29 Jul 2009 - Hadrians Wall (Steel Rigg to Chesters 12.2 miles), England
Back to Steel Rigg to begin another day of trekking through the challenging but scenic central sector. This was a day of contrasts as the windswept crags with their pattern of climbs and descents gradually gave way to the lower lying farmland and occasional tree plantations. As you come down from the highlands the path starts to converge with the road (General Wade's Military Way) and the path follows this almost all the way to Chesters. Coming to the end of the highland section also marks a psychological as well as physical change in scenery and terrain. From this point on it's almost a case of continuing no matter what and ignoring the sore feet; the hard part is now over.
Hadrian's Wall - Steel Rigg and Turret39a
In Peel Gap, archaeologists found the foundations of this turret together with a hearth and a platform for a ladder. The finds showed that it had been used in a similar way to the nearby turrets. The gap between these turrets 39a and 39b is over 200m longer than the usual spacing along Hadrian's Wall and the tower seems to have been built to fill this gap. It was built after the Wall and has very limited views.
Hadrian's Wall - Milecaste 39 from Peel Gap
'Castle Nick' is so called as it is built into a natural nick in the hillside. The lake, Crag Lough can be seen in the background against the Highshields Crag escarpment.
Hadrian's Wall - Milecaste 39 toward Peel Gap
From the east side of Milecastle 39, the path goes to the south of the milecastle with it's clearly defined room foundations, up over Peel Crag.
Hadrian's Wall - Turret 38a
Highshields Crag takes the walker through some woods which stand atop the crag overlooking a sheer drop to the water of Crag Lough. From here the path follows another descent and before anothe climb up to the remains of Milecastle 38.
Hadrian's Wall - Milecastle 38
Milecastle 38 is in the vicinity of Hotbank Farm, overlooking Crag Lough. It is notable for the joint inscription bearing names of Hadrian and Nepos. The walls have been robbed out but the site is still recognisable. From this photo, the path runs to the right and then west towards Highshield Crags.
Hadrian's Wall - Hotbank Crags on the way to Milecastle 37
The turf topped wall is known as the Clayton Wall. In the 1830s, John Clayton began buying sections of the wall to prevent local farmers helping themselves to the stone as building material. He rebuilt what we see today, esentially a dry stone wall in filled with rubble and capped with turf and is liable to collapse if walked upon.
Hadrian's Wall - North gateway of Milecastle 37
Milecastle 37 is one of the best preserved of the milecastles. Some of the north gate has been re-erected. The east half was occupied by a stone built barrack. The building was large enough to have housed 8 men.Compared with Milecastle 35, the puzzle is why there was a north gate since it stands above a very steep drop but Milecastle 35 did not have one.
Hadrian's Wall - South gateway of Milecastle 37
The post holes and sockets for the double doors can still be seen, with the doorstop in the centre.
Hadrian's Wall - Milecastle 37 from the south
Looking into the milecastle from the south. It has been estimated that the walls must have been above 5m high.
Hadrian's Wall - Housesteads Fort from the wall
Part of the walk between Housesteads and Milecastle 37 is the only place where walking on top of the wall is accepted. For non walkers, Housesteads Fort can also be accessed from the B6318 which runs parallel with, if some distance from, the wall. This is popular fort with well defined ramparts plus it is on the wall itself and commands great views.
Hadrian's Wall - Model of Housesteads Fort
Housesteads Fort has a small vistor centre and museum which I didn't enter on my last visit. This model brings the ruins to life. The previous photo showing the approach to Housesteads was taken from the point on the model where the wall from the west joins with the northwest tower of the fort. The wall can be seen continuing east from the northeast tower. Housesteads is covered in last years blog so I won't cover it here.
Hadrian's Wall - Knagg Burn Gateway
This is a rare example of a gateway through the Wall other than at a fort or milecastle. It was inserted in the 4th century AD to allow easier access to the north for the inhabitants around Housesteads. When the wall was first built, the only way to cross the frontier was through the gates of the milecastles and forts. Housesteads Fort can be seen at the top of the ridge with the wall leading from the north east corner to the Gateway.
Hadrian's Wall - Knagg Burn Gateway and Housesteads Fort
Hadrian's Wall obviously caused inconvenience to local traders, and particularly people who relied on feeding their livestock between lowland grounds in winter and the uplands in summer. The gate was a simple, but effective control post. The passageway was flanked by a pair of guard rooms. The passage had gates at both ends enabling traffic to be stopped before passing through. There may have been a toll imposed as well.
Hadrian's Wall - Sewing Shields Turret 35a
The turret at Sewing Sheilds stood on a steep escarpment on the north side of Hadrian's Wall. By the mid 2nd century AD the turret had gone out of use. In the early 3rd century AD, the turret was deliberately dismantled and this section of Hadrian's Wall was rebuilt filling the recess of the turret interior.
Hadrian's Wall - Sewing Shields Milecastle 35
The outline of this is clear, and the individual rooms are well delineated. One notable absence is any sign of a gate entrance to the north. There was a gate originally but was blocked up, presumably because it would have been of little use at this site on top of the crags.
Hadrian's Wall - Grindon Turret 34a
Grindon Turret also had a short life and was dismantled by the end of the 2nd century AD.
Hadrian's Wall - Turret 33b
We are well and trully off the highlands now. The journey from here is easy going and through farmland.
Hadrian's Wall - Brocolitia Fort and Temple I
The fort was added to the Wall after it was constucted and obliterated the vallum. It is now in private ownership and is used as a pasture. The area around it though contains the temple to the god Mithras and is managed by English Heritage. Mithras was an Eastern sun-god, supposedly born from heaven. According to legend, he had captured and killed a bull in a cave, the first creature to be created on earth, and from the blood that flowed all creatures gained new life. This doctrine of new life from sacrifice brought Mithraism into conflict with Christianity.
Hadrian's Wall - Brocolitia Fort and Temple II
These temples were small to represent the cave in which the bull was slayed. A large painting or sculpture of Mithras slaying the bull stood in front of the three altars. The statues, altars and wooden posts are all casts of finds made during excavations in 1949. Though they look drab, Roman buildings and sculptures were once brightly painted.
Hadrian's Wall - Limestone Corner
The ditch in front of the Wall comes to a halt at an area of tumbled stone blocks. As the ditch encountered solid rock, blocks of stone were cut out and lifted to the north. Some of these huge stones were left where they can be seen today.
Hadrian's Wall - Black Carts Turret 29a
Black Carts Turret was built for the 3m 'broad' wall as the foundations for this can be seen. However, like many other parts of the wall the plan was changed to be a 'narrow' 2m.
Hadrian's Wall - Grooves in Black Carts Turret 29a
At the entrance to this turret you can see grooves where huge stone slabs were positioned to form the sides of the doorway. The curved groove was made to allow the door to be pushed into position. The hole is where a pin, located at the bottom of the door enabled the door to swing open.