On Monday evening I rode up the Eden Valley from the sandstone bridge at Armathwaite to the Bailey bridge at Langwathby and then back by Great Salkeld. The cluster of houses at Longdales above Coombs Wood show no signs of their most infamous resident, poacher William Graham. William appears in the Beneath the Beacon alphabet as D is for Defendent, after his sensational acquittal for the murder of a local gamekeeper. The pretty cottages basking in this week's May sunshine bear little resemblance to the rough thatched hovel where William and his family eked out a thin living.
The switchback road from Longdales continued past Nunnery where Margery Jackson's letters to brother William were returned with disdainful interest, sparking (M is for Miser) Margery's righteous fury and re-igniting the drawn-out legal battle over her inheritance. I could imagine Margery, letter in hand, agitated, walking to and fro in the gardens above the river valley. Did her relatives try to calm her emotions and turn her away from litigation, or did they stir her passions and encourage her claim?
Beyond Nunnery and Kirkoswald the road passed the ancient stone circle of Long Meg and Her Daughters before descending in a sweeping curve to Little Salkeld, home of Colonel Samuel Lacy (X is for eXploder), and the Watermill, home of the eponymous biodynamic stoneground flour. A mile or so further on, in Langwathby, the locals sat on the green outside the Shepherd's Inn enjoying the last drinks of the Bank Holiday weekend.
Eschewing the climb over Penrith's Beacon and its attendant characters I headed north and west past Wan Fell and Brackenburgh and towards the sun as it slowly sank behind the Galloway hills.