A Winter Walk in Eden
The snow held fast to the high Pennines, but the fields of the Eden valley were clear, the mud hardened by the frost. Walking across to Bandley Brook from Appleby, we stood on the footbridge over the Hoff Beck. A few weeks ago, this now mild little beck had torn down the valley, threatening the gardens of the cottagers in Colby. But on this cold February day the beck had sunk back into its regular course.
We walked down past Cuddling Hole to the hamlet of Hoff, such a good Viking name, and watched dippers on the rocks and shillets, as we approached the picturesque waterfall at Rutter Force, the subject of many a picture postcard.
I have fond memories of Rutter Force. The first time I ever did this walk, albeit in the other direction, was a day of driving rain. Once there was a tearoom at the waterfall, and the kindly proprietor plied me with refills of tea and toast. The second time, by contrast, was in a heat wave, the beck dried in the drought.
Over the hill then, via Donkeys Nest, or Porch cottage as it is more prosaically labelled on the map, towards Great Ormside. As we approached that quiet village the snow began to fall, so we missed the church (we have been there before and commend it, with its beautiful setting on a Viking mound.
By the time we reached the River Eden, the ground was well covered by snow and great patches of ice covered the slower bends of the water. A silent world of white, with only the occasional train on the Settle to Carlisle line breaking the peace. Then through what were once the policies of Appleby Castle, the paths marked by the footprints of heron and squirrel.
It is so good to be out on foot on these wonderful winter days.