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Jul 2019

kirkju-býr Old Norse a village with a church + lons Unknown (river-name) + dalr Old Norse valley.

Population - 1,843.

Cumbria Coat of Arms

Of all the Kirkbys in all of Cumbria, Lonsdale is the undisputed champion but only in the discerning, day-tripper division. Kirkby-in-Furness is just somewhere small on your way down to Barrow while Kirkby Stephen caters for hardy hiking types but that's another story.

With parking at a premium, you too might very nearly abandon and settle for Stephen instead but that was before it was seen they even accommodate coaches over the river.

Kirkby Lonsdale - New Road Car Park

Should you persevere, however, this ancient market town boasts a recreational river and the opportunity to buy at least one thing you don't really need.

With the handbrake finally on, it's a short saunter down from Booth™s[1] and highlights include a grand-looking  village hall.

Kirkby Lonsdale - Lunesdale Hall

Unlike Booth™s, however, they don't source their stock locally and the Persian rug sale merely confirms Lonsdale to be a little bit that kind of place.

[1] A North West supermarket chain on a par with Waitrose™ and with an award-winning line in  wine and pies.

 
Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery (New Road)

With the sky starting to spit, there's a temptation to spend the afternoon in the  Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery Tap. It's a fairly recent addition to town although the brewery's a little older and their presence is noticeable on the local pumps.

Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery

They're not overly, craftily branded and, just for once, this is mostly about the beer so you'll have to source your artisan-sourdough-pizza-on-a-plank elsewhere, for now.

There's all manner of local fayre, however, every Thursday when the market square reverts to its original function.

Their charter was granted in 1227, whatever that means exactly, but relocated here in the early 1800s when Lonsdale became a bit of a boomtown with little room left elsewhere.

Kirkby Lonsdale - Market Square Kirkby Lonsdale - Market Square

That'll explain the Georgian grandeur, then, home to the overlords who oversaw the stinking industry that's all a little difficult to imagine today.

The invitingly-named Jingling Lane leads to another that leads right and down to an old stone bridge.

The Lune at Devil's Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale

Some of it is 13th-century old, they reckon, but it only closed to traffic in the '30s with the  A65 now serving the same, but not quite so structurally-scenic, purpose.

That's the River Lune down there, of course, and youthful,  tombstoning loons have been known to make the 40-foot drop into the pools.

Near Kirkby Lonsdale - From Devil's Bridge

It's not just a broken back that's risked, these days, but the breaking of a by-law, introduced to keep ambulances off a bridge they're no longer allowed onto. They're not just caring for the daredevils but also the scuba divers for whom it's deep enough to dive down there so deep enough to be plummetted on.

If that all sounds a bit too action-packed, there's a leisurely beach, of sorts, you can share with all the other spectators.

There are at least a million other Devil's Bridge's, mostly in Europe, and you might want to pull up a chair...

The age-old tale involves Old Nick conveniently appearing to assist an old lady with an errant item of livestock. Invariably a cow, dozy daisy has made her way to the opposite bank and the river's too deep for the old lady to wade, naturally, which at least, in this case, rings true.

Offering to knock up a bridge overnight, Satan stipulates a condition, of course, a claim to the soul of the first living thing to cross. The old lady appears the next morning as does Beelzebub and a beckoning finger, the bungling bovine still oblivious to the situation.

The old lady pauses before revealing a conveniently concealed loaf of bread, launching it across the newly-built bridge to a very perplexed Prince of Darkness.

Her daft old dog races off after it, the first living thing to cross, remember, so lucifer's stuck with the pooch, duped, and disappears in a puff of smoke too embarrassed to ever trouble these parts again.

The ruminant is retrieved with a simple 'Come on girl, let's get you to the abattoir' making for a good example of some proto-PR simply designed to make the devil look daft. There are, however, some issues with this tale, some serious issues...

It's understood the lady needs to be old to set up the whole switcheroo but the plot-driving dog is introduced way too late and smacks of  deus ex machina. Her treatment of the family pet may raise issues with the RSPCA™, these days, but the biggest problem is... a bread-eating dog? Come on!

A bone makes for a much better  MacGuffin.

A riverside path leads back north and upstream with some, quite frankly, substandard cattle management.

Near Kirkby Lonsdale - River Lune Near Kirkby Lonsdale - Near Devil's Bridge

It's not known if these ones are on the wrong side but it's a scenic, riverside setting, for sure, and after half-a-mile, there's a temptation to head up the gently sloping Mill Brow, a hint to the former industry.

That was mainly snuff, wool and the manufacture of those spindle things designed to be used when spinning yarn. Bobbins? Nah! Turns out to be true, actually.

Why do that, though, when there are eighty-six perfectly good steep steps a little further on?

Kirkby Lonsdale - Radical Steps

The Radical Steps date from 1820, after a particularly-passionate, political type who ignored all objections to their construction. Dr Francis Pearson wasn't quite so liberal-leaning as he'd like to think, they were built to keep people out of his back garden.

Pearson you say? Are you sure it wasn't  Clarkson?

There's a welcoming gazebo at the top of the steps at which you should turn right then round for... WHOA! What a view!

Kirkby Lonsdale - Near Ruskin's View Kirkby Lonsdale - Ruskin's View

So exclaimed the celebrated, Victorian art critic and quipper John Ruskin, sort of, what he actually said was...

I do not know in all my own country, still less in France or Italy, a place more naturally divine, or a more priceless possession of true 'Holy Land'.

But that's not nearly quite so snappy, eh?

This was already well known to JMW Turner, no less, whose oily interpretation[1], fifty years earlier, captures the panoramic kink of the River Lune.

A scene of the River Lune from the churchyard of St Mary’s Church in Kirkby Lonsdale...

There's a glimpse of the stately Underley Hall, not nearly so visible through the trees, these days, and while this pair's words can't come close to Ruskin's critique...

It looks nowt like it!

[1] Turner's sold for over £200K but you can have the previous pic for free.

St Mary's Church half-helped to name that toon and one grave dated 1868 catches the eye, in particular.

Kirkby Lonsdale - St Mary's Church

It's of a young, unknown Italian man, they think, accidentally drowned in the River Lune although it's not thought that 'John Smith' went by Giovanni Ferrari back home.

Nobody seems to know how he got or even what he was doing here but, with the devil no longer around to help out, remember, it would have been bad luck if he was trying to retrieve a cow.

The church is of some significance in that some of the internal columns, not shown, are Norman, no less.

Kirkby Lonsdale - St Mary's Church Kirkby Lonsdale - St Mary's Church

The gnarly, old yew tree that guards isn't nearly so ancient, probably, but periodically requires the surgeons out for a rather less controversial operation to keep the gateway clear.

The road soon leads back to the heart of old Lonsdale where the narrow streets were home to the original market.

Kirkby Lonsdale - Market Street

There's still plenty of room for the retail, these days, but it's largely things you don't really need and with the former tanneries and livestock once set behind, there wasn't always a whiff of the scented candle along here.

Horse Market and Swine Market are the big clues, the latter home to the old market cross even if it's more of a ball, just not always for the pigs, right kids?

Kirkby Lonsdale - Swine Market

The intriguingly-named Salt Pie Lane leads you here after an entrepreneurial lady selling hot mutton encased in pastry in the early 1900s.

She's said to have been overly generous with the contents of the cellar to send the now thirsty traders to the Green Dragon Inn[1] where, get this, the landlord was in on the scam!

That's an early example of commercial opportunism that's still all too evident today.

[1] The Green Dragon is what's now the  Snooty Fox and the new choice of name fits perfectly with Lonsdale's profile.

Main Street brings you back to the market square where things are found to have come full circle.

Kirkby Lonsdale - Main Street

That leaves a final chance to check out the Lunesdale Bakery and Tea Room's savouries, piled to the ceiling and confirmed to be nowhere near too salty unlike one of their muffins, caramel-wise.

Mrs Guff? She's still eyeing up the apparel in the ever-so-slightly, up-market boutiques that all contribute to making this place such a draw for the day-tripper. FatFace™?

All right then, fair point, better just make that the two pasties there, thanks.