Exploring Offa’s Dyke with Dr Natalie Fryde

Recently, it was my pleasure to meet for the first time, and introduce to Offa’s Dyke, medieval historian Dr Natalie Fryde.

Natalie now lives in Ireland following a long career as a University professor in Germany. She is best known as a researcher for her work on the 13th and 14th centuries, including a tome on Edward II. Yet, the particular circumstances of our recent communications via email has been to facilitate the reproduction of a revised version of a chapter Natalie had co-edited as one of the ‘classics revisited’ articles due to appear in the Offa’s Dyke Journal. This is because, in 2009, Natalie co-edited with Dirk Reitz a collection called Walls, Ramparts and Lines of Demarcation: Selected Studies from Antiquity to Modern Times which featured a chapter on Offa’s Dyke by eminent early medieval historian Ann Williams. Through dialogue with Natalie and Ann, we have now received a fresh version of Ann’s 2009 study for the ODJ.

By way of thanks I promised to show Natalie some sections of Offa’s Dyke and, together with University of Chester doctoral researchers Brian Costello (investigating early medieval grave-goods) and Liam Delaney (exploring Offa’s Dyke), we met at the Offa’s Dyke Centre before walking along two key sections of Offa’s Dyke south of Knighton: Hawthorn Hill and north of Yewtree Farm, Discoed.

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I’ll write about my impressions regarding these sections of the Dyke in a later post. Here, I would say that we discussed with Natalie the construction, design and landscape placement of the Dyke in some detail, as well as its broader historical context. Using the two stretches, we considered how the Dyke navigates hillsides, but also the approaches to river valleys. Furthermore, we also addressed its shifting preservation along these stretches. Furthermore, we talked about its heritage interpretation, its signposts and gates and stiles.

Here are some pics of us exploring with Natalie.

While the scale and character of the Dyke was impressive, so was this awesome oak tree we encountered.

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We also came across this wonderful old wooden gate post, preserved within a far newer fence, on Hawthorn Hill.

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Mention must also be made of some fabulous Offa’s Dyke ewes and lambs.

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Offa’s Dyke Centre

I’ve posted previously about why the Offa’s Dyke Centre is so awesome. 

We enjoyed the new Offa throne. Here’s Brian imagining himself a Mercian despot.

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We also got to meet Offa himself. Brian introduced him to mobile technology and he didn’t look at all impressed. He also didn’t really enjoy reading Wikipedia entries about the 9th century, narked off he most certainly was regarding the fate of Mercia. He also made clear he thought Brexit was the stuff of nightmares and created by weaklings and imbeciles.

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It was great to see the small part of ‘Welsh resistance’ to the dyke-focused narrative in the form of the Pillar of Eliseg.

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Finally, it was exciting to see the July weekend activities organised by Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust are being advertised!

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So here’s to meeting a super-bright and lovely lady and thanks to her for helping Liam and I with the first volume of the brand-new Offa’s Dyke Journal.

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