Wednesday, 8 July 2015

A walk down the Eden Valley from Lazonby to Armathwaite: 4th July 2015

With the continuing work in the Winchburgh Tunnel on the main railway line from Glasgow to Edinburgh it's actually been far quicker to get to Carlisle than to Edinburgh during this Summer of 2015, so this weekend I decided to head down that way and then get the train further down the River Eden valley to Lazonby & Kirkoswald where the 6th Kirkoswald Beer and Music Festival was taking place.

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Central to Carlisle (Virgin Trains, frequent)
  Train: Carlisle to Lazonby (Northern Trains, 11:51)

As I was coming into Carlisle train station I noticed a large van and signage for Border City Cycle Hire in one of the city centre car parks which I hadn't seen before. Since I had a bit of time to spare between trains I decided to go and investigate and headed out alongside the high railway arches to Town Dyke Orchard Car Park, only about a 5 minutes’ walk from the station. In the top section of the car park I found the van I was looking for and an accompanying fold-out tent/awning.

I popped my head into the tent and found the owner Mike, an engaging & enthusiastic guy, who beckoned me in for a chat. Mike explained that he'd only been going since April and had (eventually) managed to negotiate a decent deal with Carlisle Council for his 'patch' in the car park where he hires bikes on Fridays, Saturday, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays. He's only hiring out mountain bikes at the moment, not race bikes, but can provide a slicker tyre for these bikes for any longer distance cycle path rides. He's got a number of routes setup using Google Maps, and I certainly fancy both the route west to Bowness-on-Solway & Port Carlisle via the Drover's Rest and also east along the course of Hadrian's Wall. I told Mike that I had thought about hiring a bike to get to Kirkoswald today but the thunder, lightning & torrential rain during the early hours of the morning had made me decide against it. I really hope he does well; hopefully I'll be back to hire a bike down Carlisle-way sometime later in the summer.

By now I needed to get my train to Lazonby so I bade Mike farewell and retraced my steps back to the station. This Northern Line service is actually from Carlisle to Leeds, but it's known as the Settle Line and goes through some incredibly scenic countryside and amazing viaducts, but it does take an inordinate amount of time to get to Leeds, close on 3 hours! Thankfully I wasn't going that far, only 2 stops down the line to Lazonby, although the name of the station is actually Lazonby & Kirkoswald with the actual station in Lazonby and Kirkoswald a good 15-20 minute walk away. Train journey done, I headed through the main street of Lazonby and came to a small garage with a couple of classic cars in the showroom (on display only and not for sale the sign said)...

...and also the Joiner's Arms pub, which didn't seem to be particularly busy, or even open, at a fair time after midday.

The road between the two villages then crosses the river via the single-carriageway Lazonby Eden Bridge, a lovely red sandstone structure dating back to 1762. There are now motion sensitive traffic lights to control the flow of vehicles on the bridge and there are some passing places for pedestrians.

I walked up the hill into Kirkoswald and noted both the extensive Kirkoswald Estate and The Parish Church of Saint Oswals, the latter being somewhat unique in that the bell-tower for the church is situated on a hill about 200 metres away from the actual church - I assume higher up means that the bells are heard over a longer distance.

There's only really one main street in Kirkoswald and in it I found the old market square where a marquee had been put up for the live music later on in the day (held down by empty casks, a good use of these) and also the be-flagged Village Hall where the official part of the beer festival was being held.

There was a £4 entry fee for a glass, and then it was raffle tickets for the beers (£1.50 for a 1/2-pint) with a nice selection of fairly local beers (Fell, Lancaster, Allendale, Ilkley, Old School and Bridestones were all present) served on hand-pull by some cheery, chatty staff.

I took a 1/2 of the Allendale California Common (slightly sugary sweet, light lemon and a dry, not too bitter-lemon finish - nice) and had a look at the rest of the village hall. This Saturday they were showcasing some local arts, crafts and food producers with some interesting examples of needlework, pictures, pottery, home-made chutneys...

...and home-baking. I was really spoilt for choice here but decided on the maltesers-infused tiffin cakes, surely a contender for craft-baking here!

I checked that it was OK to wander about the village with my 'glass' glass and headed over the road where idyllic looking surroundings of The Fetherston Arms beckoned.

They were co-hosting and supporting the Beer Festival and so there were *a lot* of hungover and somewhat quietly spoken people in here. I headed to the bar where I was able to exchange another token for a 1/2 pint of beer (Wold Top Headland Red, a very good impersonation of a malty sweet Scottish 80/-) and established that the only food that was going to be served all morning & afternoon would be a cooked breakfast (meat or veggie) - who was I to argue with that, so I chose the meat option.

As well as the centrally located bar there is a child-friendly restaurant-area at the back of the premises (with an outside beer garden), what seemed to be a function-space/dance-floor at the right side and another smaller seating area at the front left - it looked like a classic, well-run country pub. I went to sit in the front section at the very corner, and as well as the large number of pump-clips adorning the wall, there seemed to be the possibility of someone playing darts just over my head.

My lunchtime breakfast arrived (just before a rush of further yellow T-shirted beer festival staff) and was extremely impressive; I wasn't going to need anything else to eat for the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening.

As well as The Fetherston Arms there's another great pub in the village, also adjacent to the old market square, The Crown Inn.

According to some of the locals the food provision is meant to be as good, if not better than The Fetherston Arms, but although the beer selection is more than acceptable, The Fetherston Arms probably shades it in terms of superior choice and turnover.

In addition they weren't accepting any beer festival tokens so I headed back into the sanctuary of the village hall to use up my tokens. I eventually finished off with a beer from Annan-based Andrews Ales, with their Into The Darkness strong mild probably being the best quality/conditioned pint that I'd had from them - good stuff indeed.

I wasn't 100% sure if I was actually going to be able to go on my walk since the Settle Line trains are pretty infrequent (my other option would have been to stay at Kirkoswald for another couple of hours, no real hardship) but my lunch had come in good time and I thought I would be able to make it OK. I left the village by the well-named Potters Bank hill and it was a bit of an undulating walk through the quiet backroads of eastern Cumbria until the well-manicured lawns of Staffield Hall upmarket holiday cottages. Here the road dropped towards one of the tributaries of the River Eden, the Croglin Water, but there was no sign of any Croglin Vampires of folklore or even a Croglin Vampire beer.

It was then a walk of another couple of miles past a lot of dense green woodland before the road dropped again towards the banks of the River Eden. Just after the Armathwaite village sign and before the bridge over the Eden I came to the lovely looking Fox and Pheasant Inn, a Robinson's pub.

It's setup as both a B&B/Inn with a number of rooms upstairs in the main building and in the ex-stable extensions, and also a country pub/restaurant. I entered from the side door and had to watch my head on the very low set of stairs which took me into the narrow bar area and further on into the narrow, but very long Stable Barn Restaurant. I ordered a glass of water and a 1/2 of the Robinson's season guest, Wizard amber ale (being heavily promoted, and not too bad, but which needed a bit more intensity) and sat down opposite the dark panelled wooden bar counter to recover somewhat after my fast walk.

Even mid-afternoon it seemed like a busy place, the staff were chatty & efficient, I liked the cosy bar area (all those hanging tankards) and there were lots of tables outside in the courtyard/car park within what must be a stone's throw of the River Eden. And when I crossed the river I could see that it had widened out and calmed down considerably compared to the crossing at Lazonby/Kirkoswald.

When I got into Armathwaite proper I had high hopes that the other pub in the village, the Dukes Head Inn, would also be open, but it seemed to be shut until 6pm, drats!

Instead I headed to the small post office/shop where I bought an ice cream and headed up the hill (another one) to the picture-perfect Armathwaite train station (it's a good walk up to the Carlisle side of the track under the bridge). Here I ate the ice cream in the company of one of my fellow passengers who was quite happy to chat away and give me some idea of nearby country pubs for food and beer - always great to get some local inside information for further trips out to this lovely part of the country.

Return travel:-
  Train: Armathwaite to Carlisle (Northern Trains, 15:11 + later)
  Train: Carlisle to Glasgow Central (Virgin Trains, frequent)

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