Having completely traversed North Yorkshire on my New Year’s Day excursion I slipped across the border into Cumbria for my final destination, my plan being to photograph two aspects of the town where I was headed and then find a cosy pub recharge my batteries in before beginning the return trip. I made my way to Kirkby Lonsdale.
This is one of those towns that I’d seen on road signs more times than I could imagine when crossing the A66 to the Lake District, or heading south on the M6 to Merseyside and yet I’d never given it any thought until conversing with a woman called Janet from that area, who I never got around to meeting, but who heartily recommended Kirkby Lonsdale as a beautiful town. (I recall that she visited her mother there regularly). It was time to correct my omission then.
There were two objectives I had in mind; Ruskin’s View and The Devil’s Bridge, though to be honest there were plenty of other interesting aspects to the town whose streets seem unspoiled by modernity. The names say a lot.
I’d begun my day under grey skies photographing the swollen River Swale, yet a few hours later here I was by the Lune in bright afternoon sunshine, having been exposed to biting winds and freezing temperatures at Ribblehead along the way. The river here seemed so much calmer too, with families of ducks making their way along the banks. Do not be deceived. Although the Devil’s Bridge is so-called because of a legend that it was built by the Devil in exchange for the first soul to cross it. Luckily he was outwitted by a local woman who tempted a small dog across with a bread roll. The structure dates from somewhere around the 12/13th centuries but perhaps the real devilry is in the waters below. There are deep rock pools here frequented by scuba divers (though non present when I visited) and the depth of those pools has encouraged “tombstoning” from the bridge parapet above resulting in at least one fatality. The Devil claimed a soul after all.
My other objective also incorporates the river and here I must confess to a little bias. Though John Ruskin was regarded as the most important art critic of his era, his dislike for some of my favourite buildings in Venice has set me at odds with him. If you make your way to the corner of the graveyard of the church (Kirkby Lonsdale means settlement with a church in Lunedale) you come to a highpoint with a view across the river to the moors beyond. This is the place known as “Ruskin’s View” for he declared it “One of the loveliest views in England”.
Given that it was painted by JMW Turner several years before this surely it would be better called “Turner’s View”. That’s just my view.
And then it was time for the pub – except that they were all full of New Year’s Day revellers (Janet and her mum?) and none were serving food.
Ah well, at least I had good light for the return journey.