ORL Day One: Kleinkastell Rheinbrohl to Kastell Niederbieber

The first thing we encountered at Rheinbrohl was the reconstructed watchtower, Wachturm (WT) 1/1. It is not in its original position (which was slightly to the north) and, like many things of the 1970s, looks somehow wrong now. There is nothing to be seen of the Kleinkastell (fortlet) on the other side of the road so we strode out, past the Lidl and through the school(!). Following the Limesweg arrows, we crossed the main road and passed the nursery on our right (fresh cut flowers every day!).

ORL Strecke 1

The choice is now available to visit Römerwelt but, since it is mainly aimed at children, has nothing original, and shows nothing we won’t see elsewhere, we skip it and press on. Next to a pub, we see our first short length of reconstructed palisade before we start up the track that takes us up the valley of the temptingly named Arienheller Sprudel. A steady 150m- climb over two-kilometres takes us to WT 1/8 (Arienheller) – both of them, since successive stone foundations stand side-by-side next to a reconstructed length of paliade, ditch, and bank. The first timber tower cannot be seen, but there is nevertheless a modern reconstruction of the next one (1/9) further up the hill, at Auf dem Beulenburg. This offers splendid views down the valley we have just trudged up, as far back as the mighty Rhine itself.

ORL Strecke 1

The path soon flattens out and we pass a sign in a field, marking the location of (think bump) of WT 1/10. There is an old hunting lodge to our right as we start to descend again, only to climb rapidly up to a point, just before WT 1/11, where a modern road crosses the Roman frontier. Modern palisade posts stand either side of the road, whilst the original bank and ditch are clearly visible.

ORL Strecke 1

Until now we have mainly been in mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland, but we now emerge into open farmland, pass the site of WT 1/12 (again, with a sign marking it) and head for our lunch spot, in a shelter near WT 1/13. Before we reach it, however, the postman stops his van and warns us he’s just seen wild boar, so be careful and stick together!

After a pleasant lunch in our hut (provided specifically for walkers), we set off again. Near the site of WT 1/14 we inspect the remains of Kleinkastell Am Fortshofweg, our second fortlet of the walk so far.

ORL Strecke 1

From hereon in, we are back in the woodland again and monitoring the Limesweg signs carefully, since active exploitation of the woodland has a habit of removing the signs! Finally, we emerge back into the open near the site of WT 1/21, having passed some impressive sections of Roman frontier bank and ditch in the woods. Now we head downhill into the valley of the Wied into the village of Rodenbach, then crossing the river to enter Niederbieber, and climb a short way to find the fort. The north gate is preserved amidst the houses, as is the substantial bath building, unusual for the fact that it was internal to this, one of the largest forts of this section of the Limes.

ORL Strecke 1

The units based here included scouts (exploratores) and a unit (numerus) of Britons and the site is even more remarkable for having produced the only example of a Roman draco standard to have survived. A fitting end to our day’s walking.

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