Re-posted from Archaeodeath – the blog of Professor Howard Williams
Previously I’ve discussed signs and memorials along Offa’s Dyke in the Wye Valley, in Knighton, and around Selattyn and Craignant. I’ve shown how signs serve their practical waymarking functions as well as branding and commemorating simultaneously the ancient earthwork and the Offa’s Dyke Path. I’ve also identified a few memorials in their own right, some dating back to the 19th century, some modern.
In this post, let me record and discuss here the range of signs and memorials on a stretch north of Knighton, from the Offa’s Dyke Centre in Knighton up onto Panpunton Hill and then north-north-west to Cwm-sanahan Hill. On this section, Offa’s Dyke rises to high ground and follows the north-eastern edge of the Teme Valley. Its adjusted-segmented form is clear as it adapts to the topography to maintain observation and control of the land to the west.
First, l would like to offer another treat of signs, with their different logos – for the national trail and other initiatives with their distinctive catchy titles, including the ‘Walking with Offa’ sign and ‘Breathtaking Borderlands’ signs.
I like also the varied positions upon posts of the plastic disc signs in contrast to the logo cut into posts and full-scale wooden arrowed signposts. This contrast of materials reveals an ‘evolution’ of signs, and contrasts with the metal ones deployed in the Wye Valley too.
I also find interesting the details of breakage, wear and patina: constant maintenance and support is required for the signs. I particularly adore the impact of sheep wearing the base of wood and lichen covering the wooden posts.
Rather than incidental and functional, these signs reveal the biography of the path and the hard work to maintain it, as well as its shifting identities and character.
Triangulation Station as Memorial at Cwm-sanahan Hill
Now no longer used, Ordnance Survey triangulation points are memorials to the survey and prominent landmarks in their own right. The one on Cwm-sanahan Hill enjoys marvellous views and sits just west of Offa’s Dyke. It is likely there was a lookout point here when the dyke was constructed and used (for however long we don’t know).
The trig point might indirectly tell us something about the 8th-century monument. Perhaps it is revealing about the topography of Offa’s Dyke and the special significance and behaviour of the monument at this location, that this is the only trig point I’ve yet seen so close to the monument.
The Cairn and Bench on Panpunton Hill
At the high-point rising out of Knighton, with views back over the town as well as striking vistas westwards and north-west, there are a pairing of memorials: a cairn and a bench. Both are memorials.
The most recent is a memorial bench: nothing exceptional here you migth think, apart from the strikingly isolated location and beautiful scenery. Let’s be honest: most benches aren’t where you need them, they are placed where people want to sit and imagine the dead sitting. This, however, is an exceptionally beautiful location and a bench where you might want to rest after the long climb out of Knighton or having walked from the north. It is the only memorial bench I’ve seen on Offa’s Dyke so far.
The view is key and the memorial, set up in 2010, makes this explicit: ‘he loved this view’.
The cairn is an older memorial, and linked closely to the Offa’s Dyke path. It commemorates the first chairman of the society from 1970 to 1980: Roy Waters. The choice of a cairn implies it is augmented by walkers (or at least it implies that style of informal memorial). If walkers do add stones, the size of the base is a natural restrictor for it, allowing stones to topple off. Its relationship with a slab of stone upslope of it is interesting: is this supposed to be a makeshift place to sit linked to the cairn, now supplanted by the bench?
The memorials complement each other in form, but also in focus. While both relate to dyke, path and vista, through the same location the cairn emphasises a connection of the dyke and path, meanwhile the bench focuses on the view.