Coast to Coast – Kirkby Stephen

Main Street Kirkby Stephen, UK Follow Me on Pinterest

Main Street Kirkby Stephen, UK

On the Coast to Coast Path:  We followed the track that led along a back lane and out onto the long main road of Kirkby Stephen. There was our accommodation, perched right on the main street. The “Jolly Farmer” was a comfortably renovated inn. The assortment of boots and walking staves in the corridor suggested that this was a popular walkers’ overnight spot.

.After a shower and afternoon tea, we walked into the centre of the town. The name Kirkby Stephen was derived from Old Norse and English words meaning “a settlement with a church of St Stephen ”. Throughout our journey, we had come across a number of Norse and Anglo-Saxon legacies and I was fascinated to discover how much of our present is still influenced by the past.

The church tower was visible from a distance and added to the character of the town. Georgian and Gothic buildings lined the main street, which led to the centre of the town with its market place and Church of St Stephen.

An elegant gateway to the church grounds faced the market square. We passed beneath the columns of the gateway and walked over the weatherworn flagstones. Tall trees lined the pathway to the entrance of St Stephen’s Church.

Inside the large church were all sorts of interesting artifacts and nooks that caught my eye. The pulpit was made from Shap granite, and above the Hartley Chapel
was an engraved panel showing the stoning of St Stephen.

This site had been a place of worship since 900AD when the Saxons first built a church here. The Normans later rebuilt it and eventually a Tudor tower was added, similar to the one we had seen at Shap Abbey. T here were stone ledges that protruded from the interior walls. I had seen these in the other churches we had visited in the course of our walk. In medieval times there we re no pews or seating for the congregation and people had to stand throughout the service. Those who were ill or had difficulty in standing would “go to the wall” to sit down.

The 18th century bread shelves attached to the rear nave pillars were once used to distribute bread to the poor. A mass was being celebrated in the Hartley chapel, so we quietly walked around and continued admiring the church’s interior.

We had been looking forw a rd to a meal at Kirkby Stephen’s Coast to Coast Fish Shop – a favourite of Wainwright’s but were disappointed to find it closed. Walking back through the town we peeked into a few places that we re serving food but found nothing tempting.

OK, so dinner at the Jolly Farmer’s it was to be. While we waited with our pre-dinner drinks in the bar room, two talkative women with North American accents arrived and sat at a nearby table. We got to chatting and decided to dine together.

And what a delightful evening it turned out to be. Connie and Caroline had left their families back in Canada to fend for themselves and flew across the Atlantic to do the walk. They joked about how they found most of the walkers they had met “destination driven”, while the two Canadians enjoyed “being driven to their destination” – if the opportunity arose.

.They recounted an incident in which they had met a young cyclist who had stopped to chat and in the conversation Connie mentioned that they were fairly tired and hoped that their B&B was close by. The young man had offered to double them on his bike and added he was sorry, but he couldn’t manage their packs as well!

They we re here to have a good time and if the night’s hilarity and good humour we re any indication, their intentions were being fulfilled.

.Ciders and ploughman’s all around.

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