usually makes a convenient lunching point). Edward Longshanks died of dysentery near here in 1307 whilst waiting to ford the Solway and launch another campaign against Robert the Bruce.

Milecastle 72 is off to our right, beneath the gardens of Burgh.

Milecastle 72 (Fauld Farm) [HB 355–6; haiku]

The site of Milecastle 72 was in fact identified just to the north-east of the post office and examined in 1960 and 1989.