Eden Benchmarks
Exploring the cultural landscape in East Cumbria
An Accessible Paradise

We shall not cease from exploration,
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T.S.Eliot

Photo from An Accessible Paradise by Val CorbettPhoto by Val Corbett

The river Eden rises above Mallerstang in the south eastern corner of Cumbria and flows north via Kirkby Stephen, Appleby, Temple Sowerby, Langwathby, Lazonby, Armathwaite and Wetheral to Warwick Bridge where it turns west through Carlisle and out to sea beyond Rockcliffe and the Solway Firth – a distance of some 70 miles.

It is joined at regular intervals on its journey by a succession of tributaries, many of which are substantial rivers in themselves with their own sizeable tributaries.  These include the Scandal, Swindale, Hoff, Lyvennet, Crowdundle, Lowther, Eamont, Raven, Irthing, Gelt, Petterill and Caldew, all emanating from the hundreds of little becks that flow down from the surrounding hills and mountains.

The Eden catchment landscape covers an area of 2200 square kilometres and extends from the Lake District fells of Skiddaw and Helvellyn and the two major lakes of Ullswater and Haweswater in the west to the Scottish border in the north, the western slopes of the Pennines in the east and the Yorkshire Dales in the south.  It is a region of spectacular natural diversity held together by a magnificent river system that delineates its geographical identity.

The patterns of fields, meadows, and small woodlands in the valleys, contained on all sides by high bare fells and moorland, have been carved out of the original woodland wilderness by generations of farmers.  Together with the ancient stone circles, castles, vernacular buildings, drystone walls and hedges they are all visible manifestations of Eden’s cultural heritage.

It is also a very accessible landscape and there is no better way to explore it than walking along its hundreds of public paths, bridleways and byways.  These too are part of our cultural heritage.  The public rights of way network facilitates a deeper engagement with the unique territorial chemistry that defines Eden and allows us to inhabit its rural landscape more intimately.  Most public paths have existed for centuries and quite literally enable us to follow in the footsteps of our predecessors from the earliest Bronze Age travellers through to the 20th century postmen who, not so very long ago, delivered mail on foot to all the outlying farmhouses.

The best Ordnance Survey maps for following Public Rights of Way in East Cumbria are Carlisle 315, The English Lakes north eastern area OL5 and Howgill Fells and upper Eden valley OL 19 all in the ‘Explorer Map’ series.