The Wansdyke a linear 5th century ditch and bank


The Wansdyke is a long ditch and bank, or linear defensive earthwork about 72 km (45 miles) long. The archaeological consensus seems to point to  it being built in the 5th century AD. Today it serves as a focus for many beautiful walks around Devizes and the Pewsey Vale.


Below Wansdyke ditch and bank approaching Morgan's Hill from the old Marlborough to Bath Coach road.

Below: the Wansdyke near Roughridge Hill Bishops Canning looking across the A36, Shepherds Shore to Morgan's Hill. A footpath follows this section west in the photo and eastwards behind the photogtapher to Tan Hill.

The ditch and bank runs from the Avon valley south of Bristol, over Morgan's Hill near Devizes to Savernake Forest near Marlborough in Wiltshire. It is not as familiar to many people as Offa's Dyke or Hadrian's Wall, but  it is one of the largest linear earthworks in the UK.


 Wansdyke was originally a large bank with a deep ditch in front - on the south side, and it runs in an east-west alignment. This points to a perceived or actual danger from the north. Who the builders were is not known. The Wansdyke stems from the Anglo-Saxon god Woden; this does not mean that it was necessarily the Saxons who built it. The Wansdyke's construction clearly represents a major and extensive amount of labour. Presumably it was built by  slave labour as it does not centre on any one settlement as does say the henges at Avebury.What was the danger around 550 AD? The Romans had left Britain and the west Saxons were in Wessex. To the north was the Kingdom of Mercia and sigificantly later the Danes 

Above: walking east from Roughridge Hill, Bishops Cannings and following the Wansdyke to Tan Hill 293m - ( St. Ann'e Hill of old) - the highest Hill in the Pewsey Vale.


Its construction seen with hindsight seems enigmatic at best and foolish at worse. Even allowing for the 5th century ditch to have been significantly deeper than today, the length of the Wansdyke made it an indefesible feature. Presumably it was built with defence in mind as well as to mark the Southern kingdom of the West Saxons. What ever the intention of the builders it is something to marvel at - the amount of effort, time and labour were very significant.



Below: Butterflies on the Wansdyke path.

Below: The path followed above eastwards lead to even more majestic country around Tan and Milk Hills These have Iron Age fortifications and provide vews and a diverse range of recreational opportunities as shown below.


Above Left: Going east down Milk Hill, the Wansdyke is 400 m behind the photographer and Knapp Hill is in the background. Middle: Poppies on Milk Hill, Alton Barnes . Right: Milk Hill provides a launch ground for Hang Gliders.


Below the Alton Barnes White Horse on the side of Milk Hill. The Wansdyke is a few hundred metres away over the ridge.