Sunday, 9 February 2014

Hag Lonning, Keswick

I FEEL obliged to include a lonning from the Keswick area. After all, thousands of tourists visit this town each year so if visitors are going to want to visit a lonning then they want it within trekking distance of Keswick. But good lonnings are hard to find in this locality. However, I stumbled across Hag Lonning the other day and it is in easy reach of Keswick. I knew it was in the vicinity of the hamlet of Wesco on the way to Threlkeld and stopped to ask a 'local' if she knew where it was. She had to admit she'd never heard of it but since she was from "the other side of the valley" she was not a true local. As it turned out, we were standing in Hag Lonning when I asked her the question. It was another 'truly local' couple who identified it. The lonning is the steep climb from the disused railway up to Wesco Farm. This was, in fact, at one time the main road into Keswick. But then the A66 was built and landslides led to this road becoming only a farm track. It is still tarmacked today but happily returning to a more greener state. The lonning is not the prettiest in the world but it's quite sweet and does offer fantastic views of Blencathra and the surrounding fells. Wonderful when they have their snow caps on. 

The route is a nice circular walk, about eight miles long but very easy to do. Leave Keswick east on the disused railway path and continue until you just before the tunnel. You'll see a stone railway man's hut beside a gate leading to Wesco. N.B. There are sheep running loose through this gate so put your dog on a lead and keep the gate shut after you. Head through the gate (a former railway crossing) and very quickly you'll go through another gate onto the road. Turn right and you are now on Hag Lonning. You'll cross a delightfull stone bridge before make the steep trek up to Wesco. Once at the top you have reached the end of the lonning (they typically led to farms and were used by people going for milk or meat) but carry on and you'll eventually reach Threlkeld. You can then return via the A66 (only for a few feet) and then drop down again on to the disused railway.

Why is it called Hag Lonning? I have no idea but hold our a secret wish that it's due to some hag-like ghost. I suspect, however, it will turn out that 'hag' is Old Norse for 'very steep hill'!

News on my lonnings project and more lonning links to be found at the Florence Arts website.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Pleaslands - a true lonning

PLEASLANDS lonning near Blencogo, Cumbria is a 'real' lonning. A path to a farm. The word 'lonning' is thought to have come from the ancient word 'loan' meaning a quiet or still place and was the term used for the side of the farm where the milking took place. For villagers visiting the farm for milk or meat they would have taken a path up to the 'loan', hence lonning. Pleaslands lonning is one of those curiosities which is marked on the Philips' Street Map of Cumbria. Whoever compiled this street map obviously had a soft spot for lonnings. Neither Pleaslands nor the many others they include have a sign up saying that is the name but the cartographer must have sought out the farmers to find out what they called their lanes. Coming off Pleaslands Lonning is Stone How Lonning and Outfield Lonning but these appear to be 'private' lanes. Pleaslands itself is a well-used farm track but with sizeable hedges at many points giving good habitat to the local wildlife.

For details of this and other lonnings see Cumbrian Lonnings Map.

After the storm...

St Cuthbert's holy well is marked by the tree
THE dreadful storms and rain of the last few weeks have curtailed any idea of walking in the Lake District but today was the first non-rain day for some time. It was a chance to explore Watergates Lonning near Waverbridge in Cumbria. The lonning is home to St Cuthbert's holy well (and at one time St Cuthbert's stone) so I was keen to discover in what form it still existed. Most 'wells' are springs rather than the ornamental wells associated with Jack and Jill. They were important as sources of fresh water but a number also became associated with healing powers or other miraculous qualities. Some, like this one, are associated with a particular saint. Waverbridge is close to the end of the world. It's about as far north west as you can get without ending up in the Solway or Scotland! And it's remoteness is only equalled by its bleakness. This was a fresh and invigorating walk - and on harsher winter days I can imagine the breezes coming off the Solway would bite deep. It was also a very wet walk with the rain of the last few days lying deep on the ground. It's a lonning well used by the farmer to access his fields so was nicely ploughed up. But for all this, the openness and starkness of the lonning made it a breath of deep fresh air after the weeks of enforced staying indoors. This would definitely be a walk to do to cure a hangover! As to the well itself there was little sign. The spring is marked on the OS map (but only called a spring, not St Cuthbert's well) and the farmer seems to be in the middle of reworking it, probably to avoid too much flooding in the field and lonning. A plastic pipe feeds the spring water from the field into a ditch. It's all a far cry from its hey-day in the 18th century as described by historian William Hutchinson (and retold in the Northern Antiquarian). The future does not bode well for St Cuthbert's holy well.