This is my latest route from Mark Sutcliffe’s guide to walks in the Red Rose county, although this one starts in Cumbria. Kirkby Lonsdale is a bustling market town in south Cumbria, My journey here had been slowed by several convoys of horse-drawn travellers probably heading to Appleby Horse Fair to be held next month. I park near the Devil’s Bridge where I know the parking is free, his suggestion of central parking is probably unwise.
The medieval Devil’s Bridge has three graceful, ribbed arches and is closed to traffic. I was in no hurry and in fact on arrival cross the bridge on foot to buy a coffee from the mobile stall, a favourite with motor cyclists, when at weekends up to a hundred may congregate here. It has also been the scene of youngsters ‘tombstoning’ into the river below, not to be advised. Chatting to a cyclist, of the bicycle genre, it transpires he has ridden from Preston in a time not that much more than double my car journey. The bridge has a legend relating to the devil, I liked this version…(ignore the plugs towards the end)
So it’s getting late when I start my walk downstream alongside the Lune. For two miles along this stretch all is peace and quiet, only a few dog walkers. The air is however full of rapidly flying Sand Martins, I’m almost mesmerised by their acrobatics. I suspect that this year’s juveniles are boosting the numbers. On the opposite side is a long low sandbank with obvious nesting holes visible. Ahead in the distance are the Bowland Hills, just visible in the rather cloudy sky. Behind are the Barbondale group of lower fells and there across to the east is the distinctive Ingleborough. Once he has attracted your attention you are hooked and spend the rest of the day taking more and more duplicate photographs. I make an effort today to avoid that trap, unsuccessful as you will see later.
Before long I’m heading away from the river on a flooded track up into the village of Whittington. Mark’s route takes a path parallel to the village road, but I am curious to see the old houses so take a slight diversion up the main street. I’m glad I did as there are some interesting properties many from the C17th, most of them listed.
The grand Whittingham Hall from 1831 is hidden down a private drive.
Eventually up the hill I reach the parish church of St. Michael with its early C16th tower. The rest having been largely rebuilt in 1875 by Paley and Austin, well known for their church architecture in Lancashire. Internally there is an elaborately carved chancel screen. The church is built on the motte of an earlier castle, where I sat in the sunshine enjoying a sandwich, The path I should have approached the church by was clear to see ahead of me. Whilst admiring the view I witnessed something I’d never seen before – an angry blackbird was chasing at low level a squirrel across the field. Presumably the squirrel had been attacking the bird’s nest.
Rest over I tackled the very steep lane heading north, it appeared to be a ‘green’ lane but was in fact a highway though I doubt few motorists would tackle it from the bottom. All was in fact very green and shady.
Once at the top I took diverted paths around Sellet Hall with views across to Barbondale and of course Ingleborough.
Down a meadow full of contented cows to Sellet Mill, a former water powered corn mill where the iron mill wheel has been preserved.
The continuing bridleway back up the hill was rather strange, behind the mill was the original millpond (now a leisure pond) and coming down into it a rocky stream. The bridle way took me straight up this stream, in parts the old cobbles were visible, but most will have been washed away. After heavy rain this way would be impossible.
At the top I came out into meadows above Kirkby Lonsdale with excellent views over the valleys and to, yes you’ve guessed it, Ingleborough. Again strangely the RofW went straight across the middle of a rugby pitch, what are your rights when there is game on?
Then it was through the middle of the Queen Elizabeth high school, I felt I was trespassing.
I found Kirkby over touristy. There are lots of interesting buildings and alleyways, but the town suffers from a traffic problem with cars everywhere, even though my photos seem to show an absence of them!. I was glad I’d parked out of town – be warned. The flags are out for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee later this week, in case you are from another planet.
I made my way towards St. Mary’s Church. The oldest parts of the church are Norman, doors and pillars, but the structure has had numerous alterations over the centuries. Inside there are three Isles and the nave, so the church appears grand. Some of the Norman pillars have incised decoration similar to Durham Cathedral. I missed a ‘green man’ carved on one of the C12th columns. There is a C13th piscina in another.
The graveyard is extensive with some impressive memorials and at one corner is an unusual octagonal stone gazebo from the late 18th century which was formerly in the vicarage garden.
I’d come over here to visit Ruskin’s View, a celebrated view of the Lune as it curves gracefully in the wide valley with the hills beyond. Turner had painted this scene in 1822 and Ruskin, art critic, painter and poet had this to say about it – “I do not know in all my country, still less in France or Italy, a place more naturally divine.” Kirkby Lonsdale’s tourist jewel was set forever. Unfortunately there has been a land slip below the path which has therefore been closed for safety reasons. There was no way round it, so I give you this picture from the tourist board.
Disappointed I descended the steep Radical Steps to the river. The steps were built in 1820 for Dr Francis Pearson, a political radical, to divert the existing public footpath from his garden – a radical step. A level walk along the riverside, popular with locals and tourists, lead back to the Devil’s Bridge.
In its six miles an excellent walk, one of the best I have done from the book so far