Surely Cumbria must be one of the best places in Britain to see snowdrops? There are clumps of these lovely plants absolutely everywhere at the moment.
A week ago we walked up to Flakebridge Wood from Appleby, several muddy miles after the vanishing of the snow and a lot of rain. This was one to get the old boots muddy on…
A day of mixed weather too – as we wandered the first fields there was a fierce snowstorm, followed by a warm and brighter day of sunshine and clear blue skies.
Just north of the noisy A66 road at Appleby is a quieter near-deserted stretch of lane – a modest bit of highway. But important as it follows the course of the Roman road which once led through the Eden valley and across the Stainmore Gap. (More on this in my next blog). Interesting to think of the legions marching this way before the nearby (Viking) town of Appleby even existed.
We followed the footpath around the back of Fair Hill – where the Gypsies come to camp each June.
But in past centuries it was better known as Gallows Hill, the place where men and women were brought from the Appleby Assizes to be “hanged by the neck until they be dead”. Most of the folk ‘turned off’ here were, of course, the poor and desperate rather than hardened criminals. You could be hanged for starving and stealing a loaf of bread.
Over the side of Hangingshaw Hill and into Lime Lane, a very pleasant enclosed green track, which I suspect was longer in the hanging days, to Clickham Farm. We were pleased to see that this lane had been cleared of overgrowth since we last used it, when I reported it to the Ramblers via their Pathwatch App. (Worth getting, you can use it on your computer if you haven’t got a smartphone).
Along the lane then to Esplandhill Farm, where we were greeted by a friendly farmer as we made our way along Frith Lane (another green track) to Flakebridge Wood.
Much of this shooting preserve is out of bounds, though there are a few rights of way. One of those bits of woodland we should reclaim under the Charter of the Forest (see blogs passim).
This mixed woodland showed us some pleasant patches of snowdrops. A lovely touch at this time of year.
We followed the Well House Lane back to Appleby – as this leads nowhere but to the wood it is quiet as far as traffic is concerned.
Appleby – once the County Town of Westmorland, until that county was abolished. One of the castle homes of Lady Anne Clifford, whose 17th century diaries are well-worth a read. A place of the Assizes, where men and women made their last journey to an unfair trial and the gallows. A town founded by settling Vikings. Once part of Scotland and therefore not in the Domesday Book, it’s castle besieged several times in our history.
A town so recently flooded in Storm Desmond, but still here.
A place that changed its name to Appleby-in-Westmorland to preserve its ancient honours.
A town whose green places are covered with snowdrops at the moment.