WALKING A ROMAN ROAD
Last week, on a beautiful January day of crisp frost and clear blue skies, we walked the line of the Roman Road north west of Appleby in Westmorland. This was once part of the important strategic route that took the legions from York to Hadrian’s Wall at Carlisle.
Much of this section has been absorbed into the modern A66 but, near to Appleby, the new road loops away, leaving an unspoiled section of the Roman road, now a quiet green lane that has become a bridleway – making a lovely green line on the Ordnance Survey map (OL19).
Once the busy A66 is left behind this old track becomes quieter, giving pleasant access into a lonely countryside, with several diverging public footpaths offering a variety of country walks.
To the east is the great western edge of the Pennines, with a line of mighty tops; Cross Fell, Dufton Pike, the start of High Cup Nick and Murton Pike, all crystal clear on this frosty day. To the west the valley of the River Eden, still lonely countryside with quiet little villages. Below our feet the occasional stone on which soldiers marched two thousand years ago. Given the introduction of some thin modern hedgerows, the view has probably not changed that much.
One of the joys of walking is the knowledge that you are walking in the steps of those who lived in these islands so many years ago. Footpaths and bridleways should be preserved as much as possible on the lines of their original routes, and not be extinguished or diverted quite as readily as they sometimes are.
They are historic artefacts, as important in their way as Stonehenge, Avebury and the great northern wall of the Roman Empire, whether originally delineated by Iron Age tribes, Roman soldiers, pilgrims, pedlars, or local villagers taking the most useful route to their parish church.