A Short Walk from Appleby

Appleby was just Appleby before they fiddled with the county boundaries and abolished the old county of Westmorland. The aggrieved townsfolk in a spirit of rebellion promptly renamed the place Appleby-in-Westmorland. Well done! And please can we have our old county names back

Appleby Castle

As the “by” on the end of the name implies, Appleby began its existence as a viking settlement – there was probably just a small Roman post there before on a temporary basis. Mind you, we use the word viking a bit too freely.

Friendly Calves

Going Viking (pirating etc and all the things you expect) was an activity rather than a racial description. Danes, the Norse etc, went viking. “beware the wrath of the Northmen” as the old chroniclers had it. North-women too, modern historians believe. They all went viking, in the same way these days we go tourist, whatever their nationalities. But when they settled in Westmorland’s Eden Valley they became farmers and brought some good Norse words with them. On this walk we wandered through a landscape they were familiar with.

Across the Fields – notice how this grand farmer has left a splendid headland path

Interestingly, Appleby is NOT in the Domesday Book. The reason being that it was actually part of Scotland at the time. The Scots have come down and besieged Appleby Castle more than once.

Colby Beck

There’s a path from the town leading up the Banks, overlooking the River Eden, surfaced at first, but then becoming a wilder path as it leaves the houses behind and heads across fields to Dowpits Wood. We passed through a herd of curious young calves who kept up company as we crossed their field and over a stile.


As you wander the next fields, over Thistley Hill to Limekiln Hill. There are some wonderful views across to the North Pennines in one direct and towards the Lakeland Fells and Blencathra in the other direction. Our journey was enlivened by the cries of curlews. Later we put up a brace of partridges. A good farm for wildlife.

Nether Hoff

We didn’t this time turn down past the farmhouse of Colby Laithes, though it’s worth doing for a glimpse of the massive stepping stones crossing the Eden. Instead, we followed the farm track into the hamlet of Colby – note the viking “by” again. On the way we crossed what is there called the Colby Beck, though further upstream it bears the name Hoff Beck. Hoff is a good old Norse word, meaning a hall or possibly a farm.

Hoff Beck

We walked down the long lane running through Colby, a very pleasant and quiet hamlet, turning past the huge farmhouse of Nether Hoff, the present house dating from 1685. Cresting the hill, we came down to the valley of the Hoff Beck, which we crossed at Bandley Bridge – there’s been a crossing point here for a long time, though the footbridge there now is last century and due to be replaced. But a bridge was recorded here for the first time as Bangelmibrigg in 1292. But that was the first recorded mention. It’s likely there was a crossing point here in viking times.

Bandley Bridge

On the far side of the Hoff Beck is Rachel’s Wood. Often we walk up through this relatively new plantation, but today we crossed through the wall and took the footpath down through Parkinhill and out on to Coby Lane. You can turn right here and get a closer look at Appleby Castle, once a home of the incredible Lady Anne Clifford.

Coming into Appleby

Appleby is on three long-distance trails: Lady Anne’s Way, Wainwright’s Pennine Journey and the Dales High Way.

Appleby Horse Fair will be held this year on June 9-12. Bear in mind the town will be busy that weekend. Best to come by bus or train. If you want a car parking space arrive early!

Bluebells from Sedbergh

A few years ago, when we were walking the Quaker Trail from Sedbergh, we came across a little wood that was clearly going to be grand for bluebells. We were there at the wrong time of the year, but always promised ourselves that we’d come back to see the bluebells. So the other day we did.

The first part of our walk was a reprise of the Quaker Trail (you can get a leaflet from the Sedbergh Tourist Information Centre, or online). Down through Sedbergh School to the pretty hamlet of Birks, then along field paths to the hamlet of Brigflatts.

The Quaker meeting house at Brigflatts dates back to 1675 and is situated in a most peaceful garden. It features is a lovely poem by the modernist poet Basil Bunting, who is buried in the nearby Quaker burial ground.

Quaker Meeting House at Brigflatts

It is still in use for Quaker meetings on Sunday mornings. The area around the Howgills has a strong Quaker tradition. George Fox, the founder of Quakerism held a packed meeting not far away on the slopes of Master Knott, using the rocks now known as Fox’s Pulpit – see the Quaker Trail information if you want to extend this walk to get there.

Mounting Block at Brigflatts

Brigflatts is certainly a place where you can sit quietly and contemplate.

Up to the road then, to Ingmire Back Lane, one of the most picturesque paths in the district, especially last week with bluebells and fresh green leaves on the beeches. Here there are two paths, The public Back Lane and the private way to Ingmire Hall. The private way looking almost as delightful as the right of way.

We then faced a stretch of road walking to St Gregory’s Church in the valley of the River Lune. What you see today is mostly from the 1860s, and was used for scripture readings for the navvies who were building the Ingleton Branch railway line. It is redundant now and maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust. The glorious stained glass windows show local scenes of nature.

Ingmire Back Lane
Private Path to Ingmire

But what a pity that you have to walk along the road to get there, without making a lengthy rights of way detour right around the policies of Ingmire Hall. Could not the landowner create a footpath inside their boundary from the top of Ingmire Back Lane? There isn’t continuous traffic, but it is bendy and narrow for pedestrians and vehicles.

On then to Lincoln’s Inn Bridge, which dates to the 17th century, crossing the River Lune at a place which was once the boundary between Westmorland and Yorkshire. The nearby building was once an inn but is now a farm. Cross the bridge carefully, avoiding cars – it’s very narrow.

St Gregory’s Church

Just past the old inn a footpath heads steeply uphill through the fields and over a rise, crossing another minor road. A further path leads up to Hawkrigg Wood – and this is where we found our bluebells.And glorious they were, the camera lens doesn’t do them justice. A very narrow path leads up through the wood – please do stick to it and don’t trample the bluebells. Every bit as good as we anticipated.

We returned the same way, past Lincoln’s Inn Bridge and St Gregory’s, just into Slacks Lane, taking the footpath up through Underwinder and then down Howgill Lane back into Sedbergh. A quiet lane, well worth walking because of the wonderful view you get across the district.

And there was a bonus in the second-hand bookshop at the tourist information centre. We found two lovely walking guides (to the Peak District and South-East England) dating from the 1930s at bargain prices. I collect walking and trespassing memorabilia and these were very welcome and readable additions to my collection.

The bookshops of Sedbergh are well worth a browse.