In the northern suburbs of Hope, a moderately well-preserved section of the monument is visible at the entrance to a new housing estate. It even has a commemorative stone with plaque, albeit now hidden within a bush.
Running east of and past Hope church, however, this early 9th-century Mercian monument has become subsumed within the back gardens of properties downslope and just west of the main N-S road bypassing the village. Here it is thus near-invisible and inaccessible. The one lane running up behind the church reveals a subtle change to its incline that marks the hint of the bank, but there is nothing to tell you that this is the survival of Britain’s third-longest linear monument.
In the church (to be discussed in another post), there is a broadly contemporaneous carved stone cross fragment – perhaps a grave-marker or grave-cover – indicating an ecclesiastical foundation on this site at least by the time the monument was built. So this location is fascinating and interesting where we can postulate the linear earthwork was set out in relation to a pre-existing sacred site.
South of the village, one can follow a footpath along the line of the Dyke has it curves SW towards Rhydyn Farm, but its scale is concealed by the vegetation and its magnitude is more readily appreciated from a distance view along the line. Here, it follows cliffs above the Alyn, with the Iron Age hillfort of Caer Estyn to its east and its precise line is lost.
So while heavily denuded and concealed beneath field boundaries and within properties, Wat’s Dyke can still be appreciated at Hope.
What is depressing is that the monument doesn’t properly feature on the heritage sign at the heart of the village. The sign does include an artist’s impression of the monument, and Wat’s Dyke is mentioned in the text but it is not clearly marked and certainly not explained. As with almost everywhere along its line, Wat’s Dyke is present and yet absent, named but inexplicable: too big and too diffuse, too concealed and divided up by modern boundaries to be apprehended as a coherent entity. And so as with elsewhere, Wat’s Dyke hides in plain sight.