On Thursday morning of our holiday I wandered over to the Co-op to pick up a few bits and pieces. It was cold and the sky looked threatening. While I was in the shop it started to snow, fine flakes that didn’t settle. It continued to snow for the rest of the day, detting heavier, but didn’t settle. It was a day to stay indoors reading and relaxing. Come about 4 o’clock the temperature had dropped and the snow started to settle . The next morning we woke up to this
Several inches of snow were covering everything, including the path to our accommodation, our car and the road. There wasn’t a shovel or spade in the house but mid morning the owner turned up to dig us out and clear the path. The sun had come out too, so the snow started to thaw. It was turning into a pleasant day so we decided to venture out, heading over Frank’s Bridge and up to the viewpoint on top of Kirkby Hill
where there extensive views over to the Northern Pennines
and Wild Boar Fell
Descending from the hill we had a short walk along the river
Before returning to the town centre where we had a look round inside the Parish Church
after which we decided to treat ourselves to a pub lunch
Well fed, J decided she’d had enough of walking through the snow and headed back to the house. I popped back with her to pick up my rucksack and then set out for a walk through the snow covered fields behind our accommodation from where there were excellent views over to the fells
I decided on a route that took me through the fields to the west of the town heading south and then cutting across to Stenkrith Park, following the path along the river to the Swingy Bridge and then cutting back along the track and road to our accommodation
This was the last day of our holiday so that evening, after tea, we made a final visit to La’l Nook where we spent some time chatting with a couple of locals who told us about the local Rugby Union team who had made it to the final of the Cumbria Cup the following Saturday when they were playing Penrith, a team from a higher division.
The next morning there was still snow on the ground but the road was clear as was the A685 so we had a trouble free drive back to the M6 at Tebay and down the motorway. We were home around midday. We’d had a great break in an area we’d never visited before and which we’ll certainly return to. There’s lots more to explore and some good walks that are now on my ever increasing list.
The forecast promised good weather on the Tuesday, so that was the day I decided on the long walk I was hoping to include in our holiday. From our accommodation we could just about make out the Nine Standards on the top of Hartley Fell silhouetted against the skyline.
The Nine Standards are a collection of massive cairns, several metres high (the largest is 3.5 metres tall) – nine in total, as the name indicates – standing a little to the north of the summit of the fell, making them visible from miles around. I first heard of them when visiting and then researching the Raisbeck Pinfold, part of Andy Goldsworthy’s Cumbrian sheepfolds project. Inside the Raisbeck sheepfold Goldworthy included a conical stone structure and there are several other of these cone pinfolds at other sites around the Eden Valley. On the project website he explains how the shape of these structures was inspired by the Nine Standards.
The origins and purpose of the Standards is unknown and subject to a raft of theories. However one theory, that seems sensible to me given their location, is that they mark the boundary between Westmorland and Swaledale. Dick Capel devotes a chapter of his book to the Standards and he was responsible for a project to restore them (against some opposition) back in 2005.
Steve Allan, Cumbria’s premier dry stone wall builder, with two assistants and meticulous reference to the photographs, worked for eight days rebuilding the five cairns, which had been in a ruinous state and refurbished the other four. Their work won the North Pennines AONB Conservation Award 2005.
So a visit to see the structures close up for myself had to be made!
Hartley Fell and the nearby hills are relatively featureless moorland but I expected, and found, excellent views during the climb and from the top, and I’m very much at home on bleak moorland. Although I would gain about 1600 feet to the summit, it was a relatively gradual climb most of the way with the hardest pull up the road from Hartley. The first couple of miles were on tarmac, which wasn’t great (although the views looking back compensated) before I reached the open moorland. The going on the moors was good at first but the final section up hill to the standards was very boggy and not good walking. The Standards are on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast route which, despite seasonal variations, won’t have helped with the erosion. It’s difficult also to devise a good circular route so I had to return the same way I’d gone up. But visiting the Standards more than made up for any disadvantages and on the way up the best views are behind – they’re right in front on the way down.
It was bright and sunny as I set out mid morning, leaving J to spend a peaceful day on her own. I passed the statue of a youthful Lady Anne on the main street – she appeared to be striding of in the same direction.
I walked down to the Eden and crossed over Frank’s Bridge
and took the path along the river
and then turned off up the slope heading towards the small village of Hartley
There was a steep climb out of the village up the road but at he top of the slope, I turned round to be greeted by views of the Northern Pennines, where even Cross Fell was free of cloud
over the Eden Valley to the Lakeland Fells
and, in the other direction, over to the moors where I was heading.
I was still on tarmac
as I passed the massive quarry, which is still being worked. I tried to avoid looking at it, keeping my eyes on the moorland and pretending it wasn’t there.
I soon put it behind me, but still had a good distance to walk on the tarmac
before I finally passed through a gate and turned off the tarmac onto a dirt track – much better for the feet! I notice a car parked up by the gate – there was room for two or three. Later I passed a couple of women – a mother and daughter I think – who were on the way down as I climbed – it was their car. (They were the last people I saw until I got back down to the tarmac on the road down when I spotted one other person – a “twitcher”. I bet it gets a lot busier during the Coast to Coast season) .They’d cut out a good stretch of walking on tarmac and shortened the walk by 2 miles each way. But I still preferred to walk.
I think they’re the Howgills in the distance. I’m not used to seeing them from this direction!
Looking up across the moor I could just make out the Nine Stands on top of the hill.
Looking back to the Lakeland Fells
and to the North Pennines
On the way up, just off the path I spotted this circular structure which looked like it had been constructed fairly recently.
Carrying on those Standards don’t seem to be getting any closer!
I reached a fork in the road and took the path climbing up Faraday Gill
It wasn’t too bad at first
but then it got very wet and boggy underfoot
I was glad that I’d brought my gaiters with me and donned them at the end of the tarmac, but it was difficult finding a way to avoid becoming submerged in wet peat, mud and water as I continued on my way.
Eventually (!) I was getting closer to the Standards.
And then I was there.
The photographs don’t do them justice at all, you need someone standing by them to give a proper sense of scale and there was only me up there. This one is the largest – 3.5 metres tall and 3.7 metres in diameter at its base, tapering to the top with two intermediate ledges around its circumference.
They’re all different in size and shape
A cold wind had picked up and the air temperature was probably below freezing, but I was well wrapped up so didn’t feel too cold as I took in the views
The Standards are not on the summit of the fell, that was a short distance away to the south and there’s a topograph part of the way there across the top of the fell. I reckoned that as I’d come this far I might as well go the whole hog to the summit, which was marked by a trig point.
The peat was very badly eroded and it would normally be a quagmire bog hopping over to the summit. However, the ground was frozen so I didn’t end up with my boots swallowed in the mire – but be warned if you go up there in warmer, wet weather.
Here’s a few shots looking back tot he Nine Standards and the topograph on the way back from the top
It was time to eat now before I set off back down. The cold wind seemed to be strengthening but I sheltered by sitting on the leeward side of the largest of the Standards, it’s shelf making a handy seat.
Then it was time to start making my return journey retracing my steps.
As I mentioned I only saw one more person until I reached Hartley, but both on the way up and down I could hear the distinctive call of one of my favourite birds, the curlew. Just before I reached the tarmac I stopped for a rest on a handy seat and three curlews flew by overhead. That was a treat.
It was still sunny when I got back to Kirkby Stephen. It was mid afternoon and I was ready for a brew.
It had been a cracking day, cold in the wind but warm in the sunshine, and wrapped up well was perfect walking weather. We were expecting another decent day but a change was in the air!
Sunday was the first full day of our break in Kirkby Stephen and in the morning we took it easy. But by midday I was feeling restless and the weather looked reasonably promising so it was time to get our boots on a set off for a walk.
A couple of years ago I read a book about the Eden Valley – The Stream Invites us to Follow: Exploring the Eden from Source to Sea – by Dick Capel, who was Countryside Manager for the East Cumbria Countryside Project from 1992 to 2008. In the book he follows the course of the Eden and it was reading it that inspired me to visit and explore an area I’d largely neglected, resulting in our out of season breaks in Kirkby Stephen and, last October, in Appleby. (I was also influenced by reading the descriptions of Sharon’s “adventures” in Eden on her blog).
Dick Capel had been involved in three arts projects as part of his role – The Eden Benchmarks, Andy Goldsworthy’s Cumbria sheep fold project and also the Poetry Path in Kirkby Stephen. For the latter, twelve blocks of stone were installed at intervals along a route on both sides of the river Eden a mile or so to the south of where we were staying. On each of these stones lettering artist Pip Hall has carved a poem by Meg Peacocke together with a small decorative motifs which illustrate activities associated with the months of the hill farmer’s year. There are stones at 12 locations; one for each month of the year. Although the brief was to represent the farming year, this has been interpreted loosely with some of the poems describing nature and landscape.
As we’re both avid readers and interested in both poetry and sculpture I devised a route that would take us down to the Poetry Path, which we then followed, before returning to Kirkby Stephen via the small village of Hartley, along the disused track bed of the Stainmore Railway which crosses two restored viaducts.
We cut down the ginnel opposite our accommodation, and then through the town centre and down to the river, where we crossed over Frank’s Bridge. We then took the path that followed the right bank of the Eden
on through fields, passing this old barn
After a mile or so we reached the Poetry Path which starts with the January stone at ‘Swingy Bridge’. However due to the route we’d taken the first stone we came across was the one for March. So we carried on from there. We’d bought a small booklet from the Tourist Information Centre in Kirkby Stephen when we arrived. It only cost £2.00 and was a great help in locating the stones – some of them are installed in walls and others are easy to miss. It also provided background information and photographs of some of the stones from when they were installed back in 2004. Since then they have weathered and some overgrown with lichen, moss and other vegetation making them difficult to read. Luckily there’s a blog where you can see the text of all the poems in full and I’ve used this as a source for the poems reproduced in this post. Most of the motifs were impossible to make out.
The March stone was installed in a stream and had a good covering of vegetation making it impossible to read the full text.
Jim Capel, in his book has an account of the fun had when installing the stone here!
The contractor used a low loader with a telescopic arm……. As we hesitated, mesmerised by the dangling stone, one of the straps snapped, and it plunged with a mighty splash into the beck. There it wedged itself in an upright position against the sandstone outcrop at the back of the pool.
The next stone was incorporated into a dry stone wall and easy to walk past
The May stone was also embedded in a wall, just before the bridge over the former railway line.
The countryside here was very pleasant and, surprisingly, it wasn’t too muddy underfoot
There were good views, too, over some of the fells – including the distinctive Wild Boar Fell
When we arrived at the June stone a family with two young boys and a baby were resting near and on the stones, with the mother using one of the stones as a support while feeding the baby. So we carried on past on to the former railway track and the next stone. We returned later for a proper look as we had to retrace part of the route to join the track on the return leg of our walk.
In this case there were two stones, gritstone blocks that had previously used in an indusrtial process according to the booklet. Both carved with text
The July stone was a short distance along the railway path
The August stone, a naturally curved rock, was a little further along. The text was carved on both sides
The September stone was the third and final one on the old railway track and referenced the former use of the location
A little further on we crossed over the river on the Millennium footbridge below the road bridge. We looked down on the river where we had a good view of “The Devil’s Grinding Mill” also known as “The Devil’s Mustard Mill” and the “Coopkarnel” (from a Danish word mean “cup shaped cavern”).
The river here passes through a narrow gorge and the dramatic potholes have been carved in the Brockram rock (formed of fragments of Carboniferous limestone set in red siltstone and sandstone) by the force of the water and the abrasive action of small stones and rocks carried by the current.
We now descended into Stenkrith Park, following the path along the river. Almost immediately we came across the next Poetry stone. In fact there were a pair of stones – one of limestone and one of sandstone – the two components of the Brockram.
Carrying on along the path we reached the next pair of stones.
It was noticeable that these had been cleaned up, making it easier to read the text, and, for the first time, the motif was legible.
The other stones along this stretch of the trail seemed to have been cleaned up too – probably because this is the most frequented section of the trail being in the Stenkrith Park, which is a popular tourist attraction.
On the hillside, a short distance before the “Swingy Bridge” we found the December Stone. The poem here is a Haiku, carved across the three rocks
There’s the Swingy Bridge ahead. The river here was very placid and calm compared to the turbulent waters upstream.
The January stone was located at the bottom of the lane, just before the bridge. The lane was designated a bridleway and the bridge was far too narrow to be crossed by horses but it looked like there was a ford below the bridge.
Again it looked like the stone had been cleaned up fairly recently.
For most people following the trail this would probably be the start of their walk following the Poetry path, but we still had another stone to see so we crossed the bridge and carried on along the path until me reached the large February Stone comprised of four rectanular blocks piled on top of each other across from a derelict barn.
The motif showing a farmer feeding his cattle with hay during the winter was just about legible.
We carried on along the track – it had once been the main route from Kirkby Stephen to Mallerstang apparently – passing the March, April and May stones and then the June stone which we were now able to look at properly. We then rejoined the railway track, turning right this time to head towards Hartley. It was easy walking now on the disused track of the Stainmore Railway, a single line between Barnard Castle and Tebay, opened in 1861, built to transport Durham coke to furnaces in Cumberland and iron ore back to Cleveland. It was also used to transport limestone from the quarry at Hartley.
Two of the platelayers huts on the line have been restored and contain information panels about the history of the line.
Like most tracks on former railways lines, sections passed through cuttings but there were a number of places where there were good views over to the north Pennines.
The path passes over two viaducts. The first we crossed was the Podgill Viaduct,
The views from the viaduct were impressive.
The viaduct is a listed Grade II structure built of local limestone with 11 arches, each of 30 feet span, and a maximum height of 84 feet above the valley floor (information from here). We descended down some steps to a viewing point to get a proper look. It was a good time of year to do this as the view wasn’t obscured by the leaves on the plentiful trees.
Carrying on we crossed over the Merrygill viaduct which spans the narrow Hartley Beck valley
The viaducts are owned and maintained by the Northern Viaduct Trust, a small charity, established in 1989. The trust also look after the Smardale Gill Viaducts and Drygill Bridge on a branch line passing through the disused Kirkby Stephen East statio.n as well as the Millennium Bridge we crossed earlier during our walk, and the track bed between Stenkrith and Merrygill Viaduct.
The path ended just after the Merrygill viaduct and we descended down the steep road to the small village of Hartley where we took the path leading back down to Frank’s Bridge
The village cricket field is near to the bridge and on the other side of the field is a small hill – Kirkby Hill. We decided to climb it and take in the views of the fells
Walking back to our accommodation we noticed that the La’l Nook was opened, so we popped in for a drink – a good way to end the walk.
A year ago I retired from my main job and transitioned to part time working and increased opportunities to do other thing. As it happened I’ve done rather too much of the former meaning not as much of the latter as I’d like, but I intend to adjust the balance this year. To mark the change, last year in early March we took a week’s break in Settle on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. We’d enjoyed getting away for some walking, reading and relaxing and a change of scenery, so decided to mark the anniversary (and another significant birthday) with another week away. This time we stopped in Kirkby Stephen in Westmorland (now in Cumbria) which lies just north of the Yorkshire Dales and a few miles to the south and west of the Northern Pennines. Like Settle, it only takes about an hour and a half to drive there, but it really feels like a different world.
It’s always a gamble booking a holiday in Northern England in early March, but unlike this week (which has been pretty awful) we had some decent weather. There were only two days when we didn’t really venture out (other than walking the short distance to the Co-op to pick up supplies and a short drive to Brough on one day) and we took those as a day to relax and do some reading. On Friday, the last full day before returning home, we woke up to snow several inches deep,
but then it turned into a sunny day and we enjoyed getting out for a walk in the snow covered fields. We managed a few local walks and a trip to Settle on the Settle Carlisle Railway down Mallerstang and Ribbledale. So it worked out well for us.
The small town is very remote. Wikipedia describes it well
surrounded by sparsely populated hill country, about 25 miles (40 km) from the nearest larger towns: Kendal and Penrith. The River Eden rises 6 miles (9.7 km) away in the peat bogs below Hugh Seat and passes the eastern edge of the town. At the 2001 census the parish had a population of 1,832. In 2011, it had a population of 1,522.
It has a butcher’s, bakers, independent grocers, a bookshop (limited opening hours) a medium sized Co-op supermarket and a few other shops, and, probably because it’s on the route of the Coast to Coast path it’s able to support several pubs, cafes, gift shops, two walking equipment shops and an independent hostel.
It’s in “Lady Anne Clifford country” – one of her castles, Pendragon Castle, is a few miles away in Mallestang. There’s a statue of her in front of the tourist information centre on the main street
We stopped in Oscar House, a superb property – an “upside down” converted barn close to the centre but also on the edge of the town, overlooking fields. There were views in every direction and we could see the fells including the North Pennines and Wild Boar Fell from the upstairs windows. I neglected to take photos but there are plenty on the Sykes website page for the property. Being out of season we were able to rent for a good price.
Just across the road and down a short ginnel we found our favourite little pub, the La’l Nook. It’s tiny and is only open Friday to Sunday.
We called in on Saturday night then popped in after a walk on Sunday and made a final visit on our last night. I don’t drink alcohol but beside the selection of real ales (which changes every week) they had three non-alcoholic beers. We got chatting with the landlord who it turns out was from our part of the world having grown up in Atherton and Hindley.
It always seemed busy, especially as it can only accommodate a small number of customers. There was a band of regulars, all of whom were rugby addicts (sadly, the 15 a side code) and we had a good chat with a couple of them on our last visit.
Nine tall stone structures, the Nine Standards, overlook the town from high up on Hartley Fell, one of the nearby fells. Their origin and history is disputed so no-one really knows who built them and what they were for. We could see them on the skyline from one of the widows in our property. I managed to get up close on a solo walk on a sunny Tuesday during our stay.
Most of the older, vernacular buildings are constructed from brockram, a local stone composed of fragments of limestone in a cement of red sandstone, so they have a dull grey look about them. Nevertheless they had their own charm and the stone looked good on a sunny day.
The day after my walk up High Cup we decided to go out for a drive and visit a few sites in the vicinity of Penrith. Our first stop was a few miles past Brougham Castle – Brougham Hall
This old hall, enclosed within battlements, was built in the 14th century and after years of dereliction has been restored (in fact, still being restored) by a Charitable Trust. It’s free to visit and although there isn’t as much to see as in the nearby medieval castle, it was tointeresting looking around. Some of the buildings have been converted into workshops and retail outlets for a number of small businesses and we had a mooch around the displays. There were several potters and makers of ceramics and I spotted a room of kilns, which I suspect are used communally. There’s also a cafe on the site.
Our next stop was only a few miles away; Mayburgh henge, a prehistoric site at Eamont Bridge on the edge of Penrith, right by the M6. Expecting to see a circle of stones, we were initially a little surprised when we parked up by the site not to really see anything. But when climbed up a steep slope in the middle of a field we realised that we were actually standing on the henge, which was a large oval bank, three metres high, constructed of pebbles collected from the nearby river. It surrounded a central enclosure, in the middle of which was a single standing stone, almost three metres high. (There was a flock of sheep grazing inside the enclosure – more shoe cleaning required on return to the car!).
seven others accompanied this: three more in the centre, forming a square with the fourth, and two pairs flanking the entrance.
….. (the henge) probably dates to the end of the Neolithic period or the beginning of the Bronze Age, about 4,500 years ago. The function of such large monuments is not fully understood, although it is thought that they played a role in social or ritual activities, perhaps involving trade or astronomical observations.
My photographs really can’t give a proper impression of the structure and it’s scale, so the following aerial shot is pinched from the English Heritage website. You can see how close it is to the M6 which must have been having a quiet day given how few vehicles can be seen.
There’s quite a number of prehistoric sites dotted around Cumbria – there’s another Neolithic earthwork henge close by – King Arthur’s Round Table , also under the stewardship of English Heritage. We didn’t stop to take a look properly but drove past it as we set off to drive to our next objective which was near near Little Salkeld, a village a few miles to the north east of Penrith and on the other side of the A66.
Long Meg and her Daughers is probably one of the most well known of the Prehistoric sites in this part of Northern England. It’s a very impressive oval stone “circle” The monument is 109metres by 93 metres made up a large number of glacial erratic boulders, some standing and some lying prone on the ground. It’s said that you can never count the same number of stones in the circle twice – and if anyone is able to count them all twice and arrive at the same number the spell could be broken and bad luck would ensure! (There’s actually 59 and would have been more in the past)
Long Meg is the tallest stone, about 3.5 metres high, that stands apart from her “daughters” outside the circle, to the southwest. Made of sandstone, a different rock than the stones in the circle which are rhyolite.
There are carvings on the surface of Long Meg
It’s hard to say whether they were carved by the creators of the monument or by later visitors (the carvings on our “local prehistoric monument – Pike Stones on Anglezarke moor are fairly recent).
Local legend has it that Long Meg was a witch named “Meg of Meldon,” who, along with her daughters, was turned to stone for profaning the Sabbath as they danced wildly on the moor. Alternatively they were coven of witches who were turned to stone by a wizard from Scotland named Michael Scot. Take your pick! But the large Meg stone certainly had the profile of a haggard witch from some angles
Again, it’s difficult to gain a proper appreciation from my photos so here’s an aeriel shot pinched from Wikipedia
Until recently visitors had to park up on the roadside, which must have been rather chaotic especially given how narrow the nearby roads are. However, there’s now a decent sizedcar park just a short walk away from the site.
The second full day of our holiday we decided to visit Acorn Bank, a property owned by the National Trust, near the village of Temple Sowerby, just a few miles up the A66 from Appleby. It’s main attractions are the woodlands, gardens and the restored mill rather than the house itself, where only a few ground floor rooms are open – including one used for a second hand bookshop.
It was a decent day, so after parking, we booted up and set out for a pleasant walk through the woods towards the water mill, which was restored by a group of National Trust volunteers. There’s been a mill on the site since at least 1744, initially used for grinding oats and later for producing wheat flour and as a power source for nearby gypsum mines. At one time there were three individual water wheels running in series on the mill race.
Following the Covid pandemic the Acorn Bank Watermill Trust was set up by the mill volunteers to continue to maintain and run the mill and keep it open for visitors to Acorn Bank. It’s open to visit on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays, so we were able to see it in operation, grinding wheat to produce flour. Bags of flour were available to purchase so we bought one to take home as a present for our daughter who enjoys baking.
The mill wheel is a pitchback wheel, an adaptation of the overshot type – the water falls on to the back of the top of the wheel at a position of about 11 o’clock.
We carried on through the woods, following the path beside the river, and made our up towards the house.
Acorn Bank has a long history that dates back to the 13th century. The first owners were the Knights Templar in 1228, from whom the nearby village of Temple Sowerby got its name.
Parts of the house date from the 16th century, but the main block was rebuilt in the mid-17th century. The whole house was then given a new façade in the 1690s, with Georgian sash windows added in the 1740s.
Only a few rooms on the ground floor are accessible, and one of them is used for the second hand bookshop.
In the former drawing room there was a display of over a hundred varieties of apple from the site’s orchards.
The website tells us
There are 175 varieties of apple here, including rare, local varieties such as the ‘Lady’s Finger of Lancaster’, ‘Keswick Codlin’ and ‘Forty Shilling’.
Outside in the courtyards there were baskets of apples where you could fill a large paper bag for £2. We took advantage of this, of course! We hadn’t heard of most of the types of apple on display, never mind tasted them – supermarkets have such a limited range, these days – but staff were also running an apple tasting of some of the unusual varieties. But there was one of the varieties J had heard off. She is a fan of the author, Tracey Chevalier, and has read her book At the edge of the orchard, which features the Pitmaston Pineapple. She was made up when it was included in the tasting (it really does have a pineapple like taste) and pick some up from the table for our £2 bag!
Before that, though, we’d had a look around the gardens – both ornamental and kitchen
and the extensive herb garden
They even had an apiary
We also went for a walk through the woods where we came across the remains of a former drift mine.
The Boazman family, who owned the house in the 19th Century, started to mine gypsum – calcium sulfate dihydrate, a mineral which is the main constituent in many forms of plaster – on the estate during the 1880s. Extraction continued until the late1930’s when it closed as a small scale operation couldn’t compete with larger mines overseas.
At the ends of the woods there were good views on a clear day towards the Pennine Hills, including Cross Fell (the largest English hill outside the Lake District)
and Great Dunn Fell, topped with its distinctive “golf ball”, part of an air traffic control radar station.
We returned to the hall and enjoyed a rather nice coffee in the courtyard before filling our bag of apples and returning to the car.
A couple of weeks ago we travelled over to Appleby for an autumn break in a rather nice, cosy cottage. It’s a good time of the year – quiet (it was the week before half term) and although the weather was mixed, with some rainy days, we had an enjoyable stay in a small town in the Eden Valley that we’d never visited before.
Appleby was the former county town of the former county of Westmorland, was absorbed into the newly created county of Cumbria as part of local government re-organistaion in 1974, when it officially renamed as Appleby-in-Westmorland. It’s probably best known for the annual Horse Fair in June, when many hundreds of members of the Gypsy and Traveller community from across the country descend on the small town to trade horses, show off and generally have a good time. For the rest of the year, being a little off the beaten track (although only a short drive from the eastern Lake District – we could just about see Blencathra peeping over the houses from one of the windows of our cottage) it’s much quieter, with a population of only around 2,500, although nowhere near as busy as the Lake District, it does attract some tourists and visitors wanting to take advantage of it’s location in pleasant countryside close to the high Pennine hills and only a short drive to the eastern lakes.
Originally an Anglo Saxon (and later Norse) settlement, the “new town” was built in the loop in the river Eden by the Normans, in conjunction with the castle, later home to Lady Anne Clifford during the 17th century. The castle, with the restored Norman Keep, is now a hotel. The grounds can be visited for a fee but were not open during our stay, which was a pity as I’d have liked to explore them and also get a look at the Keep which wasn’t really visible otherwise from the road.
We were staying at the top of the main street, Boroughgate, just opposite the entrance to the castle grounds. It’s a broad, tree lined, thoroughfare with attractive old houses, many built of the local red sandstone on both sides, with the old parish church at the bottom of the hill near the river.
There were a small number of shops which included two independent butchers selling top quality produce, a bakers and a greengrocers as well as a couple of pubs. Here’s a few pictures of the street
Further upstream, past the castle, there’s a footbridge over the river to Bongate which was the location of the original settlement
On arrival we had a stroll along the river and then bought a few supplies from the butcher, the baker and grocer (not the candlestick maker) and then settled into our cottage for a relaxing evening, making plans for what we might get up to during the week – more posts to follow!