Wall Mile 34

Wall Mile 34 [HB 227–8]

To our north are the earthworks that are all that remains of Sewingshields Castle, still visible from the air, but our principal concern for the moment is that the ditch has now ceased, since we are now on the crags and it had become superfluous.

Before we get too carried away, we soon have another turret to inspect, lurking behind a stone field wall. This is Turret 34a.

Turret 34a (Grindon West) [HB 227]

Turret 34a

Turret 34a

Furnished with exceedingly small wing walls, this was another of those turrets which was only occupied in the 2nd century and, after abandonment, had its northern recess filled in. In the doorway, the curious will note the settings for the stone jambs of the door as well as the socket for the door pivot on the east side.

We resume our westerly tramp and approach the plantation that surrounds Sewing Shields farm. To the south of us, the Vallum suddenly opts for a more south-westerly course, in order to remain at the base of the dip slope leading up to the crags. Emerging on the far side of the woodland, we are treated to the spectacle of some splendid stretches of consolidated curtain wall.

Curtain wall with a post-Roman cist

Curtain wall with a post-Roman cist

The wall along here is very obviously narrow gauge on broad foundations (some of which were of whin) and we may take note of a narrow cleft which William Hutton thought was a tunnel dug by adventurous Picts in order to sneak under the curtain wall. About 50m east of Milecastle 35, there is a small stone box next to the south face of the curtain wall. This is the remains of a cist (the ‘c’ is hard) burial, presumed to date to the post-Roman period.

Milecastle 35 (Sewingshields) [HB 228–30; haiku]

Milecastle 35

Milecastle 35

Excavated in 1978–82, the first thing the visitor notes is that this long-axis milecastle has no north gate. This is one of those few instances where it would be truly superfluous. The interior of the fortification is occupied by several phases of Roman building on either side of the central roadway, culminating in its re-use as a medieval farmstead. The later Roman phases included evidence of metalworking on the site. For the curious, the milecastle (Sewingshields) and farm (Sewing Shields) names differ, presumably a quirk of the Ordnance Survey’s making.

The reason a north gate would be unnecessary at Milecastle 35

The reason a north gate would be unnecessary at Milecastle 35

The Milecastle Haiku (Week 5)

Milecastle 28

Walwick with nagging
Signs, chastising, not helping
The weary walker.

Milecastle 29

Tower Tye earthworks,
Crisp in low sunlight, a ditch
Still protects robbed walls.

Milecastle 30

Now, Limestone Corner
Peeps over a stone wall at
The unfinished ditch.

Milecastle 31

Carrawburgh car park
For Mithras. Coventina
Lies concealed beyond.

Milecastle 32

Carraw lies unseen
Beyond the road; bright sphagnum,
Cropped grass, a curlew.

Milecastle 33

Avoided by road,
Shield-on-the-Wall. Gate ajar,
Rust-brackened spoilheap.

Milecastle 34

Bare, encircled trees.
Grindon‘s nascent ditch guarded
By walled plantation.

Wall Mile 34

Wall Mile 34 [HB 227–8]

About 50m east of Milecastle 35, there is a small stone box next to the south face of the curtain wall. This is the remains of a cist burial, presumed to date to the post-Roman period. The curtain wall along here is very obviously narrow gauge on broad foundations (some of which were of whin) and, noting a narrow cleft which William Hutton was told was a tunnel dug by adventurous Picts in order to sneak under the curtain wall, we follow it until we reach the plantation around Sewing Shields farm. Emerging on the far side, it is now clear that we are nearing the end of the crags. We have another turret to inspect before we get too carried away, Turret 34a (the site of 34b was in the plantation).

The curtain wall and cist

The curtain wall and cist

Turret 34a (Grindon West) was furnished with exceedingly small wing walls and this was another of those turrets which was only occupied in the 2nd century and, after abandonment, had its northern recess filled in. In the doorway, the curious will note the settings for the stone jambs of the door as well as the socket for the door pivot on the east side.

Turret 34a

Turret 34a

To our north are the earthworks that are all that remains of Sewingshields Castle, still visible from the air, but our principal concern is the proximity of the next milecastle, marked by a walled plantation on top of it. As we reach it, we note that the ditch has rejoined us to the north, since the crags are now behind us and a man-made obstacle is once more needed.

Milecastle 34 (Grindon) [HB 227; haiku]

Site of Milecastle 34

Site of Milecastle 34

Although the position of Milecastle 34 (Grindon) is conveniently marked by the plantation, there is nothing to see of the milecastle itself, beyond an information panel, but it makes a fine observation point from which to observe the ditch in either direction.