• Jill Durnford

The Tranquil Potts Valley

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

A lovely sunny Sunday called for a wander far from the Lakeland crowds during half-term week.  One of my favourite places to walk is the Orton fells and today I headed for the charmingly unspoilt village of Crosby Garrett.

The name may be familiar to you as the site of the famous ‘Crosby Garrett Helmet’, a bronze Roman parade helmet found in a field in 2010.  Despite a vigorous campaign, Cumbria was sadly unsuccessful in its bid to keep the helmet in the county at Carlisle’s Tullie House Museum.

Crosby’s history actually goes back much further than the Romans - there is evidence of prehistoric settlement on the fells here, including huts, stone circles, cairns and a large long barrow which was found to contain cremated human bones.

500 years after the Romans left, the Norsemen arrived - probably from Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.  They left evidence of their existence chiefly through place names, of which ‘Crosby’ is an example.  The ‘by’ ending means farmstead, village or settlement - in this case, with a cross - showing that Christianity had probably reached this area by then.

With open views like this across to the Pennines and a rich fertile soil, who wouldn’t want to settle here?

If you enjoy walking without seeing a soul all day, where you can just stop and hear absolutely nothing, then you would enjoy this walk.  A gentle meander through limestone country with the tiny Potts Beck bubbling along beside me was sheer heaven.

Up onto the fell and it was clear that spring wasn’t far away - curlews were calling and flocks of starlings were swooping together - maybe not quite a full-on murmuration as the flocks were small - but lovely to watch.

The views were far-ranging and clear - the photos just don’t do them justice but can you see Blencathra amongst the Lakeland fells - all covered in snow but with that distinctive saddleback top.

Heading back down towards the village and one of the viaducts of the Settle-Carlisle Railway came into view:

Built against the odds in the 1870s and surviving against even greater odds in the 1980s, the Railway line is a remarkable feat of engineering which travels through some of the most outstanding countryside in England.  There is now a very regular service between Leeds and Carlisle meaning that you can use it for walks as well as visiting interesting towns.  Crosby’s station closed in 1956 and the nearest one is now at Kirkby Stephen, just a few miles away.

Just below the viaduct is this old sheepfold:

Traditionally a place where stray sheep were kept until claimed by their owner, many of them were given a new lease of life by stone sculptor Andy Goldsworthy in a project celebrating Cumbrian heritage.  This one however, looks rather fetching in its mossy coat.

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