My Monday walk this week features a visit to Kirkby Lonsdale during my stay-cation in September. I’d never previously been any farther east along the A683 than Hornby village but I’d seen a couple of pictures of Kirkby Lonsdale somewhere on the internet and it looked like there might be a chance of getting a few nice photos, so a sunny morning saw me heading up the M6 and across the A683 in that direction.
Having previously looked on Google maps I knew there were several places to park in the vicinity of Devil’s Bridge over the River Lune on the fringes of the town, which was where I wanted to be, but in spite of it being a weekday during term time it seemed like the world and his wife were out and there wasn’t an available parking space anywhere so I headed into the village. Driving through the centre I followed a sign for car parks and found three small ones but again they were all full so I ended up in the car park of Booth’s supermarket where there were plenty of spaces and I could stay all day for £3.50.
Unfortunately by the time I’d sorted out the parking situation the sky had clouded over and the sun was playing hide and seek so I decided to have a look round the village first before going down to the river. Down a short narrow alley between an optician’s and a children’s shoe shop I found a small cobbled courtyard with a cottage at the end, then along a nearby narrow lane was an attractive cottage and a quaintly named cobbled square with its old market cross where, centuries ago, pig sellers would sell their livestock. Fast forward to more modern times and both the cobbled courtyard and the square were used as locations in Double Sin, a 1990 episode of the Poirot tv series. Past the square and a double-fronted house with a very pretty garden the lane went steeply downhill and between the buildings on each side I got a view towards the far side of the river.
From there I retraced my steps and just behind the Sun Inn, along the narrow traffic-free and aptly named Church Street, I came to St. Mary’s church. As a Grade l listed building the oldest parts of the church date from Norman times though the oddly-placed clock in the tower is presumed to be a 19th century addition. In the grounds just beyond the building was a stone built octagonal gazebo which had once been in the garden of the vicarage, and just to one side was a peaceful corner with a couple of benches and a very pretty circular flower bed.
Beyond the gazebo and along the path I came to Ruskin’s View, a small pleasant area with three benches set back off the path overlooking the River Lune. The view from there was painted by artist JMW Turner in 1822 and in 1875 the art critic, painter and poet John Ruskin was so impressed with the picture that he described the panorama as ‘one of the loveliest views in England, therefore the world’.
From Ruskin’s View I backtracked through the church grounds and the village to Devil’s Bridge and the river; the clouds had been clearing steadily and the blue sky was increasing so hopefully I would get some of the shots I was looking for. Devil’s Bridge has three spans and dates from around 1370; constructed of fine gritstone ashlar it’s thought to have been built by monks from St. Mary’s Abbey in York.
The roadway across the bridge is only 12ft wide and as vehicle numbers increased over the years it was closed to traffic in 1932 with vehicles being diverted to the newly constructed Stanley bridge 160yds away. The river beneath the bridge is popular with scuba divers due to its deep rock pools and clear visibility, and the bridge itself has long been a popular location for illegal ‘tombstoning’ (bridge diving) which has caused at least one death, that of a 22-year old man in 2012.
A gate near the beginning of the bridge led to a footpath which took me along by the riverside; much of the river itself was obscured by trees but there were a few places where I could get down to the waterside and I got several shots before going back to the path and retracing my steps. At the far end of the bridge was the Devil’s Bridge Snack Bar, a mobile catering trailer; judging by the queue it was a very popular place but there was nowhere to sit so I decided to walk back through the village and search out a dog friendly cafe for some coffee and cake.
Unfortunately my cafe quest proved to be unsuccessful. I found four – one was closed and the other three were small, cramped, and packed with customers, so whether any of them were dog friendly or not I don’t know, I didn’t hang around to find out. Instead I went back to Booth’s supermarket, got an ‘own brand’ Swiss Roll and a carton of Booth’s apple juice – which were a heck of a lot cheaper than coffee and cake in a cafe – and spent half an hour in the comfort of my own van.
After finishing my snack it was still only 3.45pm, too early to think about going home, so hoping I might finally find a parking space near Devil’s Bridge I drove down there with the intention of having another walk by the river. There were no available spaces near the bridge but directly across the A683 and at the end of a short lane there was a parking area with a few vacant spaces so I pulled in there – and ended up going on an unintentional long walk.
Leading from the corner of the parking area was a footpath going uphill through a wooded area so just for curiosity I decided to see where it went. I didn’t go far before the footpath opened out onto a narrow tarmac lane with a pleasant looking static caravan site on the left; still curious I followed the lane for a while with the views over open fields and hills getting better and better. Eventually I came to a tree with an odd looking bulge on one side of its trunk; nearby was a small enclave of cottages which I later learned was the start of the hamlet of High Casterton with cottages strung out here and there for quite a distance along the lane.
I hadn’t a clue where I would end up but the weather was so good and the scenery so nice that I was just enjoying the walk for what it was, however it wasn’t too long before I saw a crossroads up ahead, with another handful of cottages and a signpost which told me that the lane on the left would take me back in the direction of Kirkby Lonsdale.
The lane was only about half a mile long, eventually bringing me out on the A683 by the entrance to Casterton Golf Club – a left turn eventually got me back to the mobile Devil’s Bridge Snack Bar and my last shot was of the National Park sign in the lay-by near the end of the bridge. For some reason I seemed to have walked for miles but when I checked the time I’d only been away from the van for an hour.
Driving back down the M6 in the direction of home I thought back over my day. Apart from the initial difficulty in finding somewhere to park I’d enjoyed myself immensely, and though Kirkby Lonsdale isn’t a big place I know there’s a couple of corners of it I haven’t yet seen so maybe a sunny day sometime next summer will see me making a return visit.