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King Offa built a dyke to keep the Welsh out of England sometime in the 780s AD. It stretched from the River Dee near Chester to the Bristol Channel near Chepstow. It can be seen over most of that distance today. The Wansdyke stretches roughly from Marlborough to the Bristol Channel. It can be seen over most of that distance.
In places it is stupendous. In places it is over 25 feet high. Few people have heard of it today. There are hundreds of dykes like that across England and into the Scottish and Welsh borders. Where they have been dated, they appear to come from the period roughly from 400 AD to 800 AD.
The talk will discuss observations from a nationwide survey conducted between 2009 and 2014. Some dykes show evidence of having been designed and laid out by Roman, or Roman-trained, engineers. Some show astonishingly precise alignment and advanced military features, such as being sited on reverse slopes.
There is also some evidence of progression over time, and particularly a degradation of skill in alignment and construction. The talk will also consider their purpose; construction and construction management techniques; and effectiveness as fortifications.
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Professor Jim Storr graduated in Civil Engineering from Imperial College in 1981. He served as a infantry officer in the Regular Army for 25 years. He now has a portfolio career, mostly in the defence sector, which focuses on human behaviour under conditions of stress and complexity.