Saturday 16 April was a bit of a greyer, colder day. I drove to Newtown, parked the car, headed east. They are a proud village, but I wonder what happened in 2015 … The sun shone as I left the “Tidy Village (Small)”.
There is a lovely bridge over the Cambeck. When the Wall was demolished in this area in 1791 it was found to be 8 feet wide and faced with large stones. The space between was filled with alternate layers of rubble and mortar. The main fort in the area is on the south side of the beck, called Castlesteads (Camboglanna). It was flattened in 1791 when the gardens of Castlesteads were laid out, and little can be seen. Camboglanna means “the bank at the bend” and erosion means the bend is closer to the fort than it was. The fort covered 3.75 acres and we know that both the Fourth Cohort of Gauls and the Second Cohort of Tungrians both served here. Altars to various gods have been found – including one raised by four Germans, Durio, Ramio, Trupo and Lurio – they sound like something out of a Frankie Howard film.
It is easy enough to follow the route of the Wall, past a derelict tractor (why is it acceptable to leave derelict vehicles in the countryside? – imagine the fuss if it was dumped on a council estate), some lovely daffodils, and into Walton.I left the path to have a look at St Mary’s church Walton (I’ll blog it separately) and it was time for coffee and a scone in the Reading Room Café. It has its own facebook page. Very nice – and it has wi-fi. The wallpaper is rather fun.
Outside the café and Hall is a human sundial. I would have tried it but the sun had gone in.
I went back onto the road – I almost went on the wrong road but two locals put me right – and followed the Trail along the road. It was a very quiet road and I debated stopping at the Serenity Beauty Spa – website. They offer all sorts of treatment including “a range of sole treatments to revive those often neglected feet!” I’m sure they should offer a walkers’ package. I also thought that there should be a link to the Vindolanda writing tablets: “Claudia Severa to her Lepidina greetings. On the third day before the Ides of September, sister, for the day of the celebration of my birthday, I give you a warm invitation to the Serenity Beauty Spa, to make the day more enjoyable for me by your arrival.” You can imagine Roman ladies having their nails done.
At Dovecote Bridge there is an English Heritage sign telling you that this is the Wall. Until 20 years ago this was the only piece of Wall built of Cumbrian red sandstone which was visible. Sadly it was eroding, so they covered it up.
You turn off the road and the footpath follows the line of the Wall. There are some interesting trees, and even more interesting fences. There were some breaks in the cloud when I got warm, then the sun went in and it all cooled down again. It was damp underfoot, but it didn’t rain.
We came down to Hare Hill (or did we just come down Hare Hill?) and we are greeted by our first proper piece of Wall. English Heritage sign, stones on stones, just what we need. No “it is under this earth” or “it used to run here”, now we can actually see it! Well, we can see the Wall as it was rebuilt in the C19. Apparently (according to Breeze) “a centurial stone, recording the century of the primus pilus or senior centurion of the first cohort, found at Moneyholes, two fields further west, is placed in the north face.” Blowed if I could see it … . Excavations in 2004 revealed the foundations of the Stone Wall (9ft 6 in wide) sitting on the remains of the Turf Wall.
Over the stream, down to the junction (wave at myself in the mirror) and into Banks. A hot cross bun and a drink on a bench on a daffodil green.
Then it is a straight walk along the road to Birdoswald, but with various nice diversions to walk parallel to the road. A nice mixture. There was snow on the tops of the Pennines, and my zoom means I can get a decent photo of Low Row signal box. This modern box replaced the old one in 2009.
The next Wall stop is Banks East Turret. Apparently the masonry on the east and west walls is not as well finished as on the north and south, presumably because originally both side walls were hidden by the construction of the Turf Wall.
A little further on I walked past the signal tower on Pike Hall – it has a good view in both directions.
Lea Hill Turret is next. The archaeologists are able to tell us that “the second floor was flagged, but strewn with straw as was shown by the marks on the corroded metal objects lost in it” (Breeze). There was a raised stone platform by the north wall where a ladder was placed for access to the wall walk. It was occupied in the C2, but nothing has been found from the C3 or C4.
Then Piper Sike Turret, of “rather poor construction” says Collingwood Bruce. I have this vision of an angry Roman centurion reading my blog and saying “it wasn’t that bad”.
The path follows the line of the Vallum, and it was a good walk. Then as I went over the final stile, with the fort in sight, I slipped – muddy!
One final turret and I got to Birdoswald Fort. I will write up the Fort as a separate blog. I had never walked into the Fort from this end, so saw new bits of wall.
For now I simply made my way to the café – a bowl of soup for lunch, much needed. Paul and his daughter Elizabeth came to meet me. As they would have to pay to park at Birdoswald we drove down to Lanercost and had tea and cake, then they took me on to Newtown to pick up the car – thanks! I had walked 9.4 miles, and felt good (and muddy).