A Walk with dogs, The Lune and St Michael

The Lune Valley is always worth exploring. The river Lune rises as a stream near Ravenstone Dale, Cumbria, and gathers momentum and volume as it winds towards the sea at Lancaster and its one time port, Glasson Dock. Devil’s Bridge, above, is, perhaps its most famous landmark, and was once the main highway between Yorkshire and the north Lancashire region – prior to the rejigging of the ancient counties that created Cumbria from Westmorland and bits of old Lancashire.

It is near Kirkby Lonsdale that the Lune Valley is at its most beautiful. We jumped at the chance to be part of a sponsored walk along the river and duly met up with the other participants in the Sun Inn, in the centre of the town, where we began the day with the time-honoured breakfast of walkers: the bacon butty…

The landlord of the Sun Inn, himself a dog owner, was joining us on the walk, and served out breakfast for his fellow hikers. Duly fed, we navigated ourselves and the dogs (It was an abandoned dogs charity we were supporting), and made the ten minute walk to the park area at Devil’s Bridge.

No-one is sure how Devil’s Bridge got its name, but the lady guide brought in for the occasion explained that it was normal for churches to fund bridges. Sometimes they didn’t and the fund-raising fell to the hard-pressed locals. In retaliation, they named their creation appropriately!

In similar fashion, no-one knows where the name ‘Lune’ came from. We had always assumed it to be a Norman-derived name for ‘moon’ but the guide explained that there were three theories:

1. It was Roman for ‘healthy and pure’.

2. It was named after the Roman God Lalonus who featured prominently in local worship.

3. Lune can refer to a prominent oxbow curve in the river, for which Kirkby Lonsdale (‘lunes’ dale) is famous – in the shape of what is seen from the spectacular Ruskin’s View near the church (photographed during the Summer):

Our guide was an English teacher who had a passion for local history. She had constructed two such walks. The first – the one we were on – was more suitable for dogs, and hence the choice on the day. The second was more concerned with the early industrial history of Kirkby Lonsdale. We may do it in the future.

Having cleared the edges of the town by crossing the perilous A65, we settled into a reasonably fast pace along the river bank. The walk was planned to last just under three hours, allowing for a couple of discussion stops. The route was constructed around a rectangle that would allow us to walk along the river to a point where we could turn right towards the historic town of Whittington, home of an ancient church and a rather unusual pavement…

We were blessed with cold but clear weather. The bright sunshine made the opening leg along the riverbank particularly pleasant. The golds and yellows have been strong and striking this year.

The happiest walkers were the dogs. Our Collie, Tess, discovered a good friend in a nine-month old Golden Retriever. They ran and ran in the bright sunshine, never seeming to tire.

The path divides after about two kilometres. Leaving the river path, it is necessary to scramble up a gulley to reach the start of a path that leads towards the village of Whittington.

Here the fields stretch on either side of the path. To the North lies Ingleborough, one of the highest peaks in nearby Yorkshire, and part of the famous Three Peaks challenge, during which contestants have to scale all three in a day – a very demanding ordeal.

Eventually, the horizon is lost behind hedges that hint at a more domestic landscape. The village of Whittington comes into view.

Whittington is a small village with a famous church. It forms part of a cluster of sisters along the Lune valley. Each of these has evidence of a castle’s motte and bailey fortification. This is the densest concentration of Norman castles outside of the those on the Welsh border.

St Micheal’s Church is strongly linked with two nearby churches of St John the Evangelist, Gressingham, and St John the Baptist, Arkholme. The church stands within the bailey of the former Norman castle, as can be seen from the above photo. It is thought that a church has stood here since around 1200. The oldest part of the present church is the tower, which dates from the early 16th century. The rest of the church was largely rebuilt in 1875, funded by Colonel D.C. Greene of nearby Whittington Hall.

Being a Sunday, the church was in use and we were not able to venture closer than gate. Happily, there was a compensation…

Beneath our feet, was a pebble-based mosaic, created, locally, to mark the millennium, by Maggie Hogarth, a local artist and sculptor. The photo does not do it justice. It marks the Church of St Michael the Archangel with great respect.

To complete our journey, we had a further climb of about a kilometre. From this, the highest point, we could see the whole landscape of our walk. The view across to Ingleborough was the best of the day.

Kirkby Lonsdale lay at the foot of the far side of the hill. Slightly weary, we trudged down to the Sun Inn, where a discounted lunch awaited those who had completed the walk.

©️Stephen Tanham


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.

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