A few weeks ago, I blogged about the importance of walking paths which come to a sudden halt, suggesting that there is always something to see along the way. There is no such thing as a path that goes nowhere. All paths go somewhere, even if you have to come back the way you went.
But there are other paths, paths that definitely go to a destination, along which you can walk and eventually connect to other paths and make a circular destination.
At first glance, the bridleway running south of Appleby in Westmorland towards the little village of Ormside ends abruptly just short of that place. There is no bridge over the River Eden. You can continue, but you need to wade the river – a deterrent to a lot of walkers, though horse riders might fare better.
But walk it we did, in beautiful May weather. And I’m pleased we did, for it led to a fascinating conversation with a local farmer (and I should state here that all of the farmers we meet in the Eden Valley seem particularly friendly to walkers).
We set off for this morning walk of but a few miles from Appleby, once the county town of Westmorland, though it’s hardly bigger that a village. We crossed the footbridge at Jubilee Ford (where not so long ago we saw an otter) and then took a footpath past Well Bank Wood, a private nature reserve.
Then out on to the bridleway mentioned above, which crosses the Settle to Carlisle railway line and then steers a straight route towards the Eden and Ormside. A very pleasant path too, the hedges lined with Hawthorn in full blossom, contented cows grazing in green meadows. Considering this stretch of countryside is so near the busy A66, it is remarkably peaceful.
In very little time, we reached the River Eden. There is no obvious crossing point to complete the few yards of the journey into Ormside, nor much sign that there ever was.
It was while we were admiring the river scenery with its abundant bird life that we met the farmer inspecting his fields, riding in a conveyance that was half carriage and part tractor,
We asked him if there had ever been a bridge?
He said not in his memory, and he had first come to this farm eighty-six years ago. He could never remember a bridge, though there used to be stepping stones nearby a while ago – these long lost to the flooding Eden.
He’d heard a tale that, in Victorian times, a man had begun a local collection to fund a bridge, but that the rascal had decamped taking the collection with him!
The farmer told us that he tended the fields daily, recently accompanied on his rounds by a friendly cock pheasant. He’d gone to school at the primary in Appleby which is now an ironmongers and agricultural machinery store.
He remembered the New Fair, to which the Gypsies come to Appleby each June, in the old days when it was centred more on the Rising Sun Inn on the lane to Dufton, rather than on the Fair Hill where it mostly takes place today.
Our farmer could well remember when the present Fair Hill was still better and notoriously known as Gallows Hill, the place of public execution for those convicted of a host of crimes at the Appleby Assizes. He’d heard older folk speak about the last public execution there.
We didn’t cross the river, but walked back the way we had come, taking with us a few of his many memories of the Eden Valley.