Wall Mile 50

Wall Mile 50 [HB 309–16]

It might justifiably be argued that this is one of the most interesting of the Wall Miles. Not by me, I hasten to add, but I can see why it could be thought to be.

The Turf Wall and ditch (foreground) with the Vallum (beyond)

The Turf Wall and ditch (foreground) with the Vallum (beyond)

The Trail takes us gently downhill, next to the Turf Wall (a low mound north of its ditch) and then across a couple fields, keeping the earthwork to our left. The Vallum is immediately behind the Turf Wall and that proximity may have been one reason for moving the Stone Wall slightly to the north (the Vallum is in places perched on the edge of the Irthing gorge so has nowhere else to go). We can clearly see the road, following the line of the Stone Wall, off to our right. At the end of this long straight stretch we exit the field, turn right up a track, and then left and over a small pedestrian bridge.

Turf Wall and ditch

Turf Wall and ditch

The Stone Wall

After leaving the site of Milecastle 50, apart from the ditch to the north of the road and the comforting knowledge that the curtain wall lies beneath the road, there is not much to see if we go this way, although it does provide continuing assurance of the way in which the Romans used the terrain to enhance the effect of the Wall. To get back onto the Trail proper, those following the Stone Wall route need to turn left onto the track to Lanerton Farm and then immediately right and over the pedestrian bridge.

Crossing the Turf Wall and its ditch

Crossing the Turf Wall and its ditch

After that bridge, the Trail passes through a line of trees and climbs the slight slope ahead of us, ultimately crossing the Turf Wall ditch just before we reach Milecastle 50, where the Turf and Stone Walls reunite.

Milecastle 51 (Wall Bowers) [HB 316; haiku]

Milecastle 51

Milecastle 51

Located at the north end of the field, next to a field gate, Milecastle 51 is rather interesting, since (like Milecastle 29) it is one of the few to display traces of a ditch (on its eastern side). It was excavated in 1927, 1934, and 1936 and the robber trenches for its east and west walls are still very clear.

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Wall Mile 28

Wall Mile 28 [HB 210–11]

We now come up against a major diversion which sends us first to the north and along a minor lane. As we pass through Walwick, we can admire the rather aggressive notices warning walkers against using the farm buildings as lavatories (and of course begging the question of why appropriate facilities have still not been provided if there is a demonstrable demand). The Trail then lurches westwards and starts to climb gently up the side of a farm (the reason for the detour), encountering as we go one of the boggiest bits of the whole Trail, a result of heavy poaching of the soil by livestock. The path then heads south-westwards, before turning onto a more westerly course along the northern rim of the ditch for a while. Finally, we get back to the line of the Wall near a recent quarry, which has ironically removed both wall and ditch. We cross the ditch and head first south then west up the field, with the Military Road to our left.

The ditch east of Tower Tye

The ditch east of Tower Tye

We are in fact now closer to the Military Road than the wall and ditch, but no matter. The very fact that we are walking between the 18th-century road and Hadrian’s Wall reminds us that not all of the wall was destroyed by the road being placed on top of it. In fact, the original survey conducted for the Military Road by Campbell and Debbeig proposed using the Vallum far more than was actually the case when the time came to construct the road (perhaps a result of their evident antiquarian interest in the curtain wall itself and its associated monuments; the construction companies had no such qualms).

Continuing to climb gradually, we arrive at a side road which we must cross with the usual care. The Wall was recently crossed by a major underground electricity cable here, but directional drilling meant it went right under the whole monument without causing any damage. Isn’t technology wonderful? Once we are beyond the wall, we have to circumnavigate a small plantation, cross the ditch by means of a stile and steps, and find ourselves presented with the glories of Milecastle 29.

Crossing the ditch near Milecastle 29

Crossing the ditch near Milecastle 29

Milecastle 29 (Tower Tye) [HB 211; haiku]

Milecastle 29

Milecastle 29

This is a milecastle which exists now solely as an earthwork, but is nevertheless an extremely interesting example. Excavated by John Clayton, the trenches dug by stone robbers, eager to get at its walls, are still sharply defined. However, there is an additional detail that the keen-of-eye may be able to make out and that is the fact that the milecastle is one of the few known to have had a ditch around it. It shows up now as a shallow depression around the west, south, and east sides.