along the Lyvennet

I’m fortunate enough to live in a rural area close to the sea and to have a country retreat in the Upper Eden Valley. Well, it’s only a static caravan but I can pretend. Our bolt hole is situated near the River Lyvennet (welsh: Llwyfenydd) in the ancient British kingdom of Rheged, once ruled by the noble King Urien.  The inhabitants spoke Cumbric, a dialect of the brythonic language closely related to Welsh. Hence the name Cumbria for the modern county and the word Cymry for Welsh people.

The Thundserstone - a glacial erratic of Shap Granite resting on limestone

Rheged is a place of enchantment with strong associations with the Arthurian legend. It has Pendragon Castle and King Arthur’s Round Table (a henge monument at Eamont Bridge).  King Urien is also thought to have married Arthur’s half-sister Morgan le Fay, although many regard this as chronologically impossible. Whatever the true story it is certain that Urien was at the forefront of the Celtic Briton’s fight against the invading Saxons and was a hero of some stature. Fitting then that he should have had one of his homes among the still unspoilt and beautiful country along the Lyvennet, part of the county of Westmorland, the most rural in England.

The Lyvennet near Kings Meaburn

Although it has nothing to do with gardening this section of the blog is about the area around the River Lyvennet and what goes on there during the seasons. I suppose you could say it was a bit of a diversion as it gets me away from thinking about the garden all the time. When I’m there I can think about trees and flowers and animals instead. It’s like gardening but without the vegetables!

The Lyvennet rises in the fell country to the south of Crosby Ravensworth. 
fell country
Apart from a few farms Crosby is the first settlement along the river's course. It is a pleasant village with quite a significant church dating from around 1200 AD. The Church of Saint Lawrence has been described as a cathedral in miniature due to the wealth of architectural features it contains. As testament to the long history of worship hereabouts there are the remains of a 7th century cross in the churchyard.

Saint Lawrence church

I don't know who this chap is

Christian worship may date back to the seventh century or earlier but there are plenty of signs around that the area has been inhabited since much earlier times. To the south and west of the village are the remains of iron age settlements and a Roman road passed nearby.

From Crosby the river flows through pastures to the picturesque village of Maulds Meaburn, possibly one of the most photogenic settlements in the north of England. You come round a bend in the road and there it is: a straggle of houses along the riverside with sheep grazing on the greens.

The lowland pastures and meadows are rich and the hedgerows filled with flowers but the wild fells are never far away. As soon as you climb up from the river you can see  either the Lake District or north Pennines, depending on which direction you gaze.

looking towards the Pennine escarpment, the East Fellside as it is known
At Kings Meaburn there is a ford over the river which is very popular with young families as the children can paddle quite safely. Herons often stand here waiting for fish and both upstream and downstream of the ford you may see kingfishers if you’re lucky.

There is also a footbridge across the river at this point. Several years ago it was destroyed in a disastrous flood and had to be rebuilt. Hard to imagine that a scene of such serenity could change to a raging torrent but if you get a cloudburst on the fells it gets channeled into the river and can do a lot of damage.

This is what we call ‘the thinking stone’. When you sit on it with your toes dipping in the river you can think about all sorts, except that you don’t. The sound of the water is hypnotic and you find yourself emptying your mind of all the everyday clutter and relaxing into oblivion.

The woods at this point are carpetted with wild flowers. The first to appear are the celandines and anenomies, then primroses and bluebells, followed by campions, water avens, cranesbill, and so it goes through the year

Several paths wind up through the trees or take you to neighbouring villages. We often see red squirrels scampering up the tree trunks or leaping from branch to branch. Roe deer are also a common sight and you can even see badgers if you're around at the right time of day. One late summer evening a few years ago we watched two badger cubs playing rough and tumble at the edge of the woods. A truly amazing sight.

One track is an old corpse route along which the dead were carried to be buried in the nearest consecrated ground at Morland. This is the view as you drop down into the village of Morland from the Great Strickland road.

Another path suddenly opens out into this grassy area at the foot of Jackdaw Scar. The scar is interesting because the bottom strata are sandstone with limestone above. It is popular with climbers.

Even the roadside verges are alive with wild flowers, with early purple orchids in profusion during May and June.

Amazingly there are also apple trees growing by the roadsides. Not just crab apples but proper ones that you can eat. Whether or not they’ve been planted or are seeded from discarded cores I can’t say but they add to the idea that this part of the world is a natural garden.

The Lyvennet has a fairly short journey before it joins the River Eden near Skygarth Bridge. I like that name, Skygarth. A garth is an enclosure and I imagine some ancient inhabitant putting a fence round the clouds. A reflection of heaven on Earth, perhaps.

The Eden is one of the major rivers of England and flows into the Solway Firth to the west of Carlisle. Hey, that’s near where I live. What goes around comes around.

This last picture shows the upper reaches of the Solway, looking over to Scotland from the English side. Two major rivers, the Eden from England and the Border Esk from Scotland pour their waters into the sea at this point and it is the final destination of that little trickle of water rising at Black Dub near Crosby Ravensworth.