It’s a few years since we last walked part of the Roman road that runs through the Eden valley, not far from Appleby. The section of the old road between Fair Hill and Powis House has the advantage of being a public bridleway.
An important Roman road too – leading away from the Roman fort at Bravoniacum (now near Kirkby Thore) and across the Pennines via the Stainmore Gap. Look at its line on the Ordnance Survey map and see how much of its survives, though some has been incorporated into the present A66 trunk route. But there are fortlets and many other Roman remains all along the road.
Appleby was never a Roman settlement, and the Roman road bypasses the old county town of Westmorland. Appleby, as the by at the end of its name implies was a Viking settlement. In later years this whole area, now English, was very much a part of Scotland.
The portion of the road we followed – now a green track – begins at Fair Hill, where the Gypsies come and camp each June for the famous Appleby horse fair.
The line of the Roman road is very atmospheric and beautifully quiet, with a great deal of wildlife to be seen along the way. Although traces of the Roman road are just below the surface, this section is wonderfully straight and you can well imagine the legions marching along.
What we did notice compared to last time was that there was a great deal of vegetation growth along the Roman road. A few years ago, it was a very wide track. It still is, except in a few places where the overgrowth and fallen trees have taken over. It would be impossible to use the road now as a bridleway. There were several portions where we had to fight our way through on foot.
I’ve submitted a complaint to the Ramblers Association, via their Pathwatch scheme. I do hope they will get something done about it. These tracks are part of our history and we shouldn’t let government cuts caused by potty austerity lead to their destruction. It’s been there for a couple of thousand years – we shouldn’t see it wiped off the map now.
The Roman road as a public right of way comes to a sudden halt near to Powis House. We wandered up the lane to Long Marton church, a delightfully simple building dating mostly back to the 1100s.
More lane roaming took us into Brampton, a hamlet of delightful cottages. Good to see that the pub has re-opened. We wish it well – so many village inns have closed in recent years.
Near to Clickham Farm, we turned to look at a footpath called Lime Lane, which we hadn’t been down before. The first part was completely overgrown with nettles (another Ramblers Association complaint submitted). But not far beyond it becomes a much better green lane, winding around the side of Gallows Hill.
And a gallows there once was – this is where you were brought to be “turned off” in the days when the courts sat at Appleby. Most of the victims, of course, were the desperate poor rather than real criminals.
The path takes a winding route back up to the course of the Roman road, now a surfaced country lane. We followed the roads back into Appleby – a bend in the River Eden that few Romans would have known.