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The north-south valley of the Eden is a broad fertile strip between Lakeland and the high moors of the Pennine uplift. The river rises at Mallerstang, where Wild Boar Fell forms a magnificent backdrop, and is noted for its run of salmon and for the trout fishing enjoyed in the upper reaches. In its course of 67 miles to the marshes of Solway Firth it passes two historic towns, Kirkby Stephen and Appleby, and the city of Carlisle, the entry point for Scottish raiders in a more turbulent past. Presiding over the northern Pennines is Alston, one of the highest market towns in the land.
The Eden Valley provides a limestone setting that, in its middle and lower reaches, assumes a rosy appearance from New Red Sandstone, best seen in the spectacular gorges so beloved by the Romantic Age. On the flanking Pennine hills are scars left by leadminers, austere monuments to whose industry might still be visited by today’s tourist, but the region is generally rural in appearance and home to formerly grand estates, quiet villages and a scattering of farms. It becomes known as the ‘golden vale’ when the cereal crop ripens under the summer sun.
The celebrated stone circle known as Long Meg and Her Daughters is the oldest indication of human settlement in the region. The Vikings left hogback gravestones and the Normans a legacy of castles, their medieval forest of Inglewood now a thing of the past. Pele towers recall the border struggles fought out between Scots and English and the ancient fairs and festivals the more peaceful times which followed. The days of packmen and drovers live on in Appleby New Fair, nowadays a major gathering point for travelling folk, and the arrival of the Settle-Carlisle railway, from which one might still enjoy languid views of a richly varied landscape, opened up the valley and its farm produce to a wider, national, market. The rich history of the vale is brought to life in this beautifully illustrated celebration of a region whose uniquely distinctive past makes it so attractive to today’s enquiring visitor.
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