Dere Street

The Cheviot roads have always connected with tracks that threaded their way through the surrounding lowlands.

Dere Street is a good example of this. Its name is probably borrowed from the Anglian kingdom of Deira that stretched from the Humber to the Tees. The Romans started using the route from around AD 80 with Agricola’s campaigns in the north. From York it headed along the A1 to Catterick, continued to Corbridge, crossed Hadrian’s Wall and followed the modern A68 to Rochester. Then it traversed the Cheviots, passed Jedburgh and headed to Newstead. This was the site of the Roman fort of Trimontium – the tres montes being the three peaks of the Eildon Hills. Beyond that, its exact course is uncertain, but it linked up with the road systems along the Antonine Wall.

The A1 corridor in Yorkshire is lined with structures as old as the Neolithic, and there are traces of early trade with mainland Europe, so on occasions the Romans may have re-used existing tracks, particularly in the Cheviots where the number of viable routes is limited.

We focus on the stretch of Dere Street that starts at Rochester, about 25 miles north of Hadrian’s Wall.  It crosses the border north of Chew Green and ends at Whitton Edge some four or five miles into Scotland. Between Rochester and Chew Green, Dere Street crosses the Otterburn artillery ranges. The Ministry of Defence publishes firing times for the ranges and while you can use this road when there is no activity, ad hoc exploration is not permitted.

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