Tag Archives: Wat’s Dyke

Wat’s Dyke north of Old Oswestry Hillfort

En route to a meeting at CPAT headquarters in Welshpool on Monday of last week, I stopped off at Old Oswestry hillfort and walked north for 2km following the line of Wat’s Dyke. Here are some photographs and comments on the dyke’s survival and character along this stretch from Old Oswestry hillfort north to where it is blocked by a stream east of Yewtree Cottage and the Wat’s Dyke Way diverts east to the A483.

The alignment of Wat’s Dyke from Gobowen to Old Oswestry hillfort is near-straight, but there are subtle adaptations of its line in relation to the topography. In doing so, the monument is crossing country where it enjoys restricted views westward but aiming for the massive and strategic feature of the ruins of a multivallate prehistoric hillfort.

I’ll head from south to north in this discussion.

The section from Oswestry hillfort to Pentre-clawdd farm is described by Fox as ‘much reduced by agricultural operations’ and indeed, the ditch is nearly completely gone. The bank is a broad spread, concealed from the walker by the hedge running on its western side. The dyke heads out N from the hillfort’s northernmost edge, and kinks NNE after a short distance. Fox argued this can be explained by a surveying error from a viewer on the top of the hillfort. However, it is also possible that it aimed to provide a clear control of vistas and approaches to the Dyke from the prospect and vantage of the hillfort ramparts, refortified as part of the line of Wat’s Dyke.

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Looking NE one can see the Dyke running N out of the hillfort’s ramparts.
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Looking NE, one can see the shift in alignment of the Dyke as it gets to the shallow depression c. 300m from the hillfort rampart.
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Look N along the Dyke as it runs out of Old Oswestry hillfort
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Looking S, you can see the shift in alignment as the monument approaches Old Oswestry hillfort

Having shifted alignment, the Dyke then runs NNE up to, but just west of, a crest, in a similar fashion to the way it protects a hilltop at Pentre-clawdd Hill, NE of Ruabon. The ditch is a subtle presence as one nears the crest.

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Looking S along the Dyke towards Old Oswestry
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Looking N along the Dyke as it rises towards the crest
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Halfway up the crest looking S towards Old Oswestry, one can appreciate the breadth of the low denuded bank of a once mighty earthwork
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Looking S from near the crest, one can appreciate the subtle trace of the Dyke’s ditch

The knoll of the crest is demonstrably discrete from the line of the Dyke, making it a deliberate choice on the part of the Dyke to protect, rather than run across, the highest point of the hill. Maybe these were where watchtowers and beacons were situated, just behind the Dyke itself?

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The Dyke looking S at the crest

Heading N down from the crest towards Pentre-clawdd Farm, the ditch becomes more visible and adapted as a pond, whilst the bank is a very low but wide feature.

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Looking SE across the (muddy) ditch towards the bank, south of Pentre-clawdd Farm
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Looking SSE along the line of the bank which can be seen running straight away from the photographer towards the hilltop. The ditch is in the trees to the right.

North of Pentre-clawdd Farm, the road follows the ditch for a way.

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Looking N the ditch is in the holloway, the bank followed by the hedgerow on the right

Then there are two more fields where the Dyke is embedded in the field boundary, running towards the stream east of Yewtree Cottage. At this point, one is only a few fields away from the site of the Hayes and Malim excavations that have produced the only dates for Wat’s Dyke, putting it in the early 9th century and contemporaneous with the Pillar of Eliseg.

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Looking NNE along the line of the Dyke
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The Dyke looking NE from the stile from the lane north of Pentre-clawdd Farm
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The denuded Dyke looking S from the stream east of Yewtree Cottage
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The end of my walk: the stream beside the A483 east of Yewtree Cottage – one of the smaller streams crossing the line of the Dyke

Pertinent to my talk at the Offa’s Dyke Association today, this small stream is one of relatively few that crosses the path of Wat’s Dyke (relative to Offa’s Dyke which blocks many more in its more upland route). Would such a stream be traversed by the Dyke via a causeway or a bridge? Or would chains and stakes have blocked movement along the stream? Would there be a riparian gate here too?

While the Dyke itself doesn’t survive particularly well, its breadth as a monument can be appreciated along this stretch. One can also appreciate how the Dyke subtly navigates streams and hilltops, and the topographies in between. Most striking though are the views of Old Oswestry hillfort, giving a sense of how this monument was adopted into the line of the early 9th-century Mercian frontier work.

 

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Dyke-Denial in the Cemetery: Wrexham’s Heritage and Wat’s Dyke

Wat’s Dyke is one of Britain’s most important early medieval monuments. It is also Britain’s second longest!

IMG_6193In a previous post, I bemoaned the lack of any walking guide or heritage boards to mark and explain Wat’s Dyke bar from a few select locations. Notably, for Wrexham borough, where the monument passes through the countryside but also through suburbs and western side of Wrexham town, only in the cemetery is the monument marked in any fashion. I called this section ‘The Cemetery Dyke’ (PRN: 22995)

Here’s what I said about it:

The ditch has gone but the bank survives as a low earthwork running south from Bersham Road to the top of the hill before the cutting created by the Ruabon Road breaks it off.

The dyke lacks a separate PRN within the cemetery grounds, where it is discernible, if covered with 19th-century graves. Indeed, this is the only place where its edges are marked by heritage lines in the two driveways in the cemetery that bisect its line. Notably, the Welsh is on the ‘Mercian’ (east) side’, the English on the ‘Welsh’ (west) side of the monument! 

I was struck by the large number of early medieval-inspired graves of late 19th century date overlaying the early medieval monument! The funerary landscape incorporating such an important ancient monument is a rare thing.

IMG_6191While I remain positive that the denuded and grave-covered section of the Dyke marking the original western side of the 19th-century cemetery is marked out in the landscape for visitors to appreciate – unlike elsewhere in Wrexham where there is nothing – I have to add some additional points and suggest that, in heritage terms, even the cemetery is in ‘Dyke-denial’.

IMG_6265IMG_6266First, the cemetery display board does mark the line of the Dyke at the entrance, and I failed to point this out. Well done to the new redevelopment for including Wat’s Dyke on the map. Shame, however, there is no text to explain what Wat’s Dyke actually is!

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Second, none of the web resources about the cemetery make mention of the fact that a monument likely to be c. 1,200 years old runs through the cemetery. The cemetery’s story begins in 1876 and not before on the Wrexham County Borough Council website, and likewise near identical information appears on the Wrexham History website. The wonderful website Wrexham Cemetery Stories links the cemetery to stories about the history and landscape of the area, but again, there is no mention of Wat’s Dyke.

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Can you spot the line of Wat’s Dyke running through the cemetery, dividing the 19th-century graves from the later cemetery extension?

Third, the WCBC  has just received a massive £1.2 million grant from the Heritage Lottery fund to improve the space and appoint a part-time development officer. Yet, beyond the pre-existing markers for the Dyke and the new map at the entrance that does note its presence, it looks as if again the Dyke has been overlooked. I evidence this based on the 2018 BBC website story shows a photograph of Wat’s Dyke covered in graves but doesn’t mention it! Meanwhile, in a lovely article in The Leader by Jamie Bowman, posted only a few days ago, a detailed discussion of the history of the cemetery was published, charting its reference back to the 16th century, but without a single mention of Wat’s Dyke.

So let’s be clear: Wrexham cemetery is a great place to visit and I’m delighted they’ve received the HLF grant to improve the cemetery. The landscape here, despite being transformed into a cemetery, already has a head-start from the National Trust estate to the south, and the town to the north, in actually having Wat’s Dyke marked out on its paths and mentioned on its new map. However, despite this, Wat’s Dyke remains written out of Wrexham’s past, and this is a great shame for locals and visitors alike. Currently, anyone looking for the history of the cemetery online or on the ground is being sold short: in dyke-denial.

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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The CBA Wales Conference: “New Perspectives on the Dyke”, 30th March 2019, Offa’s Dyke Centre, Knighton

Last weekend, I was pleased and proud to represent the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory at the CBA Wales conference held at the Offa’s Dyke Centre, Knighton, Powys on the theme of ‘New Perspectives on the Dyke’.

The event served to celebrate three anniversaries, coinciding as it did with the 50th anniversary of the Offa’s Dyke Association, 75 years of the CBA and 45 years of the Welsh Archaeological Trusts. The range of fascinating talks revolved around the CBA Wales AGM and Business Meeting and showcased the flourishing interest in researching Offa’s Dyke, Wat’s Dyke and related monuments and landscapes. I would like to thank Dr Cy Griffiths and those involved at the Centre in organising a fabulous day. I regret not being able to join delegates for an expert-led guided walk on the Sunday. The programme can be viewed here.

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The day opened with a welcome from Mike Greene (CBA Wales chair) and Dr Mike Heyworth (CBA Director), followed by an expert and in-depth review of the history of the Offa’s Dyke Association’s 50 years from its inception driven by local schoolmaster Frank Noble. Ian brought the story up to the present, including a review of the ODA’s conservation work and long-term support for the only information centre attached to a national trail. Ian then evaluated the ODA’s vision for the next 50 years by Dr Ian Dormer. Among other points, Ian highlighted the ODA’s support and contribution to the Offa’s Dyke Conservation Management Plan which has reported on the state of the Dyke, including the widespread threat of ‘benign neglect’, Ian also highlighted the ODA’s ongoing support and engagement with the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory which is fostering new research on the Dyke and its context.

digNext up, Ian Grant (CPAT) began by reviewing the C14 dates from the damaged section of Offa’s Dyke examined in 2014 at Plas Offa, Chirk, before reporting on the fabulous CPAT work in the summer of 2018, excavating Offa’s Dyke at Chirk and Wat’s Dyke at Erddig. Both these new interventions, each situated in places where the bank and ditch of the respective monuments were no longer visible, discovered not only the ditch but also slivers of the banks of each monument. The Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory visited the Chirk dig after the Oswestry conference in September ’18. Samples were taken for C14 and OSL dating at each location, offering a palpable opportunity, if funding can be secured, to enrich our knowledge of each monument’s dating and significance. Also notable is the fact that each dig uncovered earlier pits beneath the dykes, both containing cultural material.dig

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After lunch was a discussion led by former Denbighshire county archaeologist Fiona Gale and Dr Cy Griffiths, evaluating the relationships between the Dyke and the Path. Important issues were raised regarding how the Dyke is understood by walkers, and how the  Dyke is viewed from the Path. A host of further issues relating to heritage conservation, management and interpretation were explored.davdav

Next came a fascinating presentation by the Radnorshire Society’s Julian Ravest who has been producing high quality photographs and photogrammetric surveys using a drone, focusing on sections of Offa’s Dyke north and south of Knighton – Hawthorn Hill and Llanfair Hill.

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The day ended with a triple set of papers by myself and University of Chester doctoral researcher Liam Delaney (also the Herefordshire HER officer). Liam began by delivering a presentation outlining the rationale, methods and even some preliminary results from his doctoral research, including newly discovered, and further enhanced, understandings of Offa’s Dyke in Herefordshire, Radnorshire and Shropshire.

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I followed with a presentation of the comparative landscape dynamics of Offa’s Dyke and Wat’s Dyke in the northern section of the Anglo-Welsh borderlands. I reaffirmed and extended previous discussions of the dykes’ similarities and differences in terms of placement and landscape context, focusing on their cumulative viewsheds, riverine relationships, and reuses of ancient monuments.

Finally, Liam and I presented an update on the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory’s academic publication that we are co-editing together: the Offa’s Dyke Journal. We were able to give the conference delegates a sneak-preview of the contents of the first volume: multiple ‘classics revisited’ papers, and also new original articles. More info on that one in future posts!sdr

Finally finally, I got to cheer up my old mate King Offa; he looked a bit down in the ditch.

Final finally finally, I got a new Offa’s Dyke t-shirt!

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Wat’s Dyke at Pandy off Plas Acton Road

Adapted from Howard’s Archaeodeath blog.

Around Wrexham, Wat’s Dyke remains an important monument but heavily damaged by agricultural, industrial and construction activities. Running c. 38 miles from Basingwerk to Maesbury, it is a monument often overshadowed by its larger neighbour: Offa’s Dyke. Excavations at Gobowen suggest that it is later than Offa’s Dyke: a Mercian construction of the early 9th century AD.

At Pandy, as part of a recent field trip exploring the industrial and post-industrial uses of the landscape, I encountered a section that runs from near the railway line across the fields towards what is now the A483, before it enters into what is now the suburbs of Wrexham. See my previous discussions of it at this location here, and nearby at Erddig here and here.

Fox, writing in Archaeologia Cambrensis in 1934, has this to say about the section.

Wat’s Dyke begins again 50 yards to the S. of the “Y” road junction, near Pandy Farm. (From this point northwards to the road, there is a mere hedge bank). The construction of the railway obscured the topography, but it is clear that the terminal point is exactly what was the head of a lateral (and doubtless boggy and thickly wooded) ravine opening northwards down Wilderness Wood to the main river (see Fig. 26, 5, a). From the very beginning, the Dyke was straightly aligned (Type I) to the 300ft contour, 620 years away, and was throughout on a large scale with a broad W. ditch present-day irregularities are due to destruction and levelling.

While the bank is denuded, it is clearly larger than any later field boundary, and straight-aligned with extensive views westwards. Moreover, nothing more than a wide depression running west of the bank, it is evident that a large ditch once existed on the dyke at this location.

In this position, Wat’s Dyke is not following the top of a ridge or ravine. Instead, it is running as straight as possible over relatively flat ground in order to navigate between the Alyn and the Clywedog rivers. To the south, it crosses the Clywedog before following the eastern ridge of the Black Brook past Erddig Hall. To the north, it crosses the Alyn and incorporates the earthworks of Caer Alyn hillfort.

We also encountered an inquisitive horse!

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Wat’s Dyke in Strand Coed, Greenfield Valley

Re-posted from Howard’s Archaeodeath blog.

Last year, Dr Keith Ray and I explored the line of Wat’s Dyke around Holywell and Basingwerk, Flintshire. Recently, I went back to explore Wat’s Dyke at its significant northernmost section in more detail. I came to some further (and I think rather significant) observations regarding how the Dyke is behaving as it navigates the Greenfield Valley.

What Keith and I failed to do was explore in detail the surviving line of the dyke in the Greenfield Valley as it ascends from Basingwerk south up a south-east side of the valley towards the upland around Holywell called The Strand. Here, in Strand Coed (Strand Wood), the Dyke isn’t identified with surety.

Part of the problem with our previous visit was the fact that Fox’s description is so difficult to unravel without a detailed knowledge on the ground. In his 1934 report, he states:

Wat’s Dyke was until recently visible as a partially levelled bank with deep W. ditch, 150 years in length, on high ground E. of Holywell, known as the Strand. The construction of a row of cottages has caused the ditch to be filled in for use as a roadway, but traces of the bank still survive. There is now no visible evidence of the Dyke on its traditional line northward from the Strand along Strand Walk, but the alignment of this Walk on to the point where the tiny valley of the Strand becomes a ravine is very suggestive of its former existence.

So Fox argues that the path known as Strand Walk might follow the line of the dyke from the relatively flat upland area east of the Greenfield Valley where it is heading for the Bagillt Brook – the Strand – northwards as it descends down into the Greenfield Valley.

Well, I agree with Fox that there is no demonstrable trace of the dyke in terms of bank or ditch. However, the line of the Walk he describes is unquestionably a notch below the top of the slope that is a very good candidate for having previously been the line of the ditch. The bank, if it had ever existed, would have been the slope itself, and at the top of the slope where the modern field boundary runs.

So I would suggest that Fox is overcautious in his determination here, and the Walk is in fact following the ditch of the dyke as it navigates the east side of the ravine at a consistent c. 2.5-3m vertically downslope of the top of the ridge. We can look at this another way: there is no other way the Dyke could have navigated a path between the surviving section of to the north (see below) and the historically attested line of the Dyke on the Strand to the south. If we don’t believe this is the route: there is no other option for how it would have once existed elsewhere.

The implications of this are, however, not made clear by Fox. The Dyke neither hugs the top edge of the Greenfield Valley south of this point: it heads across flat hilltop towards a high point by/at the Holywell Windmill before descending towards the Bagillt stream. Likewise, it doesn’t continue north along the edge of the valley which would have required it to jump around another ravine to attain higher ground once more. Instead, it uses the ravine here to descend north/ascend south between high ground and the valley bottom. In so doing, it marks a course direct for the spur that became occupied by the Cistercian abbey of Basingwerk in an unquestionable fashion.

Extract from the 1st edition OS survey map showing the surviving Dyke crossing north over the Strand towards Strand Coed and the proposed route down the ravine on its eastern side.
extract from the first edition OS survey map showing the line of the dyke as it descends through Strand Coed (bottom-left) and the proposed destination of the Dyke at Basingwerk Abbey to the top-right
Looking south at the top of the Strand Walk, just before the dyke enters a housing estate built after Fox’s survey, and destroying the surviving line of Wat’s Dyke
Looking south along the possible line of the Dyke in Strand Coed
Looking south along the possible line of the Dyke in Strand Coed
Looking south along the Strand Walk where the possible line of the Dyke navigates the eastern slope of the ravine
looking north along the Walk: the ‘bank’ is the slope on the right, and the ground falls off steeply into the ravine on the left

The next piece of Fox’s text is significant, since it relates to a section of the dyke that is arguable surviving: the most northerly section of the dyke extant:

This ravine opens out above Meadow Mills on the flank of the deep trough valley carved out by the Holywell stream: and here a small piece of bank is seen, 21ft. in breadth, with an over-deepened W. ditch, which is possibly part of the Dyke. It seems to die out in the railway cutting. Beyond this point northward nothing recognisable as Wat’s Dyke is to be seen.

Here, the Dyke is discernible, and while maps make it seem as if it is continuing its route following the contours, the closer examination shows it is doing anything but. As mentioned above, the surviving section is cutting across the contours, heading down into the valley north/ascending up to the top of the ridge of the Strand Coed ravine to the south. Therefore, if this is indeed the line of the Dyke, it is doing something very significant at this point: dropping in an unprecedented fashion down into the valley, not to cross it, but to follow it down towards the estuary of the Dee at Basingwerk.

Looking north-west, the bank can be discerned as the dyke descends into the Greenfield Valley, with a possible quarry ditch behind it.

 

Looking north along the line of Wat’s Dyke from the top of the bank
Although clearly adapted as a hollow way in subsequent centuries, this does appear to be the line of the ditch of Wat’s Dyke, and certainly to the same degree of certainty as in the Strand Coed where it follows the Strand Walk
On the line of the bank of Wat’s Dyke looking south upslope
Wat’s Dyke as it descends into the Greenfield Valley and ends without further trace where it is cut by the line of the raillway cutting.

 

Where can you visit Wat’s Dyke in Wrexham?

Re-posted from Howard’s Archaeodeath blog-post.

Despite being a shorter monument than Offa’s Dyke, because its course navigates lower elevations, there are more situations where it navigates modern conurbations. This is a challenge for the preservation of Wat’s Dyke, but offers a host of opportunities to engage large numbers of people with this significant early medieval monument. Sadly, for most people living in suburban and urban areas, Wat’s Dyke is an invisible giant.

So on New Year’s Eve I decided to head out to explore/re-explore a few locations where the important and enigmatic Wat’s Dyke intersects with the largest town in North Wales: Wrexham and its immediate suburbs. I then tweeted. supported by images of the dyke at Ty Gwyn Lane, Wat’s Dyke Primary School, and beside the Premier Inn opposite Wrexham railway station:

How many Wrexham residents know how and where to spot their oldest standing monument – the 1,200-year-old Wat’s Dyke -where to runs from the Alyn at through to and ?

This received a flurry of interest in basic and important questions about Wat’s Dyke: what is it? where can we see it? It dawned on me that I couldn’t easily answer their questions. I did, however:

  1. give my own summary of the monument: likely to be early 9th century and built as part of a complex Mercian frontier zone, a successor to Offa’s Dyke, it runs 38 miles from Basingwerk on the Dee estuary to Maesbury on the Morda;
  2. linked to the fab article by Malim and Hayes 2008: ‘The Date and Nature of Wat’s Dyke’;
  3. I also linked to the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory as a range of resources and ideas about the latest work on early medieval linear earthworks;
  4. I also mentioned some of my blog-posts on this Archaeodeath blog.

But what about a guide to where Wat’s Dyke runs? Surely I could direct them to something already published and coherent? Sadly no!

Points relating to Wat’s Dyke running through Wrexham – a screen-capture from the online HER resource: Archwilio

Detailed Ordnance Survey maps will help the walker find sections of the monument, sure. However, they aren’t fully reliable and appropriately annotated for many sections. The Wat’s Dyke Way Heritage Trail is useful, but has no information about the monument itself along the course. Coflein will allow you to find details on individual points along its course, but not about how it looks and how publicly accessible the locations are. More/different details can be found on Archwilio – the online Historic Environment Record hosted by the Welsh Trusts: it gives you a line of points where Wat’s Dyke can be located, and details for each point. However, the ‘dots’ don’t always match up with the stretches of the monument that remain extant. Entries sometimes contain no information, and some sections of the dyke have no description. Again, access issues aren’t easy to match up with public rights of way, although a combination of Coflein/Archwilio with an OS map will get you to most locations.

Still, none of these are designed as public-facing and user-friendly for someone wanting to explore this monument in their neighbourhood. Moreover, the only published and easy-to-appreciate maps are those on the macro-scale: charting the dyke’s overall course in relation to the broader landscape. For instance, Fox’s 1955 Archaeologia Cambrensis map shows Wat’s Dyke from Dee to Morda, with the sections where it survives as an earthwork marked clearly in relation to rivers and in relation to steep river valleys. He also marks areas where he postulates it crossed cultivated land around Wrexham, Ruabon, Gobowen and Oswestry.


In 1997, Margaret Worthington produced a different version, focusing on the topography more. However, it is not detailed enough to let anyone navigate the precise route of Wat’s Dyke in relation to the existing landscape.

These are not designed for people to visit the monument and the scale prevents this in any case.

So how do we expect laypersons to visit and appreciate Britain’s second-longest early medieval linear earthwork if we cannot even put up a coherent heritage trail and heritage boards, or even web resources to guide people with a simple map??

This is especially important for Wrexham, where there is commemorated in buildings and a road – Wat’s Dyke Primary School, Wat’s Dyke Way – and where the monument runs through the western side of the town from Bryn Alyn hillfort and Pandy down to the Clywedog and Erddig Hall. In this area, while heavily damaged and lost in many places due to post-medieval/industrial activities and modern housing, it affords tens of thousands of people with the ready opportunity to visit a section viewable from public accessible land on their doorstep. No matter how humble, damaged and overgrown it might be, surely there must be easy digital resources and apps to help facilitate engagement with it? Even Erddig NT have nothing coherent and up-to-date to say about it, and the heritage board at Erddig castle bears out-of-date information despite being new.

Something far more slick could be developed, but let me sketch a rough attempt to answer the question ‘Where can I visit Wat’s Dyke in Wrexham’, focusing on 8 locations in the suburbs of town, and of course focusing on publicly accessible locations.

Let’s take each location in turn from North to South, identifying access, what you can see, and what it tells us, as well as links to previous blog-posts about each.

1. The Pandy Dyke

Pandy – Wat’s Dyke – Gwersyllt De151 – Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 106671

I’ve previous posted about this section here.  The Archwilio entry is short and basic:

The dyke is badly damaged by quarrying and agricultural activitity. Present for c150m to north of A483 road. Further to north line marked by hedgebank. Remains consist of bank max 1.3m high, hollow to west. Southern end of this section of Dyke cut through by the building of the Wrexham by-pass.

Via a footpath running south from Plas Action Road just after the Bluebell Estate and before it heads west over the railway line, one can traverse a good stretch of Wat’s Dyke as far as the A483.

The ditch is largely filled in, and the bank denuded significantly, as the Dyke forms the boundary of post-medieval fields. However, don’t give up (as I did before) until you hit the bank of the A483 where the dyke has been destroyed for some distance by the road-building until one can see it again on the south-side of Ty Gwyn Lane (see point 2, below). This is because, to the south, close to the A483, the bank survives increasingly better, until it is almost 2m high. Furthermore, at the southernmost part of this section, a gully to its west is large and wide, implying the presence of a silted up ditch.

What’s the dyke doing here? It’s crossing flat ground with good views westwards, between the Alyn and Clywedog.

The bank of Wat’s Dyke, looking N, near the Bluebell Estate and Plas Action Road
Looking S towards the A483, Wat’s Dyke is a significant bank
The bank and ditch of Wat’s Dyke, looking S
Looking N along the line for the bank from the ditch
A panorama shot of the bank and prominent ditch near the edge of the A483
Looking N along the line of the ditch of Wat’s Dyke
Another view N from the top of the bank of Wat’s Dyke
The worn signs of the Wat’s Dyke Way

2. The School Dyke

Ty Gwyn Lane and Wat’s Dyke Primary School – Wat’s Dyke – Wrexham De221 – Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 106673

There is no Archwilio description of this section in Garden Village. On the south side of the A483, from Ty Gwyn Lane up to Wat’s Dyke Primary School, there is a good section. You can park on Ty Gwyn Lane, or else on Wat’s Dyke Way and then walk into the grassed area kept clear of houses and explore the dyke.

The bank again varies in height, and is higher to the north, beside Ty Gwyn Lane.The ditch does actually survive as a wide, low depression, particularly at the top of the hill at the southern end of this section, beside Wat’s Dyke Primary School.

South of the primary school, the Dyke can be seen for a short stretch but then disappears beneath the back property boundaries of houses.

The dyke is here navigating a modest but significant high-point between the  Alyn and Clywedog. Its precise route optimises visibility west and maintains visual communication eastwards.

Looking S from Ty Gwyn Lane, Wat’s Dyke lies under property boundaries
Looking N down the slope towards Ty Gwyn Lane
Looking S upslope from Ty Gwyn Lane
Looking E where property boundaries at the back of Wat’s Dyke Way top Wat’s Dyke
Looking N by Wat’s Dyke Primary School
Looking S by Wat’s Dyke Primary School, one can see a denuded bank and a shallow ditch
Looking N beside Wat’s Dyke Primary School

3. The Railway Dyke

Crispin Lane – Wat’s Dyke – Wrexham De191 – Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 106675

I confess I have cycled past this section of Wat’s Dyke for 10 years, but because it’s heavily overgrown, and it isn’t publicly accessible, I wasn’t precisely sure where it lay. So on my cycle I hadn’t realise Wat’s Dyke was lurking on the other side of the fence in Network Rail-owned land beside the railway line! Walk down Crispin Lane and you can catch glimpses of it in winter through the fence! The Archwilio entry reads:

Two sections of Wat’s Dyke bounded to the west by Crispin Lane, which probably overlies the original western ditch. Large, impressive and well-preserved stretches of upstanding dyke. Northern section (SJ33015128 to SJ33005122) some 80m long, 10m wide and 1.5m in height. The eastern face and top of the monument are obscured by dumped material, probably associated with the construction of the adjoining railway sidings. Southern section some 75m long and 8m wide, height increasing from 1m at southern end (SJ32975111) to 2m at northern terminal (SJ32995117). For approximately 60m of its length, the eastern face has been artificially scarped, possibly as a result of the construction of the adjoining railway sidings (Cadw, 2003).

In this area, the Dyke is running over flat/modestly sloping down before it descends to the Clywedog.

Crispin Lane looking S, one can see the edge of the bank of the northermost surviving section of Wat’s Dyke in this location, covered in thick vegetation

4. The Premier Dyke

Premier Inn, south of Wrexham Railway Station – Wat’s Dyke – Wrexham De191 – Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 106675

Park in the Premier Inn car park, or else walk in from the Mold Road, and between the new hotel (2012) and the 19th-century railway line is a reconstructed section of Wat’s Dyke, displayed but without signage, and relocated following archaeological excavation (Grant pers. comm.).

Panorama shot from the N end of the reconstructed section of Wat’s Dyke, looking S. The railway is on the left (east)

5. The Cambria Dyke – Wat’s Dyke – Wrexham De165n – Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 106678

Named by me the Cambria Dyke because of its proximity to Coleg Cambria. Park at Morrisons or beside Bellvue Park, and walk along Ruthin Road. From the east side of the rise where the road crosses the railway bridge, one can look down over a property boundary between allotments and houses (to the east of it) and a public footpath heading south to Bersham Road, with Coleg Cambria’s car park on the western side. This is Wat’s Dyke! The footpath follows the former line of the ditch. At many places the bank has been damaged and disturbed by 19th-century walling and 20th-century fencing, but just  south of Ruthin Road the bank is almost 2m high.

In this section, and Wrexham cemetery, the dyke is approaching the Clywedog valley, so that it hits a prominent point before negotiating its norther side.

Looking N, just S of Ruthin Road, the bank of Wat’s Dyke is substantial
Looking N. across Bersham Road, the Dyke is visible in beneath the property boundary to the right of the footpath
A more typical and denuded section of Wat’s Dyke, looking N

6. The Cemetery Dyke

Wrexham Cemetery – Wrexham Cemetery, garden – Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 22995

Looking W, Wat’s Dyke runs through Wrexham Cemetery

Park in or beside Wrexham cemetery and visit Wat’s Dyke within its grounds! The ditch has gone but the bank survives as a low earthwork running south from Bersham Road to the top of the hill before the cutting created by the Ruabon Road breaks it off.

Looking W over Wat’s Dyke with the only signs in Wrexham borough denoting the presence of the monument

The dyke lacks a separate PRN within the cemetery grounds, where it is discernible, if covered with 19th-century graves. Indeed, this is the only place where its edges are marked by heritage lines in the two driveways in the cemetery that bisect its line. Notably, the Welsh is on the ‘Mercian’ (east) side’, the English on the ‘Welsh’ (west) side of the monument!

Early medieval-inspired Victorian gravestone in the form of a ‘Celtic’ (i.e. Hiberno-Norse wheel-headed) cross

Looking N along Wat’s Dyke, covered in graves!
Looking N along Wat’s Dyke

I was struck by the large number of early medieval-inspired graves of late 19th century date overlaying the early medieval monument! The funerary landscape incorporating such an important ancient monument is a rare thing.

Early medieval-inspired Victorian cross on the line of Wat’s Dyke

7. The Court Wood Dyke

Wat’s Dyke – Wrexham – Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 106679; Wat’s Dyke – Wrexham De173 – Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 106680; Wat’s Dyke – Wrexham – Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 106681; Wrexham De152 Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 106682

This section of the Dyke is only separated a short distance from the Cemetery Dyke (6) by the cutting for the Ruabon Road. Indeed, one can see the Cemetery Dyke in profile from the location where the Court Wood Dyke begins.

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To visit, walk in from Wrexham along the Ruabon Road. Alternatively, use the NT car park at the Woodland Classroom off Hafod Road, and take the path over the stream and up into Court Wood, taking the left-hand fork in the path.

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The Clywedog from the footpath heading for Court Wood
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Looking back to the NT car park
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Heading into Court Wood
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Take the left-hand path up into the Wood.
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Below Wat’s Dyke

Again, it is important to note the cluelessness of the National Trust signs, which mention the Wat’s Dyke Way, but don’t give visitors an explanation of where and what Wat’s Dyke was.img_2943

Variously positioned under or within back property boundaries, a substantial and significant section, recently cleared of vegetation by NT volunteers, can be viewed in two prominent stretches.

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Looking up the ridge to Wat’s Dyke, situated at the top of the ridge and dominating the north-side of the Clywedog valley

Once upon the ridge, one can discern the traces of the monumental bank and revealing ditchimg_2916img_2921img_2925img_2929img_2930img_2932img_2935

At the south-east end of the ridge, Wat’s Dyke is lost as it descends towards the valley and towards Erddig Castle. Presumably it once crossed the valley floor and I think there are subtle traces of it doing so.

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8. The Big Wood Dyke

Wat’s Dyke – Erddig Big Wood, excavation 1985 – Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 17766

Park at Erddig National Trust car park or walk into the estate from Wrexham or from the NT car park at the Woodland Classroom off Hafod Road, one can see a significant section of Wat’s Dyke within the woods between Erddig Hall and Erddig Castle. See my discussion here.  and here, and also here.

The substantial ditch and bank of Wat’s Dyke, looking N beside the Wolf’s Den adventure playground at NT Erddig
Looking N the counterscarp bank (left), ditch (centre) and bank (right) of Wat’s Dyke