Alston Moor – wild places of England

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Having started writing this blog about Alston Moor, I went scouting around the internet to see what information, pictures or videos I could find and I came across the “header” above. It is a panoramic view of Hartside – the place that you can see for miles and miles.

The site that I found the picture on had several really beautiful photos. The site is entitled John’s Pics. But I couldn’t find a “John” to ask if I could use his picture. So I guessed at his possible address and I’ve emailed him to ask permission and to tell him how beautiful his photography is! Update: I got the correct address and John has very kindly said I can use his pictures here on my blog. His site can be found here

The River Nent

There's silver up that river!!

Both the header and the picture above are copyright to as yet an unknown John!

Alston Moor really was a wild place when I went there in the late 70’s. From the moment I came over Hartside I knew that it was somewhere in the world that I wanted to live and that going back to city living was something that I would never do again.

Of course, back then mobile phones were not the accessory that they are now. Making the journey to Hexham in the North East, Penrith in the South, Carlisle – North West or Durham to the East (the 4 nearest towns) was not to be taken lightly, either because of the weather or that maybe the old banger cars that we used to drive might very well not get there. Paying attention to how far back or forward the nearest phone box was, was really important. There were many times that I broke down on one of these roads and had to walk several miles to get help. Or indeed the time that I was driving up Hartside in a blizzard and fortunately I noticed the snow plough at the top, flashed my lights at him and he came down to get me, clearing the way as he came! A night in the car would not have been pleasant!

This is not the actual incident, but it might well have been. more soon!!

Just chatting about my Life

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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….

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