Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Helping to bring visitors to the Lake District

Based so close to the English Lake District we are always keen to encourage more people to visit this beautiful part of England. There are plenty of good directories and resources to help showcase the area and one in particular which is showing Things to do in Penrith UK.

Last week with the weather being so good up here in Cumbria we decided to go hunting for Bastle houses. Most people have heard of Border Reivers and how the lawless times brought terror and disruption to the region. However what is not so well understood is that the area impacted was much wider than just the Border lands. The reivers came down into the Eden Valley and across the North Pennines. Whilst there is plenty of evidence of fortified buildings throughout the area what we were after was more unique. Bastle houses.

Originally farms tended to be built around the idea of a long byre. The house with a byre for animals alongside. With the threat from reivers this design was changed so that the accommodation was above the byre. The walls were usually at least 1 metre thick and access tended to be limited to internal trapdoors or stairs. Bastle houses were also usually built in clusters or at least in sight of other houses so that there would be some form of early warning available.

Anyway we drove over to Melmerby and then joined the A686 for Alston. The road then drops down towards Haydon Bridge and before we reached the valley of the Tyne we turned right for Allendale. This is Bastle house area. The Allendale Valley has some fine examples which have survived for over 400 years.

The Bastle house we visited was called Nine Dargues. Basically "9 days work"...which refers to the size of the surrounding land which would take 9 days to till.

This picture shows 9 dargues on the left of the small road to Acton.

Although it is a listed building there has been little done to preserve the structure. The roof has collapsed and trees grow in and around it.

What is truly remarkable though is the stone used for the archway. Just one massive piece of rock.

And in case there was any doubt as to the defensive intent just take a look at these holes in the doorway designed to take strong cross beams.

This is a peaceful and beautiful area now. Plenty of wildlife,wonderful views and long walks. However sometimes it is worth remembering just how difficult times were.

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