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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!