The Thankful Village to Lancaster, a ramble in the Vale of Lune

Arkholme is a sleepy village with a cluster of houses dating from the 17th century. Walking through the village you would never guess that something extraordinary happened here. Arkholme, along with the nearby village of Nether Kellet, is one of only two Thankful Villages in Lancashire. A Thankful Village was one where all the men who served in the First World War returned alive. Fifty-nine men left Arkholme to fight, miraculously, all returned. Some of the men were wounded, other severely traumatised, but all were alive.

Given the carnage on the Western Front, its not surprising that only 52 villages in the whole country can claim to be Thankful Villages. If that isn’t remarkable enough, Arkhome is a Doubly Thankful Village. All the men who served in the Second World War also returned to the village alive. By some quirk of fate, Nether Kellet (only 5 miles from Arkholme) is also a Doubly Thankful Village. Only 14 villages in the whole country were fortunate enough to be Doubly Thankful Villages, and Lancashire the only county with two.

Arkholme, Lancashire, England

Arkholme, Lancashire, England

Arkholme, Lancashire, England

Arkholme, Lancashire, England

Arkholme Church, Arkholme, Lancashire, England

Arkholme Church, Arkholme, Lancashire, England

The River Lune flows past Arkholme on its 44 mile journey from Ravenstonedale in Cumbria to the Irish Sea at Lancaster. After walking from Burton-in-Kendal, I joined the Lune Valley Ramble at Arkholme and headed through glorious countryside towards Lancaster. The pastoral setting hasn’t changed much since it inspired 19th century poets and artists, including John Ruskin, William Wordsworth, JMW Turner and Thomas Grey.

The landscape is predominantly farmland and floodplains (the river can rise several feet); occasionally the route takes you into lovely wooded areas that rise up the hillside next to the river. All the time, the backdrop to this lovely lowland route is of high moorland and the distant hills of Ingleborough, Leck Fell and Whernside. Its simply beautiful. Occasionally you pass historic villages or structures, like the 17th century Loyn Bridge and 18th century Lune Aqueduct. Now and then you come across a pleasant warning from a friendly farmer…

Ingleborough, seen from the Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

Ingleborough, seen from the Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

The Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

The Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

Loyn Bridge on the Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

Loyn Bridge on the Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

Danger! The Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

Danger! The Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

At the point where the River Wenning flows into the RIver Lune, two towers loom large over the tops of trees. This is the village of Hornby, the towers the 16th century St. Margaret’s Church and 13th century Hornby Castle. Like many country houses, Hornby Castle has seen history and personalities wash over it. The estate has passed through numerous hands throughout its history. Its owners chose the wrong side during the English Civil War and had the estate confiscated by Parliament. They got it back following the Restoration of Charles II. Only to sell it again shortly afterwards.

Hornby, the Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

Hornby, the Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

Hornby, the Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

Hornby, the Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

The most notorious owner, and one of the most notorious men in Britain in the 18th century, was Scottish Lord, Colonel Francis Charteris. Charteris was dubbed a ‘rake’ by his peers – a hardened gambler and womaniser, while tens-of-thousands of ordinary investors lost everything, he made substantial amounts of money from the South Sea Bubble. His crimes went further though. He was found guilty of raping a servant, an act which earned him the nickname, Rape-Master General. As an aristocrat, he was quickly pardoned, but he was parodied by artists such as William Hogarth in A Harlot’s Progress.

The route brings you to the Crook ‘o Lune, so-called because the meandering of the river creates a shape like a shepherd’s crook – a scene immortalised by JMW Turner. It was here I took an unplanned detour. Inexplicably, I’d picked up the wrong map when I set out, the Crook ‘o Lune was one of my many ‘wrong map’ diversions. Still, it was very peaceful walking along the banks of the river, and I saw first hand what Turner had found so alluring about this place.

The Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

The Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

The Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

The Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

The Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

The Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

IMG_4274 IMG_4273

A few miles further west I found myself passing underneath John Rennie’s Lune Aqueduct, which I’d passed over a few days earlier walking along the Lancaster Canal. I plunged onwards towards Lancaster – only a mile and half from the aqueduct – and found myself on a well worn path enclosed by trees with other walkers and cyclists.

Lune Aqueduct on the Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

Lune Aqueduct on the Lune Valley Ramble, Lancashire, England

I finally arrived in Lancaster ten hours after setting off. This walk was more of an endurance test than a ramble; by the time I’d arrived at the finish line in the city centre, all I could do was seek out the nearest public house, take a seat and hope that a pint of the local Mitchells beer would help the recovery process.

A pub in Lancaster, Lancashire, England

A pub in Lancaster, Lancashire, England

The Devil’s Bridge, Ruskin’s View and the Vale of Lune

Legend tells us that in the fourteenth century the good people of Kirkby Lonsdale wanted to build a bridge across the River Lune. They didn’t have the means to build it, so the Devil appeared to a local woman and promised to build the bridge for them. In return, the Devil wanted possession of the first soul to cross the bridge.

The town folk agree to the Devil’s terms and overnight the Devil built the bridge. The following morning the woman came to the bridge and, outwitting the Devil, threw bread onto it for her dog to chase. The dog crosses the bridge and the Devil has to accept its soul instead of a human soul.

This legend isn’t unique, there are many similar folk tales across Europe. When I was at school in Kirkby Lonsdale an alternative version of the tale told of how a local farmer drove a herd of sheep over the bridge. In this predominately sheep farming community, this version seems more appropriate, and fits with the tradition of the canny, or even cunning, farmer.

The Devil's Bridge over the River Lune, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

The Devil’s Bridge over the River Lune, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

To reach Kirkby Lonsdale I walked over Holme Park Fell and Hutton Roof Crags, two beautiful areas of protected landscape. The weather wasn’t great, with regular showers, but the forecast was for sun and by the time I reached Kirkby Lonsdale it had broken through the clouds.

Signpost on Holme Park Fell, Cumbria, England

Signpost on Holme Park Fell, Cumbria, England

The view from Hutton Roof Crags, Cumbria, England

The view from Hutton Roof Crags, Cumbria, England

Scarecrow, near Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

Scarecrow, near Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

Foxgloves and gate, near Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

Foxgloves and gate, near Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

Traditional stile, near Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

Traditional stile, near Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

Kirkby Lonsdale is an historic market town with Roman origins. Mentioned in the Doomsday Book in 1086, it gained market town status by Royal Charter in 1227. By then several cross-country packhorse routes converged here as a strategic crossing point on the River Lune. The current St. Mary’s Church dates from Norman times, but is built on an earlier church. Queen Elizabeth School, founded during the reign of Elizabeth I, dates from 1588.

Houses, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

Houses, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

Houses in Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

Houses in Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

St. Mary's Church, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

St. Mary’s Church, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

A walk through St. Mary’s churchyard brings you to an impressive viewpoint over the Lune Valley known as Ruskin’s View, after the famous Victorian art critic. John Ruskin is credited with standing in this spot and proclaiming it the “finest view in England, and therefore the world”. No patriotic chauvinism there then.

Signpost, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

Signpost, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

Ruskin's View, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

Ruskin’s View, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

River Lune, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

River Lune, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

From Kirkby Lonsdale its possible to walk down the Lune Valley, all the way to the coast at Lancaster. I set off along this route, at some point crossing from Cumbria into Lancashire, until I reached the lovely village of Arkholme-in-Cawood. From here it is possible to take footpaths back to Burton-in-Kendal.

River Lune near Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

River Lune near Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria, England

Water Lilies, Lune Valley, Cumbria, England

Water Lilies, Lune Valley, Cumbria, England

Weathervane, Arkholme, Lancashire, England

Weathervane, Arkholme, Lancashire, England

Farm land near Arkholme, Lancashire, England

Farm land near Arkholme, Lancashire, England

Of course the English countryside isn’t without its dangers. Those chocolate box pictures can give a false image of the perils that await the unwary. At this time of year there are a lot of young cows in the fields. Generally this is fine, but on occasions can be hazardous to life.

As I crossed a field with young bullocks I saw the herd mentality at work: skittish and excited, they charged towards me. Like this bullocks can easily trample a person to death, so I was delighted to be chased by the group of idiot cattle below – the one on the left definitely has a satanic look in its eyes.

Bullocks near Arkholme, Lancashire, England

Bullocks near Arkholme, Lancashire, England

Flower meadow near Arkholme, Lancashire, England

Flower meadow near Arkholme, Lancashire, England

Farm land near Burton-in-Kendal, Cumbria, England

Farm land near Burton-in-Kendal, Cumbria, England

Farm estate building near Burton-in-Kendal, Cumbria, England

Farm estate building near Burton-in-Kendal, Cumbria, England

I was born the county of Westmorland. A few years after my birth the Government abolished Westmorland and combined it with the county of Cumberland (famous for its curly sausages), to create Cumbria. However, you can still see some of the old Westmorland road signs dotted around.

I always felt irritated that Westmorland had been abolished. Yet, the name ‘Cumbria’ dates back to more ancient times in the history of the British Isles. It comes from pre-Roman Celtic tribes that inhabited this part of the Isles and who spoke Cumbric, a language closely related to Old Welsh. Cumbria is an corruption of the Welsh word, Cymru. This whole area was the heartland of the old Celtic kingdom of Rheged prior to the Roman invasion.

Seems like a good replacement after all….this history is covered brilliantly in Norman Davies’ excellent The Isles: A History.

Old county road sign near Burton-in-Kendal, Cumbria, England

Old county road sign near Burton-in-Kendal, Cumbria, England