Last Monday was a beautiful frosty English morning of clear blue skies and distant views, so we decided to walk a circuit of footpaths between King’s Meaburn and Bolton in the broad valley between the rivers Eden and Lyvennet. On the way, as so often on a British walk, we walked into history. History of several periods, for such is the palimpsest that is the British landscape.
We started from King’s Meaburn, once the manor of the de Morville family. Hugh de Morville was an accessory in the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, where he held back the crowd at swordpoint while the other four knights present murdered the archbishop.
King’s Meaburn has no parish church of its own. If it did it would qualify as a Thankful Village – so named by the topographical author Arthur Mee, marking the fact that all the men who left the place to fight in the Great War came safely home. So instead of a war memorial the villagers constructed a village hall, which still bears the dates of that conflict.
The path to Bolton, first a broad track and then a series of field paths, was frozen hard as we started out. If you are following in our footsteps, we took the bridleway past the old village school to the Luz Beck. Not the best waymarked route, though the stiles indicate the general direction. As we crested the hill we looked over Bolton and the Eden Valley to the Pennines, the tops still white with frost and snow.
Bolton itself is a fascinating village with a long history, still a place where people live and contribute to the community. Here too is a memorial hall to the Great War, though Bolton was not as fortunate as its neighbour. This small village lost eight men in the 1914-18 War. The veterans of Word War Two are commemorated in a splendid playing field.
The joy of Bolton is the parish church, one of the best in Cumbria. The present building dates to the 12th century, though it’s likely that there was a Saxon chapel on the site. Much of the village itself dates back to at least the 9th century.
Just by the door is a stone figure of a women, her hands crossed in prayer, possibly part of an ancient tombstone. Inside the church the Poor Box – still in use to collect contributions for the maintenance of the fabric – dates back to 1634. The parishioners still collect food parcels for the poor of Britain. A sad indictment on what is supposed to be the sixth richest economy in the world.
At the rear of the church is a stone tablet of indeterminate age showing two knights jousting. There’s a now indecipherable inscription bearing the words ‘St Lawrence de Vere gives to the men of Bolton…’ And then no more, which is really frustrating. Fascinating glimpse into the past though…
A very good bridleway, though not well waymarked at its awkward points leads back towards King’s Meaburn, passing through the farm of Keld, a Norse word meaning spring – and sure enough a well is marked on the map. By this time the ice and frost had melted leaving behind some glutinous mud.
We crossed the lane here and walked to Jackdaw’s Scar, by which runs the waters of the Lyvennet river. Sure enough those birds do occupy this dramatic little gorge, its cliffs set above the river and thick woodlands.
In one walk of perhaps half a dozen miles, we encountered several periods of history. Not unusual for walkers who tread their steps in this ancient land.