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Saunterings:  Walking in North-West England

Saunterings is a set of reflections based upon walks around the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire in North-West England (as defined in the Preamble). Here is a list of all Saunterings so far.
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196.  From Motte to Motte: Arkholme to Hornby

arkholme motte Right: The Arkholme motte.

Why were so many motte-and-bailey castles built along the Lune valley, the highest concentration of such castles in England, it is said?  Perhaps the Normans found the local natives exceptionally stroppy. However, the castles were relatively small and constructed of wood, not stone, so they were hardly impregnable fortifications. Probably they were more like administrative centres, overseeing an important north-south route.

I set off along Arkholme’s Main Street – its only street, really. The street is a cul-de-sac, running at right angles from the Kirkby Lonsdale road down to near the river, where there used to be a ferry. The street is therefore quiet and it is possible to stroll along, admiring the various old houses, within the gardens of which the residents enjoy their tranquillity. The street comes to an end at the church, which is adjacent to, almost tucked into, the motte of the old motte-and-bailey castle. The church is, presumably, within the old bailey, of which there is no sign today.

Motte-and-bailey castles consisted of a motte and a bailey. (My mission is to enlighten.)  The motte was a mound, usually not natural, upon which a keep was built to protect valued property and people. Next to the motte was the bailey, a courtyard protected by a fence and ditch. The bailey would contain various buildings such as kitchens, stables, forges, and so on. The Lune valley motte-and-bailey castles were at the smaller end of the spectrum of such castles and, since the built structures, made of wood, have all disappeared, the remains of the castles are not that prominent in the landscape. There are just some enigmatic humps and bumps to be seen. The mottes were originally flat-topped but have become rounded over time.

Beyond the Ferryman’s Cottage, I headed for the footpath that runs south by the river. However, there was a sign to say that the path was closed because of damage to a footbridge. It advised me to take an alternative route – but it didn’t tell me what alternative that might be, because there isn’t one. So I pressed on anyway. I didn’t encounter any impassable obstacles – but I did flounder in too much mud. It was clear that much of this path had recently been under water and I hadn’t anticipated quite how wet it remained. I struggled on, pausing occasionally to enjoy the view of and across the river, the best view being back up towards the Yorkshire Dales hills. Otherwise I noticed little as my eyes were fixed on the mud to try to ensure that I didn’t slip and jar my back.

Eventually I emerged at Loyn Bridge. I noticed a sign here from Gressingham Anglers Ltd (Ltd, not Club: sounds rather formal) that said “Please do not disturb our river from either bank”. I wondered about the ‘our’. Do they own the river?  In Sauntering 192 I considered who was responsible for our waterways. I didn’t think that Angling Clubs were. And they shouldn’t be, as they have a one-dimensional view of what a river is for.
R Lune1        R Lune2

Left: The River Lune near Arkholme, showing erosion of the west bank;  Right: The River Lune near Loyn Bridge, with debris in the tree a metre above my head.

castle stede Right: Castle Stede, Hornby, from the ridge of the bailey, looking towards the motte, overgrown with trees.

I crossed the bridge to have a look at the remains of the Castle Stede motte-and-bailey. This is the best preserved of all the Lune valley motte-and-baileys. There are no buildings, of course, but the shape of the motte and bailey can be well seen. The motte stands at the eastern end, now with trees sprouting therefrom. A paddock of grass, kept under control by sheep, I assume, shows the area of the original bailey. As can be appreciated, the site provided (when the trees weren’t here) a good vantage point along the Lune valley. Castle Stede is thought to have been abandoned in the late 13th century when the villagers of Hornby moved to gather round the new castle built there. A public footpath passes by the bailey and with a little accidental straying it is possible to wander into the bailey to imagine activities of centuries ago.

Just for the record, the other motte-and-bailey castles along the Lune valley are at:
    •  Castle Howe, near Tebay. This castle was built by a bend of the Lune so that travellers on the M6 could see it without even leaving their car. The motte has been reduced in size by river erosion.
    •  Castlehaw, Sedbergh. This castle oversaw the approaches from Rawtheydale and Garsdale. The motte is not easy to see today but can be viewed from the footpath up Winder.
    •  Cockpit Hill, Kirkby Lonsdale. Experts tell us that there was a motte-and-bailey castle here, just west of Ruskin’s View. Today it looks like a nondescript, overgrown hump. Perhaps old maps showed it as a castle, before it was adopted for a cockpit.
    •  Whittington. The ten-foot high remains of a motte lie in the graveyard of the Whittington church, which was presumably built within the bailey. At least, that is what experts say. It doesn’t look a very strategic viewpoint to me.
    •  Castle Hill, Burton-in-Lonsdale (if this counts as within the Lune valley). This is the most prominent of the mottes, being clearly seen from the main road through the village. This motte has, apparently, two baileys attached but it is all on private land.
    •  Melling. Here what remains of the motte can be seen by peering over the wall of the churchyard into the rectory garden, where it has been adopted as a feature.
    •  Castle Hill, Halton. A large flagpole marks the site of the motte, which is helpful as not much of the original motte and bailey can be traced today.
    •  Lancaster. It is assumed that a motte-and-bailey castle was built on the site of the old Roman fort and then replaced by the stone edifice seen today. I don’t know if there’s any direct evidence for a motte-and-bailey castle here.

After completing a lap of the Castle Stede bailey, I returned to Loyn Bridge. I had planned to continue alongside the Lune and then the Wenning into Hornby but after a hundred yards or so my back said ‘enough’. I agreed with it. All the tension to avoid slipping on mud was proving too much, and I didn’t really fancy slipping into the river. So I retreated and walked slowly along the road into Hornby to await my bus.
Loyn Br

Loyn Bridge

    Date: March 24th 2024
    Start: SD583722, Arkholme bus stop  (Map: OL2)
    Route: (linear) SE on Main Street – church – SW, S on Lune Valley Ramble path – Loyn Bridge – E – Castle Stede – W – Loyn Bridge – S for 100 yards, N – Loyn Bridge – S – Hornby bus stop
    Distance: 4 miles;   Ascent: 20 metres

The following item:
     197.   Around the Windmills of My Mind, Metaphorically Writing
The two preceding items:
     195.   A (Mis?)Guided Tour of Kirkby Lonsdale
     194.   Walking and Wincing, Locally
Two nearby items:
       50.   With the Lune from Kirkby Lonsdale
     186.   Thoughts from the Towpath (Holme to Carnforth)
A list of all items so far:

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    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018-


Top photo: The western Howgills from Dillicar; Bottom photo: Blencathra from Great Mell Fell