29 November 2014

Appleby - East of Eden

Get your kicks on the A66

Heading west, on the A66, across the Penines from Scotch Corner, humming Bob Troup's classic Route 66 to myself, the word kicks rings a bell, as it were....  July 30th, 1966, and it was up there, on those fells, that I attempted to sleep a while under the stars, couched in a tractor rut and covered in a bivouac cape.

As a (reluctant, please note) army cadet, I was one of an impressive body of boys on a night exercise in which we learnt that the ground is hard, the night can be cold, and that cows cough spookily like humans.  And it had all started at Warcop Training Camp....

In fact, had it not been for an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, it would have started at Otterburn in Northumberland (and had that been the case, perhaps the score would not have been 4 -2?)  But, diverted to Westmorland (now a part of Cumbria) we had to make do.  

Roman Fell, with Warcop Fell behind

And make do we did.  Since the two pubs in Warcop were occupied by the officers (including ours) and real soldiers, we found our way along the Eden Valley to the tiny village of Sandford, where the lane ended in a grassy common area, and sundry farms and walled buildings clustered around. One of these, charmingly, had a picture of a large black bull on the wall.  On entering, we passed a small tap room and followed into a low beamed room with several wooden seats and tables.  An elderly woman greeted us, took our order and presently returned with two fistfuls of dimpled pint pots, splashing beer on the table.  

The erstwhile Bull, Sandford

I don't remember how many evenings we visited, but it is indelibly etched in my mind, a piece of English history and a formative part of my upbringing.  We were grown men at 15, enjoying the forced camaraderie that a uniform can produce, and swimming together in streams of beer.  On our way back, we passed the green fields where Crooks Beck joined the Eden, no snakes in sight.  And then, in the NAAFI, we watched, with 400 million others, as Bobby Moore took the cup.....

The river Eden rises beyond Kirkby Stephen and flows to the sea ninety miles later in the Solway Firth.  At Appleby it regularly floods, catastrophically, as it has only recently done in December 2015, as combinations of high tides and rain on the fells cause it to back up.

The tree trunk here, just by Bongate Mill, was washed up not long ago, and is immovable.

The last time I was in Appleby I was almost run over by an escaped horse.  It was the time of the annual Horse Fair, which has been held in early June every year since the time of James II (http://www.applebyfair.org/).  This gathering of some 15,000 gypsies and travellers from all over the UK and Ireland attracts a further 30,000 visitors and occasionally some bad press.   

But Appleby is a picturesque town, with a Norman Castle, founded by William Rufus in 1092, and later gifted to Hugh de Morville, one of the killers of Thomas a Beckett,

A fine Norman church, dedicated to St Lawrence,

Some solid almshouses, founded in May 1651 by the Lady Anne Clifford (who also restored the church after it was wrecked by the Scots in 1388),

And a scattering of pubs, one of which, The Golden Ball, has also changed little over the years, having a classic juke box with rock albums by such as AC/DC and Gary Moore, and posters of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley.  Two regulars and the landlord watch England's women's football team lose three-one to Germany (revenge at last?) The landlord threatens to go and do something more interesting, like sorting out his sock drawer....  

Another pub, The White Hart in Boroughgate, has definitely seen better days.....

Though The Royal Oak, with a sputtering log fire and cosy rooms, shows that all is not lost, and gives me the chance to spend a little time in the land of Nod......

Having come down route A66, through some unexpected memories, I have found myself, East of Eden.....

"And here comes Hurst. He's got... some people are on the pitch, they think it's all over. It is now! It's four!" 

(Kenneth Wolstenholme, July 30th, 1966)

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