Wat’s Dyke at Gobowen – the Heritage Board

Where are the heritage boards for the massive early medieval linear earthwork known as Wat’s Dyke, running from Maesbury, Shropshire, north to the Dee estuary at Basingwerk, Flintshire?

The out-of-date and now nearly illegible and overgrown heritage board at Ruabon doesn’t really count. I visited in 2015 and it had ‘returned to nature’.

The Ruabon heritage board as it appeared in November 2015 – I really must go back…

The English Heritage display boards at Old Oswestry hillfort are next to useless too, focusing only on the Iron Age stages of the monument.

Meanwhile, at Erddig Park and Hall, the dyke is briefly mentioned and not given the correct dating.

Similarly, despite rich and varied heritage boards in the Greenfield Valley, only a small section of the Dyke is cited on a single heritage map, and it isn’t explained.

At Hope, there is a plaque afixed to a big stone marking the Dyke, but it is hidden within laurel bushes. It is also out-of-date in giving the monument an 8th-century date.

As previously mentioned, only at one point, in Wrexham cemetery, can one see due recognition that Wat’s Dyke exists on the ground, where paths cross it.

In short, this is a rather dismal state of affairs that needs remedying.

So is there at least one location that can salvage this collective heritage failing? Is there anywhere where an interested local or visitor might actually be presented with basic heritage information in the landscape about this important yet enigmatic early medieval monument? After all, this is a monument that thanks to the work of Hayes and Malim, is now thought to date to the early 9th century and regarded as a successor or reiterator of Offa’s Dyke? Wat’s Dyke, perhaps more than Offa’s Dyke, is key to understanding the origins of the Anglo-Welsh borderland.

Only one location seems to try. This is the location of Hayes and Malim’s excavation of Wat’s Dyke at Gobowen. The heritage board at a roundabout and on the line of the Dyke is visually striking and combines an artist’s impression of the dyke in use with archaeological excavation shots and schematics, as well as maps. Together with the text, this is a rare example of a heritage board that allows you to actually learn about a monument: both how it may have looked and the archaeological data upon which this inference is based.

To my shame, only recently did I make the modest detour from the A483 into Gobowen to stop and appreciate it. Here are some images.

The detail is superb.

The real downside of this board is not its images, maps and text. The problem is instead with the monument itself: the very fact that at this precise location, the dyke is nearly invisible! Without some further surface marker, like that deployed in Wrexham cemetery (see above0, this monument will continue to be blissfully dislocated from local knowledge and experience.

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