I wish to show you what I believe is one of the ultimate surviving sections of Wat’s Dyke. The section is far from ‘well-preserved’ with a denuded bank and ditch, but it is an accessible part of the monument where one can see it perform in relation to topography and view a section unhampered by a modern field boundary and hedge/fence line.
This post builds on previous discussions when I’ve walked the well-preserved section of the monument on the Wat’s Dyke Way to the north of the A539 towards Pentre-clawdd Farm to the east of Ruabon:
- a brief mention from a visit in 2013;
- a University field trip with level 5 (second-year) students in 2015;
- a repeat field trip with level 5 (second-year) students in 2017 in which we encountered sheep on the Dyke;
- a review of where Wat’s Dyke changes its alignment as it approaches Pentre-clawdd Farm to the north of this section;
- about the now-invisible heritage board consumed by brambles beside the A539.
I return to Wat’s Dyke at this location for two photographic reasons:
- a short afternoon winter walk with one of my offspring gave me the opportunity to see the monument in better light than I’d been able to experience before;
- I got lost twice amidst the confusing rights of way and found myself in the fields west of the monument. I took the opportunity to take some photographs of Wat’s Dyke on my way back to the footpath from perspectives I hadn’t seen before.
I also return because there are four further reasons why this section requires the attention of those interested in the construction and function of the Dyke, and its conservation:
- The Dyke here runs relatively straight along a west-facing ridge, N-S along the break of slope. Yet it has to navigate the eastern (top) end of a narrow W-E combe as it runs down towards the Eitha and on to the Clywedog. The stream has been culverted, but the Dyke survives here, facilitating a sense of how the monument would negotiate smaller streams by running across them without any significant deviation. In this regard, it mirrors the behaviour of Offa’s Dyke in relation to small water courses, despite steep declivities.;
- From here, one also gets an impression of how the monument dominates the landscape to its west whilst retaining the potential for long-distance communication eastwards to the Mid-Cheshire Ridge;
- For a section to the north of the combe, water lies in Wat’s Dyke. This section of ditch has been re-dug by the farmer, inspiring the possibility that, when freshly cut, water was indeed originally part of the defensive dimensions of some sections of the monument where it traversed with the contour rather than against it;
- The Dyke here rapidly changes in its level of survival due to the post-medieval farming regimes it has been subject to. In the northern section, the Dyke’s bank has nearly gone and then is obliterated before picking up again as it runs towards the point it shifts direction south of Pentre-clawdd Farm. On the north side of the combe, however, the bank and ditch remain impressive and free from the modern fence line, allows walkers to gain a clear sense of the monument’s length and breadth.
I’ve indicated the direction of 11 of my photographs on this 19th-century OS map taken from Digimap to help explain the monument in this area.
Below are the photographs 1-11 showing the survival of the monument and the points made above.