ORL Day Four: Hillscheid to Bad Ems

We arrive at Kleinkastell Hillscheid in intermittent rain, mist drifting lazily through the trees (the Germans say ‘the fox is cooking’!). We set off, waterproofed and resolved, into the murky forest. Encouragingly, two of the narrower, less frequented (and consequently poorly maintained) lengths have been superseded by longer, but much more acceptable routes. It has to be understood that the Limesweg is made up of lengths of existing paths strung together to make a route that follows the frontier as closely as possible. Hence it is easy to modify routes without actually building a new path; to use a railway metaphor, they just change the points in a couple of places!

A misty forest near Kleinkastell Hillscheid

We follow the ditch and bank, then criss-cross it a few times, all the time being dripped and rained on with enough frequency for it to be annoying. Finally, however, in time for us to arrive at Arzbach for lunch, the BBC weather forecast for Koblenz came good, the rain stopped, and the clouds parted.

Arzbach was our second fort (as opposed to fortlet) site (there’s nothing to see) on the line of the Limes after Niederbieber and it was situated next to the church. Its water supply was fed by a spring just up the hill (the Römerquelle), which we visit after lunch. That well-timed meal fortifies us for the climb up to the Stephansturm, a Wachturm (1/84) perched impossibly high on top of a hill with a truly stunning view across Arzbach and neighbouring Dornbach.

WT 1/84

It also possesses permanent and very insistent wind. Trudging up the steep path, we make it to the top and are rewarded with stunning views and a sense of accomplishment. There is, however, a bonus: in a yellow field far below, the ditch of the Limes is clearly visible as a dark green crop mark running across it.

The view from the Stephansturm

Back down we go, then on along the frontier, past another section of reconstructed palisade (group photo: say ‘Limes’!), over the Kurfürstlicher Wildtierbanngrenze (it kept wild animals out of agricultural land around Trier) and on. Suddenly, the Limes sweeps round in a ninety-degree turn and makes for Bad Ems. We follow it and see the first signs of some 20th-century archaeology: craters from a jettisoned stick of bombs. A small path leads us past more of these, until we find the remains of WT 1/88 (narrowly missed by one bomb).

WT 1/88

We continue, by now set on our goal of Bad Ems which will, inevitably, involve a loss of height at some point. When it happens, it is sudden and drastic, the frontier charging recklessly straight down a hillside which we are obliged to negotiate on paths which weave their careful way down.

The Limes near WT 1/93

Finally, passing one last section of reconstructed palisade, the lane (running in the ditch, with the bank to our left) leads to an impossibly steep road that takes us down into the heart of Bad Ems. Tomorrow, we will cross the Lahn, but for now, we are done.

Bad Ems