ORL Day Two: Kastell Niederbieber to Sayn

The second day on the Obergermanische-Raetische Limes (see, ORL is much easier!) finds us back at Niederbieber before starting off our day’s travails. We begin with a gentle climb through the north-eastern extremity of the settlement to a radio mast with, at its base, some handy stretching exercises (the sort that are always healthiest when you watch someone else do them). We then veer off north whilst the frontier strides relentlessly across the fields and waits for us to catch up. It is a gorgeous sunny day, not too hot, not too cold, and there are many worse ways to spend one’s time. A minor diversion (changes to the course of the path are made all the time, as will become apparent) avoids a road along which one used to be obliged to walk and it now has a statue of an auxiliary soldier added for good measure.

Soldier statue near Niederbieber

We catch up with the Limes once we enter the outskirts of Oberbieber, and then a long climb through woodland begins, punctuated by crossing a road on a decidedly lethal bend that makes the Military Road in Northumberland look like a walk in the park.

The Heidegraben

The climb steepens, but the end result is worth it, when we catch sight of the Heidegraben at the top. This is a long stretch of the bank and ditch of the ORL in a fine, upstanding form. We also have Kleinkastell Anhausen to inspect (a fortlet within a fortlet) and the Schutthügel of WT 1/41, as well as the obligatory length of reconstructed palisade.

Kleinkastell Anhausen

We eat lunch here at one of the picnic tables (there is also a large car park, helpfully located) and then press on, walking in the ditch with the rampart to our right. Unlike Hadrian’s Wall, the Wall (as the Germans call it; terminology gets very confusing, since it is a rampart, not a wall) has no berm between the lip of the ditch and the base of the rampart. Nevertheless, this does not appear to have caused any structural problems or instability (presumably because the Wall was never as high as either of the turf walls in Britain).

We continue to follow the LImes, but upon meeting a road move to the north of it. At WT 1/43, one of the stone towers has been nicely consolidated and presented with large amounts of information, including details of how they did it. Remember, most of these smaller, less impressive sites have not received any love since the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th centuries.

Wachturm 1/43

We pass more watchtowers, including one (WT 1/47) in the middle of a Hallstatt-era tumulus field, and then the site of three (WT 1/48), two of which were (unusually) hexagonal.

Rampart and ditch near WT 1/47

After a while we bid farewell to the rampart and ditch and begin our descent into Sayn. At this point the map and the signposts begin a series of disagreements and we lose the currently favoured Limesweg (I did mention that they seem to change it every year) so we stick with the one on the map which is familiar and easy. For the unwary, there is a choice of routes down at a crucial point: turn right down some steps (the short and steep route) or go left on the long and steady path. We finally end up down by the road, on the edge of Sayn, mission accomplished.