Day 5 - Burnhead to Walton

Tuesday 17th June - 15 miles, 8 1/2 hours

It was raining when we woke but by the time we set off just after 9.30 it had stopped and although cloudy was a pleasant atmosphere for walking. We headed up the hill towards Great Chesters (Aesica Roman fort). Very little remains of the fort here, just a few mounds and ditches with a few piles of jumbled blocks.

The wall is not much in evidence along this section, much the stone has probably been reused for local buildings. We passed through a small wood near Cockmount Hill and emerged onto a moorland landscape, with rocks and tufty grasses.

As we followed the clear line of the wall ditch uphill away from the trees we could see back along the line of the crags rising and falling into the distance. It was hard to believe we had now covered over half of the walk.

There were a few more climbs and drops as we proceeded along Walltown Crags. We met a few Pennine Way walkers here on their way northwards. The two trails coincide along the eight mile section between Hotbank Crags and Greenhead. Some were heavily loaded and were finding it tough going up the steeper parts.

The ridge of whinsill which has formed the dramatic crags suddenly comes to an abrupt end at Walltown Quarry.

The quarry now disused has been converted into a recreational area with trails and picnic tables. Swallows were swooping over the ponds and the surounding grassland was full of wild flowers including several orchids. On reaching the road it is possible to take a very short detour to visit the Roman Army museum at Carvoran Roman fort. We visited here when we walked the Pennine Way and it was well worth the visit.

There was a change in the scenery as the path headed down to lower ground. We followed the obvious deep wall ditch down through fields towards Thirlwall Castle.

The 14th century Thirlwall Castle is quite ruined and hidden by trees. It is different to see a ruin that is not of Roman origin.

We continued away from Greenhead through meadows towards Gilsland. We had a final view of the crags before dropping into the Irthing valley.

At Milecastle 48 the wall briefly reappears. After the village of Gilsland there was a particularly well preserved stretch extending down to the River Irthing.

A long well preserved section of wall heads to the river and ends at a significant amount of stonework. These are the abutments of several generations of Roman bridge. As the river course altered the design of the bridge changed too. Now the river is some distance away.

We crossed using the modern bridge and climbed steeply up to reach the wall, then followed it along to Birdoswald Roman fort.

Archaeology has shown that the site has been in continuous use well beyond the Roman occupation. A hall was built over the collapsed granaries in the 5th Century and later a medieval tower on the site.

There is less to see here than at the other forts as most of the walls are covered by turf. We stopped for our picnic lunch on the benches overlooking the Irving valley.

From Birdoswald the road once again follows the line of the stone wall. The path runs slightly to the south alongside the earthworks of the original turf wall.

After a short section along the road, the path returned to the field edge to reach Pike Hill signal station. From here there were good views over to the Cumbria fells.

We passed through the village of Banks and left the road behind just as it started to rain lightly. We descended through fields of sheep where the wall was only a vague raised line in the ground.

Shortly before reaching Walton we passed a section of wall at Dovecote bridge which was excavated in the 1960s. The wall in this area was made from local sandstone and was very prone to erosion, so was reburied after 20 years to prevent further deterioration.

At Walton we reached our accomodation for the night, the appropriately named Centurion Inn. We had a good meal here in the evening and met up with a few other Wall walkers.


Hadriana's Treasures said...

Thirlwall Castle is actually made up from a lot of the Roman Wall...a lot of the house, farms and Reiver castles, even roads, along the Wall route re-used the Roman stone. I suppose we ought to look on it as recycling!'s a long link...describes more on Thirlwall Castle and its history...

Hadriana's Treasures said...

MarkG said...

Thanks for that link - there was a presentation in one of the museums we visited that detailed the reuse of the wall stones. It said that the Romans had done too good a job making such perfect blocks.

Annie G said...

I would recommend that all walkers avoid the Centurion Inn. The welcome was rude and very inhospitable . This is not what you need after a 17 mile hike. The beds had not been changed and the towels were the size of postage stamps. Most of the locals have been banned from the pub because of the owner and his sidekick bar man appalling manner.

MarkG said...

Hi Annie,
It sounds like the Centurion must have changed hands since we walked the path. We received a good welcome when we arrived. I can't remember what alternatives there were for Walton.