The Roman Military Way with Mark Richards
Although at this time walking Hadrian’s Wall is not possible, the Hadrian's Wall Country will be waiting for eager visitors to return, when it is safe to do so.
A little while ago, we had a chance to chat with the well-known author and illustrator of many walking guides to both Hadrian's Wall and the nearby Lake District, Mark Richards. During our chat we were able to ask Mark about some of the interesting features he’d discovered during his time exploring Hadrian’s Wall Country. Mark shared with us his fascination of the often overlooked Military Way, the roman supply road sitting just to the south of the Wall, we’ll let Mark take up the story...
The Roman Military Way
Many, new to the famous Whin Sill section of the Roman Wall frontier, confuse the Military Road (B6318) with the Roman Military Way.
They have nothing in common either in time or purpose, in fact the Military Road was only constructed after the Jacobite Rising of 1745, in large part upon the ruin of the wall!
The Military Way was created by the Romans as the means of speedily relaying goods along the line of the Wall. It was used to support the running of the frontier wall during the Roman period.
When Hadrian’s first grand plan was executed The Stanegate was created as an east/west military road. But when Hadrian’s successor, Antonius Pius, pushed the frontier north, through the isthmus between the Forth and Clyde creating the Antonine Wall the supply road was installed integral to the turf-banked frontier linking the forts and milecastles.
When, in the course of time the frontier retreated to consolidate upon the original Hadrianic line, it was essential to have the same flexibility close to the Hadrian’s Wall – hence The Military Way.
Sensing its course is fun and rewarding, contouring in and out from the Wall. In many sections it is completely lost, sometimes it’s obvious and popularly used. While there are some sections along the Whin Sill dip slope that are pecked in dashes on OS Maps with no evidence on the ground. Yet, secreted in field walls there can be stiles that relate exactly to its’ course, suggesting that even in the near past that ancient trod continued to be used by farmers.
Hence, as we seek to find new ways to experience and understand the monument beyond the acorn waymarked National Trail, it seems timely to give new energy and purpose to this integral element of the frontier system. From Walltown Quarry to at least Housesteads – perhaps even, in the course of time, onward to where it meets the Military Road east of Sewingshields. By doing so, the Roman Military Way can be used to broaden the spatial awareness of how the frontier worked. While, at the very basic practical level, helping people create rewarding circular walks as they casually wander to and fro, and perhaps help us to be more appreciative of the underlying Roman infrastructure.
Marcus Richardius - exploratore and scout.
Walking the Wall at this time may not be possible, however, it is possible to plan for when it will be again. Mark Richard’s popular guide to walking the Wall is “Walking Hadrian's Wall Path. National Trail: Described east-west, and west-east" published by Cicerone. If you would like to learn a bit more about the author, you can find out what he’s been up to at his website; https://www.countrystride.co.uk/