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From Aug 2006 - Nov 2013 WeDig provided a live forum for diggers & fans of Vindolanda. It has now been mothballed and will be maintained as a live archive.

Here you will find preserved 7 years of conversation, photos, & knowledge about a site many people love. Vindolanda gets under the skin. (Figuratively and literally as a volunteer excavator!) It's a place you remember, filled with people you remember!

Thanks for 7 great years!

Walk 1 - Chainley Burn

Anybody who has visited Vindolanda's museum has descended the steep valley of Chainley Burn, the lovely little stream that runs past the museum. Today it looks like a peaceful, idyllic setting. But as recently as the early 20th Century the valley was a hive of industrial activity. Coalmining and stone quarrying shaped, and scarred, much of the surrounding landscape. This walk will take you past the remnants of that activity. It will also give you postcard views of Vindolanda and some of its surrounding hamlets and farmhouses. It's a fairly undemanding walk, good for the end of an evening.

Starting location: Vindolanda eastern car park
Nature of walk: Circular
Length & estimated time: approx. 2 miles, allow 2 hrs.
Difficulty: Easy -- tracks, tarmac, well-tended trails; generally gentle slopes

Walk 1 - Chainley Burn map
(Map courtesy of multimap.com, using "OS Survey" option.)
To the left is an annotated map of the walk, with a brief description of the highlights listed here. (A slightly larger printable version can be found here.) Further down is more detail with a guided walk description & photos. If you'd like the walk's highlights to be more of a visual surprise, simply avoid mousing-over the red link text. Photos were all taken in June 2009.

1. Vindolanda overlook
2. Forest replantation
3. Entering the woods
4. Colliery office ruins
5. Coal scree
6. Country lane to Westwood
7. Lovely home in Westwood
8. Scenic bridge & odd "tumulus"
9. Halfway point
10. Riding school
11. Approach to Low Fogrigg farmhouse
12. Stream ford
13. Miner cottage foundations
14. Unusual view of Vindolanda
15. Chesterholm museum
16. Stanegate milestone

This walk starts at Vindolanda's eastern car park. This seldom-used parking lot is tucked along the Stanegate behind the museum. It can be reached on foot by just going through the rear exit of the museum, or via car by following the Stanegate from the western car park (the one where diggers & visitors typically park). From the car park, follow the lane up the hill to the east until it deadends at a minor road. Turn right and follow the road south and gradually uphill. Shortly before the road bends hard left, you come to a field gate on the verge to the right, with a trackway headed back somewhat the direction you just came, and a magnificent vista to the west.

Site 1: Vindolanda overlook
: In front of you will be a spectacular view of the whole of the Vindolanda fort platform. You can also follow the line of the Stanegate westward all the way to Seatsides farm, before it dips behind a hill. After you've taken your fill, go through the gateway, descending into what had been a steep field, but is now filled with replanted saplings. Walk until you're about halfway between the gate you just came through, and the gate directly in front of you. (If you reach the gate, you've gone too far!)

Site 2: Forest replantation
: You are in the midst of a hillside reforestry effort. Similar efforts of decades ago can be seen in the harsh monocultural plantations throughout Tynedale. Modern replanting tries to reproduce the natural variety of broadleaf & conifer trees for a healthier, more robust, more natural forest. Sadly, it will probably not be too many more years before the gorgeous views of Vindolanda are blocked by the new woodland. Now, to continue the walk, turn sharply left (south), almost as a switchback, heading toward a different gate
with a more mature woodland beyond. Vindolanda should now be on your right and slightly behind you, as you cross the gate and enter the woods.

Site 3: Entering the woods
: Though the woodland is thick, the trail is quite clear and solid through this section. You're actually now arriving at what had been a heavily worked & working landscape in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. The trail you're walking on is the remains of a coal mine track, more of whose evidence you will soon encounter. You will probably hear the water of Chainley Burn gurgling far below you to the right, though you probably will not be able to see it for the trees. The slope is quite steep and quite far, so take care as you walk along this track.

Site 4: Colliery office ruins
: As promised, shortly you will come across the derelict ruins of an old coalmining office. It is in a terribly perilous state. If you're close enough to get a picture like the author's
, you are being quite foolhardy. (Yes, those are solid iron I-beams that have crashed to the ground or are hanging in the air.) There are plenty of other ruins, walls, footings, etc. in the area that are much safer to explore. It's all a reminder that coalmining was a major industry around Vindolanda for more than a century, and that today's scenic burns & hillsides hide many such archaeological gems. When you're done exploring the ruins, continue southward. All this time, the track has been grading gently downward, and this will continue. If you keep an eye out, you will still see some of the brickwork
that made up the mining trackway. The track would also have been laid with rails for carts, so the coal could be brought down to the train depot at Bardon Mill quickly and easily.

Site 5: Coal scree
: As you continue your descent, you will come past steep hillsides rising to your left (the photo is looking back from where we had just walked) filled with blackened offcasts -- the waste from drift mines, poured down the hillside. On occasion, you can see similar scree slopes to your right, heading further down toward Chainley Burn. One wonders just how much coal must have been mined over the years. It's also sobering that trees and plants still can't survive in the hostile, shifting soils, decades after the end of the mining. Continue your gradual, southward descent, ignoring other trails that switch back to the right. Eventually you will leave the woods at a gate into a clearing.

Site 6: Country lane to Westwood
: A dozen steps through the clearing will take you onto a pleasant, quiet country lane. (You'll notice from the map that this is the same lane you were walking on at Site 1.) Even at the height of summer, this lane is seldom-traveled, though of course you should always keep your wits about. An arrow-straight, gently descending 5-minute walk will take you into the heart of Westwood hamlet.

Site 7: Lovely home in Westwood
: The general consensus of our group was that we'd be pleased to own any of the homes here. But the ones fronting onto the burn itself (as this one does) would be highest on the list. Follow the road straight through Westwood, and follow it as it turns right and then snakes its way downward toward the burn.

Site 8: Scenic bridge and odd "tumulus"
: The lane crosses the river at an ancient narrow bridge, with a nice view of the burn. But just before the bridge, look to the left of the road. In a slightly cleared area there is a very conspicuous mound
with a few large trees sprouting out of it. Though not marked on OS maps as anything ancient, it's obviously man-made, and obviously not recent! After the bridge, a few more steps bring you to the halfway point of the walk.

Site 9: Halfway point
: At the signpost turn right, following the arrow to Vindolanda. (The "Vindolanda 2" on the sign is via roads; your route will be less than half of that.) The road climbs as it bears off slightly to the left. Though still not a main route, this lane does get more traffic than the one you've just been walking on. Especially as you climb this blind curve, keep your eyes and ears open. After a couple minutes of walking you will see the entrance track to Cragside Stables, a riding school. Walk up the track toward the school.

Site 10: Riding school
: We were lucky enough to pass by Cragside when a lesson was underway. (The author has not yet gone on a Cragside horse ride, but others have done during an off-day and have thoroughly enjoyed it.) Pass by the school, keeping the pens, stables, and other buildings on your left. Follow the well-defined track as it turns to the left. Your route now comes back alongside Chainley Burn. Though as before, you will hear it more often than you see it.

Site 11: Approach to Low Fogrigg farmhouse
: Your path is the access track leading to Low Fogrigg. There has been a farmhouse or cottage at Low Fogrigg since early modern times. No doubt much of the stone used to build it has come from Vindolanda's tumbled walls. Also, anyone who has seen the morning mists blanketing the area will know how apt a name "Fogrigg" is.

Site 12: Stream ford
: At Low Fogrigg a small stream crosses the track. When we passed, the water was but a trickle and we simply stepped across it. If you're doing the walk in a wetter season, there is a short and narrow footbridge. As of June 2009 it was nearly completely overgrown by wildflowers and brambles, but looked sturdy enough if needed. Beyond Low Fogrigg, simply continue northward on the well-trod trail. The ground begins to rise again gently, and the rolling countryside starts to open up again. Keep an eye and an ear out for the burn down in the valley to your right. Eventually the trail will bring you to more remains of the area's industrial heritage.

Site 13: Miner cottage foundations
: The foundation stones you can walk amongst at the top of this ridge are all that remains of 19th Century miner cottages. This was the home for workers at the colliery you've explored, as well as a second colliery on this side of the river which isn't visible on this walk. At the height of the industry, dozens of workers would have been crammed into these small cottages. The conditions were probably unpleasant by modern standards. But the opportunity for good, steady pay was a strong draw. The ridge that these cottages were built on is the equally apt "High Fogrigg." A farmhouse by that name can be see to the west. When you've finished exploring, continue your walk to the north. Soon you're greeted by a familiar sight -- seen from an unfamiliar angle.

Site 14: Unusual view of Vindolanda
: At this point in your trail, on the ridge directly ahead of you, you will see the prominent remains of the southeast corner of Vindolanda's visible stone fort. In front of it will be the remains of the early bath house, which were discovered in 2000. It won't take long to recognize why Vindolanda's location was a smart one. Any assault from this side, the east, or most of the north would be foolish at best, suicidal at worst. Continue on the trail as it crosses a marshy stream known as Doe Sike
. Shortly you will enter the woodland bordering Chainley Burn, and you will be greeted by your first good view
of the burn since crossing the bridge at Westwood. Your walk is nearly complete, but a couple surprises remain. As you walk along the burn, note the massive boulders lying on the ground that you pass. On one (photograph was too poor, unfortunately), you can see ancient chisel marks that tried to shatter the stone in two. A long crack in the rock suggests that the job was almost successful, but was aborted for some reason. Was this 19th Century work, or Roman?

Site 15: Chesterholm museum
: Next, the trees will open up to reveal the grounds of Chesterholm museum, with the reproduction temple and the burn flowing through. You've no doubt visited the museum, but it's still worth seeing it from a new perspective. As you walk past, keep an eye out for the piles of Roman tile and pottery that have been collected from spoilheaps over the years. When you get past the museum, keep walking northward through the car park until you reach the Stanegate. Technically, you could end your walk here. But, if you haven't seen it yet, it's very worth the few extra steps to see the milestone.

Site 16: Stanegate milestone
: The value of this rough, tilting, uninscribed column of stone is not always easy to appreciate at first. But this is, to the best of any expert's knowledge, the -only- Roman milestone in Britain that still stands to its original height in its original location. The only one. Out of the thousands that once dotted the roads criss-crossing the countryside some 1700 years ago. It is a pity that the inscription has long ago worn away. But even so, it's something quite unique. And a fitting end to your walk. From here, simply walk briefly east along the Stanegate, up the slope (which may feel steep after 2 hours of walking), to the car park.

Hopefully you've found this walking guide interesting. For the author, it was a lot of fun seeing parts of the countryside that are all too easy to miss sitting behind the wheel of a car. If you want to take a printout of these photos for your own walk, here is a handy compilation. Happy walking!

Page created by Harold Johnson