This is my final post about the heritage of Wat’s Dyke. Where a cycle path joins the Maesbury Road, at Mile Oak industrial estate, there is an interpretation panel explaining that this is the line of Wat’s Dyke.
Where is Wat’s Dyke? It is concealed within dense vegetation running NE and parallel to the Maesbury Road in the land to the N. At the panel, the Dyke is invisible, concealed from sight. The Dyke is accessible, but there is no formal right of way into the vegetation.
The sign is now c. 20 years old, constructed following Hugh Hannaford’s excavations of Wat’s Dyke produced a single radiocarbon date indicating it was a post-Roman monument (the C14 date gave a wide range of AD 268-630), paralleling it with East Wansdyke, also thought at the time to be of 5th-century date.
To my knowledge, it is the southernmost of only a handful of panels marking the 40-mile line of the monument as it runs from Maesbury (Shropshire) to Basgingwerk (Flintshire).
The sign indicates where the viewer is situated in relation to the overall line of the monument running from Basingwerk to Maesbury, with Wrexham and Oswestry marked upon it and the county towns of Chester and Shrewsbury also marked out. It is titled ‘What? When? Why?’
The text explains that the earthwork was originally huge, but is much denuded, describes its course. Once thought to be early 8th century, the monument is here, in the late 1990s, considered to be built ‘in the fifth or sixth century AD’. It goes on to explain that ‘…Wat’s Dyke may have been built by a tribal group living in the region after the end of Romanr ule but before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons’.
This is now a questionable given the early 9th-century date proposed for Wat’s Dyke from the excavations at Gobowen. While by no means confirmed, this 9th-century dating does at least suggest both Offa’s Dyke and Wat’s Dyke were middle Anglo-Saxon (late 7th-mid-9th-century) monuments.
Sun-bleached, shrivelled at the edges, outdated, and situated where the Dyke cannot be readily apprehended, this is another odd disconnected interpretation panel, seemingly floating free of the monument and telling a now out-dated story.
Hannaford, H. 1009. An excavation on Wat’s Dyke at Mile Oak, Oswestry, Shropshire. Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historicla Society 73: 1-7.