Dated to the early 9th-century AD, the early medieval (‘Dark Age’) linear earthwork known as Wat’s Dyke is Britain’s 3rd-longest ancient monument. It is shorter only than Hadrian’s Wall and Offa’s Dyke.
One of the best places to view it on publicly accessible land, and where one can appreciate both its form and magnitude but also witness the various factors that have affected its damage and destruction, is in Northop parish.
The section in question straddles two sections evaluated by Sir Cyril Fox in his survey: the southern part of his ‘Coed-Llys to Southton farm’ section, and the northern part of his ‘Clawdd-Offa to New Brighton’ section.
Here, the Dyke makes its second major cross-upland traverse south of Basingwerk. By this I mean it departs from following river valleys to jump across between valleys.
In this instance, it is navigating its way between the Nant-y-Flint (in the north) across the higher ground east of Mold before joining the Alyn valley (in the south).
I first located it on the edge of Coed Uchaf where it follows the edge of the plateau following a steep scarp.
Just SE of this point, the monument shifts its alignment where the western scarp fades away. It takes a south-south-easterly course heading for the Northop Brook. Here it is where a farm gate means there is damage to the earthwork.
The dyke maintains westerly views on either side of Mynachlog. Fox calls the scale here ‘imposing’. You can see the back-side of the earthwork running across the contours in this shot.
One can next see it well where it is cut by the Northop Brook and rises south-east towards a ridge. The striking appearance on the south-east side of Northop Brook is enhanced by the mature trees upon it.
Here are views of the same section looking NW.
What is particularly striking, however, is that it is part-levelled in this field near the farm, so you can readily appreciate how such a large monument can indeed be completely obliterated where it gets in the way of later medieval and post-medieval farming activities.
In the SE corner of the field, the Dyke becomes visible again as it rises towards the crest of the hill.
Over the crest, the dyke is more denuded in the next field, and damaged by quarrying, but the breadth of the earthwork is evident, even if its height is reduced.
Moving south-east in another field, the Dyke forms the hedgebank behind a cottage.
Another level of survival is witnessed in the next section, where the Dyke is destroyed by the line of the road which intermittently follows its ditch and then its bank, until a section of the bank becomes visible for a short section just north-west of Clawdd-Offa farm.
The Dyke is then largely lost and within the hedgebank beside the road SE of Clawdd-Offa farm. Across the main road (A5119), the Dyke is visible in Soughton Park in a denuded form.
Hopefully this post will allow you to better appreciate where and what you are looking at on this important stretch of Wat’s Dyke near Soughton, and appreciate how the survival of its bank and ditch is significantly affected by different post-medieval and contemporary land-uses.