The Hoff Beck Walk

I was pleased to see that the Eden Rivers Trust has created a formal walk – the Hoff Beck Walk – along the lovely little river of that name close to Appleby in Westmorland. The new trail follows the Hoff Beck from Colby to the picturesque Rutter Falls, passing through peaceful and uncrowded countryside.

Rutter Falls (C) John Bainbridge 2019

I’ve walked the Hoff Beck many times over the years, starting from Appleby. It really is a grand stretch of river and you rarely see any other walkers. While I’ve walked the length of the new trail, I usually complete a circuit via the village of Ormside, returning along the River Eden.

The Eden Rivers Trust has placed informative noticeboards at several points along the walk, giving details of local history and riparian wildlife – the Hoff Beck is particularly good if you want to watch herons. I saw a kingfisher once near Bandley Bridge, and there are otters too – though you have to be lucky to see one. If you want a better chance do the walk just after dawn or in the late evening.

The other day, we walked out from Appleby, taking the attractive bridleway through Rachel’s Wood to Bandley Bridge. You can stroll downstream to Colby and back from here if you wish to. Although the footbridge at Bandley is relatively modern, the crossing place is ancient. The first record of a crossing here dates back to 1292, where it is described at Bangelmibrigg.

The crossing here probably dates back a long time before that, to the time when the Vikings settled around Appleby, giving the name to this river, Hoff and Beck are both Norse words in origin.

Following the Hoff Beck upstream, we descended to Cuddling Hole. Now I’ve always puzzled as to the origins of that name, my mind going off in various lascivious directions. I’ve been wrong in those assumptions and I should have known better, for I was well acquainted with a very similar word.

hoff beck
The Hoff Beck (c) John Bainbridge 2019

Cuddling is a local expression for tickling trout, a way of catching them by hand. I really should have guessed, for guddling is a well-known expression in the Lake District (Arthur Ransome used it in his novel The Picts and the Martyrs – a terrific read which I recommend to you). Interestingly, the word used to be current on Dartmoor, very familiar with an old poacher I used to know there. Arthur Ransome used to fish in the nearby Eden – perhaps he tried the Hoff Beck as well?

A walk across the fields brought us to the hamlet of Hoff, where there’s a pub if you need refreshment. Some lovely ancient barns here. A place lost in time. The next few fields below Low Rutter farm can be muddy after wet weather, but on the frosty day we walked it they were fine.

I’ve done this walk in pelting rain, snow and in last summer’s heatwave and it offers something new each time. In last summer’s drought, the waterfall of Rutter Force had dried up altogether. Now the water was back, making the picturesque falls a delight to see. The building next to the force started out as a corn mill and was latterly a bobbin mill. With its footbridge and ford it must be another ancient crossing place, though I miss the tea shop that used to be there. It marks the official end of the Hoff Beck River Walk.

We walked up to the lane and crossed the fields to the house marked on the map as Porch Cottage, though now called the Donkey’s Nest. From there a quiet lane took us down under the Settle to Carlisle railway line to the peaceful village of Great Ormside.

The church here, standing next to a farmhouse with a Pele Tower, is one of England’s gems, built on a defensive mound that was used by both Saxons and Vikings. I’ve written in praise of it in my walking book Wayfarer’s Dole. As with many Christian buildings it began its existence as a Pagan site, used as a burial ground by the Vikings. Much of what you see today dates to the late 11th-century.

In 1823, the Ormside Bowl, Anglo-Saxon in origin and dating to the 7th or 8th century was found in the churchyard. It’s now in York Museum. In 1898 the body of a Viking warrior, complete with sword, was unearthed in the churchyard. You can see his sword at the Tullie House Museum in Carlisle.

ormside church
Great Ormside Church (c) John Bainbridge 2019

Sadly, cracks have appeared in the church tower and expensive repairs are needed. If you can send a donation to help please do.

The parishioners are certainly rallying round with fundraising measures. We bought a delicious jar of home-made marmalade, which was on sale in the church. So if you do visit take some spare cash to support this worthy cause!

Leaving the village, we went under the Settle-Carlisle railway once again, to follow the River Eden back to Appleby. This path starts in woodland high above the river, before descending to its banks, giving more chances to see wildlife. A peaceful stretch of river, now part of the Lady Anne’s Way trail – which follows in the steps of Lady Anne Clifford, the well-known diarist of the 17th century.

After the woodland ends, the path follows the river through water meadows, emerging at Jubilee Ford at Appleby – a popular crossing place for Gypsies during the Appleby Horse Fair week in June.

A grand walk of about eight miles – and it is good that the Eden Rivers Trust has delineated some of it as the Hoff Beck Walk – a Westmorland river that deserves to be better known.

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Author: John Bainbridge

Rambler, hillwalker, stravaiger and trespasser, access campaigner. Novelist writing historical and period crime fiction.

21 thoughts on “The Hoff Beck Walk”

  1. Another fascinating walk up ‘your way’.
    I think I’ve done similar on the underated ‘Dales High Way’
    We used to climb in a field on the east bank near Hoff village, a wondeful little crag of conglomerate sandstone in a limestone matrix . Simply called The Hoff, near Burrells.
    Bad behaviour had the farmer ban access, a few prejudicing the rest of us. A familiar story.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The villagers need regular cake stalls – many churches where I used to live, and also where I’ve moved to, do fund-raising cakes on Sunday afternoons – always popular. I’ll always buy home-made cakes!

    Lovely looking waterfall.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I LOVED reading your post. I felt as though I were there in person. Thank you very much. What a wonderful writer you are! I am studying a correspondence course involving England’s history (and other locations as well) and I don’t remember reading about this particular church, but I am forwarding it to Sue Vincent, my correspondent at The Silent Eye – Mystery School. If they have not been there in the writings (and I have not yet read all of them), they must go. Wonderful place!!!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Anne. Yes, it is wonderful to be able to see such ancient places. A great inspiration for those of us who write. Good luck with your course, John

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Thank you kindly, John. I have felt that I missed so much in my schooling. I can virtually remember nothing of what I learned about history of the world and the geography in school. It was taught as if it were just about dates and names of places, but with no context for any of that, it was like having a bunch of eggs, and no basket to put them into. I so appreciate you. My life at this stage is one of hunger to learn everything I can while I am still here, and to not just learn it, but to use it in a meaningful way in my life.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. What an inviting post! Next time I am up in your neck of the woods, I shall follow in your footsteps and enjoy the same walk. My photographs won’t be a patch on yours though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s been really good light for pictures, and I find doing black and white is better at this time of year, when there’s not much colour in the landscape. I really just point and shoot and hope for the best.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well you point and shoot very well! I agree that black and white can be better at this time of year. Also the detail is better, and somehow – perhaps because of the absence of colour – the subject and light are more of a focus. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

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