Pre-amble: Kirkby Lonsdale – Sedbergh

Day Three: The Lune Valley is narrowing and the routes using it are consequently more confined. For much of the day the journey uses an old ‘High Road’ paralleling the present A683. Part, near the start of the route, is based on the Roman road. On the western side of the Lune Valley is another minor road leaving Kirkby to the north and called on the OS map ‘the Old Scotch Road’

Routes: the way to the north in Roman times is being followed. Another route existed slightly west, through Kendal. These two ‘arteries’ join further north. The Gough map (probably of mid C14th and the first detailed map of Britain) shows a route approximate to the present A65 coming to ‘kirkebie lonesdale’ and following the Lune to the north.

The map can be viewed in stunning detail via an interactive site: (it helps to have a slight knowledge of major mediaeval towns and a sense of major rivers).

Also see:

Our Age, being thoroughly ‘romanticised’ and possessed of many material means for enabling ease of travel, can have almost no real understanding of the effect of the hills surrounding the river Lune until modern times.

‘Indeed they[the hills] were, in my thoughts, monstrous high;…Nor were these hills high and formidable only, but they had a kind of unhospitable terror in them. Here were no rich pleasant valleys between them, as among the Alps;no lead mines or veins of rich oar, as in the Peak; no coal pits as in the hillabout Halifax, much less gold, as in the Andes, but all barren and wild, of use or advantage either to man or beast… here we entered Westmoreland, a country eminent only for being the wildest, most barren and frightful of any that I have passed in England, or even in Wales itself… yet here are some very pleasant, populous and manufacturing towns, and consequently populous.

Such as Kirby Launsdale, or Lunedale, because it stands on the river Lune… and leaves the hills of Mallerstang Forest, which are in many places, unpassable… When we entered the south part of this county, I began indeed to think of Merionethshire… seeing nothing around me, in many places, but unpassable hills, whose tops, covered with snow, seemed to tell us all the pleasant part of England was at an end.’

(Daniel Defoe ‘A Tour through the  Whole Island of Great Britain’)

The sense of helplessness when faced by many aspects of the natural environment produced a whole range of mental and psychic structures – producing attitudes that now seem ‘quaint’ and ‘folksy’. Now, in our mechanised times, it is possible to use walking as a means of re-creation – not so in Defoe’s time when it was an essential. One of the underlying purposes of a pilgrimage such as this is to partially restore (it can only be ‘very partial’ – a mere ‘hint’) the sense of walking as a means of transportation. A journey in which the legs, the whole body, is the vehicle – rather than a sort of receptacle which ’receives’ inputs – one of which is ‘exercise’.

There are only two significant settlements for this part of the journey:

Casterton and Barbon.

Casterton – more Jane Eyre. The present private school is descendant of the one at which the Brontes suffered, founded by the same school master Rev William Carus Wilson. Pevsner provides considerable detail on the highly decorated Pre-Raphaelite influenced church interior noting ‘Clarke’s paintings are more pastelly than Holiday’s, and bear a fatal resemblance to Sunday School prizes of the period.’ (Cumbria: Casterton)

Hodge Bridge, a grade 2 listed (C18th?) bridge, on the A683 crosses Barbon Beck at the same point as which the Roman road did previously.

Along with the various old roads in the valley is the line of one old railway. It was to have been significant – and maybe if careful planning had applied in the days of railway building it would be now. The line, from Clapham Junction (W. Yorks!) to Low Gill was intended as part of a Yorkshire Scotland link but various rivalries, obstructions and strategic purchasing resulted in the main line being constructed (at great expense) over the high fells – and becoming the famous Settle and Carlisle line. The Lune Valley route would have proved a much more useful (and swifter) route but it had become part of a rival company from the main line to Settle – and was thus ignored. The impact of the initial C19thrivalry continued beyond the merging of those companies and into the era of British Railways. The line, despite its potential and being of easier gradient, length, maintenance etc  was simply allowed to fade away (only 3 trains per day each way in the late 1940s) and eventually closed – even before the famous Beeching ‘axe’.

Shortly before Sedbergh (the day’s destination) the valley widens at the confluence of the Lune and the River Rawthey (from Old Norse – ?’the river of the red one’ (trout?). The route follows the Rawthey upstream to Sedbergh (ON; ‘flat topped hill’).

The boundary complexities of this area re-emerge as the area to the north of the Rawthey and east of the Lune for some distance north was until 1974 when it was transferred to the new county of Cumbria, in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The area remains in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Anglican Diocese of Bradford. All very confusing.

Across the river from the route lies Brigflatts.

‘And ye Lord opened to me at that place: & let me see a great people in white raiment by a rivers syde comeinge to ye Lorde; and ye place was neere (John Blayklinges where Rich: Robinson lived).

It was near here on what is now known as Fox’s Pulpit overlooking the valley of the Lune, that George Fox preached to around a thousand people. This event is regarded as being the start of the Religious Society of Friends, June 1652.

More at:

Mee (‘Yorkshire West Riding’), rather than engaging more deeply with the Quakers and all that they represent, prefers to write at length about the heroic sons of Sedbergh private school.

He focuses on a past pupil and budding poet who died on the same day as Rupert Brooke

‘The River Bathe

When the messenger sunbeam over your bed

Silently creeps in the morn;

And the dew-drops glitter on flower and tree,

Like the tears of hope new-born;

When the clouds race by in the painted sky

And the wind has a merry tune;

Ah! Then for the joy of an early dip

In the glorious pools of Lune!’

This early verse from Sedbergh days developed somewhat at Oxford where he became a Newdigate Prize winner

‘England lost two poets..this poet soldier of 21 who fell valiantly holding his trench at Ypres…. Equally distinguished as by a natural right; he is of that incalculable heritage to which every English child is born.’

Dear Arthur Mee – caught in the time called by some ‘the Morbid Age’. Remembering the recent horror, a living thing, thus referring in one place to a ‘peace’ monument and lauding in another supposed values that he patriotically & unquestioningly promotes whilst elsewhere (as I recall) reflecting awareness of the new turbulence that was approaching.

Can we ever gain sufficient insight to both catch hold of the necessary lessons of recent history and learn sufficiently to avoid cataclysms? Maybe it happens all the time – but is never known because the cataclysm is avoided.

What Mee was not positioned to see is that the author, Robert Sterling, was one of those fascinated by the shape and tone of older wordsmiths – part of a particular development at his time. His engagement with Anglo-Saxon forms puts him amongst others whom he may never have known – but were near contemporaries at Oxford…in particular J.R.R. Tolkien. They survived. Sterling’s story is another pointed reminder of the horror…. Not because he died on the same day as Rupert Brooke but because of what was lost from the emerging generation.

It can and does, hurt still.


Little stone build town, more Cumbrian than Yorkshire in character, very attractively situated at the foot of the Howgill Fells’ (Pevsner, Yorkshire West Riding). Despite the change, the books maintain their old boundaries.

19th April

Kirkby Lonsdale Dep .8.30

Devil’s Bridge, Laitha lane 620785, lanes High Casterton, Casterton, 627800, 625810, Barton (6+kms) Lanes ‘High Road’ 626850, ftpth 625880, Jordan lane (Roman Rd) 634900, (15 kms), Abbot Home bridge 648908, ftpths Birks,

Sedbergh (19kms)

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