Book review by Steve Matthews of Bookends.
Lady Anne’s Way by Sheila Gordon. A 100-mile walk from Skipton to Penrith. Skyware. £11.99
She was the Countess of Pembroke, Dorset and Montgomery. She was born in Skipton Castle in 1590 and died on 22 March 1676 in Brougham Castle. She was buried in the vault she had built for herself in St Lawrence’s Church in Appleby. She was Lady Anne Clifford and she was a small woman – under five foot in height – but she was tremendously formidable. She is remembered today for how she fought for her rights to inherit the Clifford estates and how, for the last thirty years of her life, she used her enormous wealth to restore the castles in her control and to build and restore churches. The monuments to her determination and benevolence stretch across the northern Pennines from Skipton Castle, through Pendragon, Brough and Appleby Castles to Brougham and include the lovely churches at Appleby and Ninekirks.
In her later years the widowed Lady Anne, dressed always in black, progressed between her various properties. She left a truly remarkable legacy and a walk through wonderful countryside tracing her journeys and visiting these very special buildings is itself a walk through history.
Sheila Gordon begins her route at Skipton Castle and moves by east stages of ten to fifteen miles per day first to Grassington and then to Buckden. The path is largely along the banks of the River Wharfe. It then crosses the moors to Askrigg and Hawes. That represents a long day’s walk of eighteen miles, but, if the weather is fine, an extremely attractive one.
Another long day’s march takes you to Kirkby Stephen. On the way you pass the ruins of Pendragon Castle and Outhgill Church. A carved notice on the church says: “This Chapple of Mallerstang after it had layne runous and decayed some 50 or 60 years was newe repayred by Lady Anne Clifford.” After a winter stay at the lonely Pendragon Castle Lady Anne wrote: “ Soe I now kept Christmas here in this Pendragon Castle this yeare and this was the first time that I ever kept Christmas or any of my ancestors before mee for 300 yeares before or more.”
The next day’s walk is along the upper reaches of the River Eden. It makes a detour to see the castle at Brough and ends in Appleby, which, with its church, almshouses and fine castle, feels very much Lady Anne’s creation. In the north-east corner of the church is the vault which Lady Anne determined was “for myself to be buried in ifit please God.”
The sixth and final day is a full twenty miles from Appleby to Penrith, taking in the villages of Long Marton, Kirkby Thore and Cliburn and steering a route well clear of the busy A66. It is “a low level route with superb views of the North Pennine hills. Delightful villages are visited which have changed little for generations.” At the side of the A66 is Countess Anne’s Pillar. It was erected in 1656 by Countess Anne to mark her last parting with her mother. “She also left an annuity of four pounds to be given annually to the poor of the parish of Brougham. This tradition is still re-enacted every year by the rector of Brougham Parish on the stone table next to the pillar known as the Dolestone.”
This walk, ending in Brougham Castle, represents the very large legacy Lady Anne has left to the north country.
Sheila Gordon has provided a thorough and well-researched guide to an extremely attractive walk and her husband, Frank, has provided some characterful illustrations which re-create the atmosphere of the picturesque villages and countryside along the way.