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A Walk from Great Asby

September 1, 2013

On a beautiful late Summer day we walked from the Cumbrian village of Great Asby, a peaceful settlement of great attraction in the old county of Westmorland. In the shelter on the green are two wonderful maps. One is a village plan, showing who lived in all the houses in 1911. What a splendid idea! The other was a map of the local footpaths and bridleways – something that every community should display.

We walked out of the village along a green track called Priest Lane. It runs past the rectory, but I suspect it is older in origin than that, for surely this must be the way priests and later vicars journeyed to the small hamlet of Little Asby with its chapel.

The path now runs up through fields from Great Asby, though on one side of the field in a hollow way, almost hidden under a tunnel of undergrowth. I suspect this was the original line of the old track.

Holborn Hill Iron Age Settlement c John Bainbridge 2013

Holborn Hill Iron Age Settlement c John Bainbridge 2013

A few fields of rough pasture brought us to Holborn Hill, a broad mound of limestone. It is covered in earthen bumps and mounds for here we have an Iron Age settlement, some of the limestone boulder walls still intact. Apart from the more usual hillforts, Iron Age pounds, field systems and settlements are relatively uncommon, so this was quite a sight to see.

On then to the 15th century Grange Hall, a house of the most interesting architecture. Just beyond, as the path leaves the drive is an old stone well, its waters supposedly renowned for its healing properties. Two fields away is the farm of Asby Grange.

Continuing on, through the farm buildings of Burtree, we came to the tiny settlement of Little Asby, a place probably little visited by tourists, unless they are staying at the caravan site there. One of those out of the way places that are a delight in this corner of England. In times past there was a medieval chapel here, dedicated to St Leonard, perhaps a chantry or a leper colony according to local tradition.

We left Little Asby and walked over the hilltop and down into the deep valley of the Potts Beck.Great Asby Walk 019

I have to say, I think that this is one of the most beautiful spots in the north, quiet and remote and well off the tourist trail. As we descended, the valley to the right was all limestone moorland with revealing glimpses of limestone pavement, while the valley the other way was pastoral, almost like the parkland of some great estate. The farmhouse at Potts is a ruin but worth exploring.

We followed the beck downstream to the farm of Water Houses, appropriately named, for the beck is wider here and there are some marshy banks to be encountered. Just off our route a clapper bridge of considerable antiquity crosses the Potts Beck.

We climbed up to Whygill Head, and then the lane to Great Asby for a quarter mile, before heading off to the left along a footpath that meandered across rough meadow, fields and stone gap stiles back to Great Asby.

You can find a route for this fascinating walk in Paul Hannon’s splendid little walking guide Walking Country: Eden Valley (Hillside Great Asby Walk 024Publications). I don’t usually follow walking guides, preferring to make up my own new routes from the map, but I commend Paul’s excellent little guide to you for this walk.

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