Walk along the Hadrian's Wall
Birdoswald to Poltross Burn (King's Stables), 28th May 2007
On 28th when visiting a reenactment event at Birdoswald Fort, I found I had some time in the interval between displays and thought it a good idea to go walking along Hadrianís Wall. Below is what I found on my walk.
But before I begin I feel I must explain that, due to the number of milecastles and turrets along the wall, they have in fact been numbered. Most have no local names and hence their number is the only way of identifying them.
Counting begins in the east and runs along the wall, each milecastle is a number and the two turrets between the castles bear the number of the milecastle followed by a or b, respectively.
As you walk east along the wall from Birdoswald Fort (Roman: Banna) the first thing you encounter are the remains of milecastle 49. Itís fairly hard to photograph as all that remains is its basic rectangular shape and there is no raised ground from which to get a good overview of the fortlet.
Immediately east of it is a sheer drop to the river and to its south is a very steep slope. It hardly will have been a very pactical crossing point into the empire for traders bearing goods.
At Willowford Bridge the Roman wall crossed the River Irthing. The path of the river has changed somewhat since. The fortified bridge continued the pathway of the wall across the river and had a tower at each end.
Left: A picture taken from high above at milecastle 49 shows how the wall comes to a sudden halt. This is where the river bed would have been. Notice also the outlines of a turret seta few yards back from the ancient riverbank.
Right: A close up of the somewhat confusing remains of the ancient bridgehead.
The wall climbs the hill up from the river Irthing on top of which, next to a modern day farmhouse you find turret 48b. The wall was initially planned to be ten foot wide. So it was built 10 ft wide at the towers and at the foundations which, it appears, were built first. This initial construction completed, the Romans changed their minds and continued to build the wall at a width of 8ft.
Right: you can see the 2 ft of surplus foundation extending at the foot of the wall at ground level. Also notice the Ďdoglegí where the 10ft wide wall extending from the tower meets the 8ft wall.
To the north of the wall the Romans dug a considerable ditch. At its widest (i.e. at the top of the v-shaped trench) it is said to have been 30 ft wide. In many places remains of this ditch are still clearly visible. And here, between towers 48a and 48b it remains in excellent shape thanks largely to a road being maintained at the bottom of it.
Walking on eastwards one soon makes it to turret 48a. Next the path deviates a little from the wall and itís onward across a road, through a field of sheep and across the railway line.
At Gilsland one finds perhaps one of the best preserved milecastles along the way. Itís called ĎPoltross Burní or ĎThe Kingís Stablesí, depending on whom you ask. Milecastle 48 is built on a steep slope. Itís playing card shape with the fortletís rounded corners is clearly discernable. So too are the foundations of the accommodation buildings in its inner yard.
Once Iíd reached Milecastle 48 it was getting time to turn back to Birdoswald to catch the next military display. So this concludes this little excursion along Hadrianís Wall - for now.