Offa’s Dyke: Facts and Information

Here are some interesting facts about Offa’s Dyke.

  • Offa’s Dyke is a large earthwork, which roughly follows the border between England and Wales. In the 8th century, it marked the border between the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia in England and the Welsh kingdom of Powys.
  • England at that time was divided into several independent kingdoms. Mercia was the largest and the most powerful and stretched from the River Humber to the English Channel.
  • The dyke stretches for 285 km from Prestatyn in North Wales to the River Severn estuary. It is almost 20 metres wide in places, and up to 8 metres deep.
  • Most historians believe the dyke was built by Offa, the Anglo-Saxon King of Mercia, from 757 to 796. Offa is known for introducing new coins and creating one state which included most of England.
  • It was a considerable achievement back then to recruit enough men for such a large building project. Offa may have required people living in certain areas to take responsibility for building a certain sections of the dyke.
  • Offa’s Dyke is one of the most impressive early construction efforts by inhabitants of Britain. It may have been built for defensive reasons, or simply as a visible dividing line between the two kingdoms.
  • The Offa’s Dyke long distance path was opened in 1971. It crosses the border between England and Wales 20 times and passes through 8 different counties.
  • It takes the average walker about 12 days to walk the length of the path from one marker to the other. Horse riders and cyclists are allowed on about a third of the path.
  • The Offa’s Dyke path is flat in places, and is known for the large number of stiles along its route. The highest point on the path is 700 metres at Hatterall Ridge.
  • In 2012, the historian Michael Wood ran the entire length of Offa’s Dyke in just over 2 days and 16 hours. He raised several thousand pounds for different charities.

What next? Discover more Anglo-Saxon facts by visiting our Anglo-Saxon resources page.

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