Tag Archive | #mondaywalk

What the Devil’s Going On?

Exploring England #31

Imagine you’re driving from Kendal to York, and just past Kirkby Lonsdale you come to a car park on the side of the road . It’s full of cars, buses and motorbikes but there’s nothing to indicate why everyone has stopped. What would you do? Continue on, all the while wondering what the attraction was, or turn off to find out?

It wasn’t difficult for curiosity to get the better of us – of course we stopped to investigate. From the road there was nothing to see but a food and coffee van strategically placed nearby. Plenty of people were taking advantage of the treats on offer, but there had to something more, so we continued on until we came to a bridge over the River Lune. We soon discovered it wasn’t just an ordinary bridge – it was a scheduled ancient monument dating from medieval times.

Known as The Devil’s Bridge, the triple arched stone bridge is the finest of its kind in Northern England. It was probably built in the 14th century, but records of its construction were lost in York during the English Civil War. The bridge was in use until 1932 when, a little further upstream, Stanley Bridge was constructed to cope with increasing traffic demands.

How did the bridge get its devilish name? According to local legend, the Devil offered to build a bridge over the river in one night, and in return he demanded the soul of the first being to cross in the morning. He was outsmarted when a woman threw some bread which her dog chased onto the bridge.

We imagined the Devil may have been very annoyed by this trickery, but thankfully there was no sign of him when we crossed the bridge. On the opposite bank of the river, both The Devil’s Bridge and Stanley Bridge were beautifully reflected in the river.

At the western end of the bridge we found an intriguing sign.

Again curiosity took over –  what were Radical Steps? We thought perhaps a curving spiral staircase or a twisting set of ornamented treads leading to a mysterious destination! We set off along the shaded path beside the River Lune to find out.

When we came to the steps, they weren’t radical at all. Steep, worn and covered in moss, 86 steps went up the hillside in an orderly fashion. It was only when we got to the top that we discovered the origin of the name. Built in 1819 by Francis Pearson, the steps were christened “Radical” because of his strong political beliefs.

At the top of the steps we found a tiny cottage, just big enough for one.

Nearby on Church Brow was Ruskin’s View, a lookout high above the Lune Valley. A painting completed in 1822 by the artist JMW Turner later inspired the poet John Ruskin to describe the scene as ‘one of the loveliest in England, therefore in the world’. As we stood admiring the view of the valley and mountains beyond, it was hard to disagree.

A cheeky robin posing on the fence seemed to enjoy the view too.

From the lookout, the path continued past the Norman Church of St Mary the Virgin and its graveyard dotted with timeworn headstones to the old market square, complete with an ancient market cross. In medieval times, this was the site of the swine market.

Instead of taking the main road into town, we followed a footpath lined on either side with high stone walls and prickly hedges. It took us past beautiful old homes and green fields back to Bridge Brow and The Devil’s Bridge.

After a walk full of exploration and discovery, we were grateful to see the van still open – now it was coffee time!

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Searching for Romans

Exploring England #27

We knew there were Roman ruins at Ambleside – they were clearly marked on the map. There was just one problem. We couldn’t find them!

Driving north on the A591 we passed by the spot where we thought they should be but we didn’t see any signs. We doubled back and looked again, but there was no indication of their whereabouts from the road.

We spied a small tourist information centre, so we parked the car and went in to seek help. A friendly man said there definitely was a Roman fort and pointed vaguely towards Borrans Park. We set off on foot in the direction he’d indicated, walking through spacious parkland at the northern end of Lake Windermere.

We came to a rocky outcrop which looked a little like a wall – could this be the remains of the fort? It didn’t look quite right, but we climbed up and over and took some photographs just in case.

From the top of the rock we could see small groups of people in a field at the far end of the park, eyes down and looking very intent. Perhaps we hadn’t gone far enough. We continued on, until an information board confirmed our suspicions. This time we had found the ruins.

The foundations are all that is left of the stone fort constructed here at the start of the 2nd century AD. We wandered around each part of the fort, joining a herd of contented cows who seemed oblivious to the curious visitors in their field.

In one corner of the field was the start of a public footpath – a country walk beckoned and we couldn’t resist. We said goodbye to the the cows and headed off on a raised boardwalk over marshy land on the bank of the River Rothay.

The lush greenery of the woods was mirrored in the calm, shallow water of the river, and we stopped several times to enjoy the beautiful reflections. At the junction with the River Brathay the water was so clear we could see dozens of tiny fish swimming downstream.

Leaving the river behind, we passed through a turnstile and crossed another field before joining the footpath on busy Borrans Road.

As we walked back to our starting point in the park we checked once more for a sign to the fort. Had we missed it on our drive?

No, there weren’t any signs. Lucky we found the information centre or the Romans would still be undiscovered!

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Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Reflecting

Unrivalled Views

Exploring England #25

At the top of the hill where the busy A591 enters the Lake District village of Windermere, a small sign publicises a walking track – a footpath leading to views of the surrounding area. Set back from the road against an old stone wall, it’s easily missed. We were lucky to see it, and even luckier that we returned after our cruise on the lake to investigate.

A “20 minute walk with unrivalled views” seemed like the ideal end to a perfect day. The wide footpath, doubling as the road to local homes, was level and even – we looked forward to a gentle country stroll.

We hadn’t gone far when the road was replaced by a broad leaf strewn path leading into the woods. A weathered sign post pointed the way past old dry stone walls overgrown with moss.

After the bustle of the crowds at the lake, the shady woods were quiet. Even the birds seemed to enjoy the peace.

After passing through a rusted turnstile, the incline was more noticeable, and a simple wooden bench offered a few minutes’ respite. Our gentle stroll was turning into a hill climb.

The path became a stony track muddied by yesterday’s rain, but we were spurred on by tantalising glimpses of the views beyond the farm gates.

The further the path went up the hill the more it deteriorated. Wooden steps dug into the hillside gave way to a rough track up the last steep stretch.

We clambered up the last few metres, leaving the woods for the open hill top of Orrest Head.

A few more upwards steps revealed what we’d come to see – 360° views of Lake Windermere surrounded by the Lake District Fells and the Pennines. In the late afternoon sunshine, the lake was dark and silvery. Little boats left sparkling trails in their wake and the waters of Morecambe Bay glistened far away on the horizon. In the opposite direction, farmhouses were dwarfed by the rolling hills of the Fells.

After meeting no one on the path, we were surprised to see others on the hill. Like us, they were silent – awed by the spectacular view, and perhaps also like us, glad they hadn’t missed the sign on the A591.

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Earth

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Wall Walking

Exploring England #19

Many towns and cities in England have remnants of ancient walls and gates, originally built by the Romans and fortified centuries later by the Normans. Chester’s city walls are the most complete in Great Britain and give a wonderful perspective on the city, both inside and beyond. With medieval towers and bridges, a Norman castle, Roman amphitheatre and an ancient harbour lost long ago, a walk on the walls is a walk through history.

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The three kilometre walk surrounds the city centre and is elevated almost all the way round. We climb the steep medieval steps at Northgate, the highest point along the wall, and immediately the views are spectacular.

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Inside the wall is Northgate Street, home of The Pied Bull, oldest licensed house in Chester; beer has been served on this site since 1155. The Shropshire Union Canal, with pretty canal boats moored by the path, echoes the curves of the outside of the wall.

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The first tower we come to is the Phoenix Tower. Medieval in origin and restored by two city guilds in the 17th century, the tower is named for the carved phoenix above the door, symbol of the Painters’ Guild. In 1645, King Charles 1 watched the defeat of his army in the battle of Rowton Moor from the roof of this tower.

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Chester Cathedral, built in Gothic style, stands close to the eastern wall. For more than 1,000 years, worshippers have gathered on this site, and we leave the wall for a couple of hours to enjoy the splendid stained glass, medieval carvings and Victorian mosaics inside.

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Climbing back up to the wall, we walk on to Eastgate and the Eastgate clock, which commemorates the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. The gate and its beautifully ornamental clock mark the entrance to Chester’s pedestrian shopping mall, where Tudor style buildings line the streets.

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From the top of the wall at Newgate we have a bird’s eye view of the Chester Amphitheatre. Dating from 275 AD, the stone amphitheatre is the largest of its type in Great Britain. It was in use until around 350 AD and would have been the site of military exercises, gladiatorial combat and other Roman entertainments. We’re surprised to spot some Roman soldiers in the amphitheatre today! Luckily, instead of going into battle, they’re telling stories of their exploits.

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Next to the amphitheatre, there are more traces of Roman occupation in the Roman Garden. The garden was developed in the 1950s but the pieces on display are not in situ. They were collected on 19th century building sites around Chester and placed together in this formal setting.

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When we turn the south east corner, the River Dee comes into view. The water here seems calm and still until it rushes over the weir built by the Normans around 1092 and onward under the Old Dee Bridge. This beautiful stone bridge, complete with seven arches, was built in 1387 and was the most important connection between northern England and Wales.

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There are private homes along this part of the wall and we wonder what it would be like to live here. The address of this home leaves no doubt about its unique location.

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After passing the bridge, our walk on the wall continues alongside the river, where leafy trees provide welcome shade.

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The scenery changes again on the western side as Chester Castle dominates the skyline. Originally a timber structure built by William the Conqueror in 1070, the castle was rebuilt in stone during the 12th century.

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Further along the western wall is the vast green expanse of the Roodee, Chester’s famous race course. It’s difficult to believe that, where horses now compete, Roman ships once docked – two thousand years ago this was a busy Roman port on the estuary of the River Dee. As the river changed course and the estuary silted up during medieval times the port disappeared, although traces of the Roman quay are still visible in parts of the wall. Horse racing began on the marshy land in 1539 and by the 18th century the races held in May were at the top of Chester’s social calendar. Today, the Chester Cup is one of England’s most important horse races.

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On the north west corner of the wall stand two more towers. The angular Bonewaldesthorne’s Tower and the Watertower, recognised by its semicircular walls, were both strategically placed to protect the river port from attackers.

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The last tower we come to on the walls is Pemberton’s Parlour, a Georgian alcove created in the ruins of the earlier medieval Goblin Tower. It was named after John Pemberton, a Mayor of Chester in the 18th century, who often sat here while supervising his team of rope makers toiling on the ropewalk below. After walking right around the city, we follow Mr Pemberton’s example and rest for a while in the shade.

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Returning to Northgate, our circuit of the city walls is complete. The Pied Bull is open and it’s time for some of that beer!

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