Well I’m currently in the US for Xmas and the New Year and then I am back to the UK to start a new phase of my life in a place that I used to live 18 years ago!! It’s called Alston and is in Cumbria, UK.
The town itself is classed as England’s highest market town at 1400 ft. (I know, my US friends – that is nothing to places in the States) however, for England it is high and remote.
When I first moved there in 1979 it was wild, and considered the middle of no-where, as it is placed at the highest point in the hilly backbone that spans the north of England. It had just had an influx of “hippies” who were living in benders and tents, not realising exactly how inclement the weather could be to outdoor dwellers! After all this was damp England at it’s best …and up on the top of the Pennine Chain the weather can be bitter and tumultuous a lot of the year round. In fact, back then we used to have a saying about Alston Moor weather….. “There is winter and there is August!!”
Back then if you applied for a job in the nearest larger towns of Penrith, Hexham or Carlisle as soon as you said that you lived in Alston they would look at you and say……. “Ok, we will be in touch, but we are looking for someone who can get here all year round, not just in good weather”
People of spirit live in Alston Moor. You had to be. You also had to make your own work…… work and jobs were hard to find. The pits had closed down, and despite soldiering on for quite a while the foundry closed too. Alston was in the news with predictions that it would become a ghost town very soon.
That never happened. There were (and still are) many small businesses there. Most business came to make alot of money with their “idea” and left soon after having struggled with the harshness of the environment and the long distance to “civilisation!!” However, a number survived and new and old blood worked hard at keeping the place from fulfilling the ghost town predictions.
Despite (or maybe because of) being remote and inclement, Alston Moor is for me one of the most beautiful places in the world. That’s why I lived and loved the place from the moment I drove up the long, winding and steep road over Hartside ( where on a clear day you can see forever- or at least 100 miles) to discover it. And that’s why, now I am returning. It has beauty, community, depth and vibrance! Now it is going to have me too, back home again.
To be continued….