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.

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Looking SE along the ditch of Wat’s Dyke at the SE limit of Coed Uchaf
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Looking NW along the ditch of Wat’s Dyke at the SE limit of Coed Uchaf

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.

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Looking from the road SE along the line of Wat’s Dyke towards Mynachlog

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.

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Looking SE along Wat’s Dyke towards Soughton Farm

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.

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Looking SE along Wat’s Dyke just south-east of Northop Brook, Soughton Farm is to the right just out of shot.

Here are views of the same section looking NW.

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Wat’s Dyke looking NW
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Looking NW along Wat’s Dyke near Soughton Farm

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.

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The obliterated section of Wat’s Dyke beside Soughton Farm, looking SE
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On the obliterated section of Offa’s Dyke, looking SE up to the hill

In the SE corner of the field, the Dyke becomes visible again as it rises towards the crest of the hill.

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Looking SE up the hill as Wat’s Dyke becomes visible again after the obliterated section.
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Looking NW down the hill from the hill crest, Soughton Farm is to the left just out of shot

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.

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Denuded but clear, the Dyke navigates the crest of the hill beside Soughton Farm, looking NW

Moving south-east in another field, the Dyke forms the hedgebank behind a cottage.

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Looking south-east along the line of the Dyke where it is now within a hedgebank

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.

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Looking NW towards the cottage, the Dyke is mainly destroyed apart from the small section in the foreground
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A similar view NW, with the bank beneath the tree in the middle distance

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.

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Looking SE from the main road (A5119)

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.

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