IIf I were to sum up Crosby Ravensworth in just two words, it would be: “community spirit”. This is clear from the start of this circular walk, in an old stone bus shelter opposite the 1920s village hall.
Instead of a village shop, this shelter has become one – thanks to a bunch of residents who stock it on a daily basis. Inside, a woman is happily chatting away, telling me about the various products on sale. There are home-grown vegetables (today’s selection includes sugar snap peas and carrots), a bric-a-brac section raising money for the children’s play area and quail eggs, which are free-range and on sale at £1.25 for half a dozen. A cork bulletin board is decorated with posters advertising monthly yarn club meetings, plumbing services and nearby pilates classes.
Despite being home to only a few hundred people, Crosby Ravensworth, which is in Cumbria but on the northern edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, is a stunning event. Indeed, at the end of this drive, the Butchers Arms is a busy, community pub that was bought by local people after a campaign in 2011, having closed a few years before.
I started from the shelter and passed the church of Agios Lavrenti on my left. The stone remains of a large cross, believed to date back to 700 AD, lie on the church grounds and it is possible that settlers gathered around this monument for worship before a church was built.
In fact, “Crosby” historically means “arrangement through the cross.” Back at the bus shelter, a national park noticeboard suggests that the Vikings could have supplemented the village’s nickname by adding the nickname of a person known as Hravnsvart (“black raven”).
The path is to the right, passing through an entrance in a drystone wall and on a well-trodden path through a farm gate on the left, through a field affording views of the Butchers Arms back on the right. I reach another gate then, sharply to my left, I climb over the first of many tracks on this walk.
From here, I pass two more fields, walking through overgrown grass with a babbling brook, Lyvennet Beck, on my left. I reach a narrow boardwalk to the road, taking a left over a bridge before an immediate right, through two more fields, through more stiles, so that Lyvennet Beck is on my right.
A warning on a gate reads: “CAUTION, cows with calves can be aggressive.” This leads to a dip where Bracken thrives and crosses Lyvennet Beck, before a gentle climb to a gravel track.
I go right around a farm, marked as Crosby Lodge on the map, walking through more fields bordering drystones. It is a peaceful setting: cloudless blue sky and bushy trees. To my left, I begin to see jagged outcrops of weathered limestone rock, characteristic of this walk. These dramatic rock scars – a series of clinches and gyres – are known as limestone pavements. jutting out from the verdant hillside lend a desolate feel to an otherwise bland pallet landscape.
I see a stretch of moor ahead, purple heather in full bloom, and pass through a gate, before taking a sharp left over a stone stile and along a drystone wall. Down on the left, in a miniature valley, is a large pile of rocks marking one of the many sites believed to be Robin Hood’s grave. Here, I pause for a water break, wondering if this legendary outlaw could really be buried a few feet below me.
I continue, the wall still to my right, rising gently along the side of Crosby Ravensworth fell. About a mile to my left is the silhouette of the Black Dub monument – in the shape of a small obelisk – to which an optional trail leads. This is engraved with an inscription detailing how, in 1651, Charles II and his troops stopped for a drink, at the spring of Lyvennet, on their way from Scotland.
I press on, under a splash and over a stream, before gently scrambling towards two large and distinct granite boulders. More limestone pavements sit above them, protruding from the grassy landscape.
I ran to the left, reaching one of the many peaks in this waterfall, marked Wicker Street. Here is the highlight of this walk: the longest stretch of limestone pavement. The torn and rough slabs of rock look eerie, like craters on the surface of the moon. I hop along the pavement to the grass on the far side, where a leaning wooden post marks the way to a marked path, a former Roman road.
Navigating the path I find is difficult at times, with the many styles it’s easy to get lost or confused. My iPhone GPS and OS map become my best friends, getting me back on track whenever I go astray.
Once you reach the Roman road, the return is simple. I follow the road for just over half a mile, through desolate moorland and with views of Cross Fell on the horizon, the highest mountain in the Pennines.
This leads to a dirt road to the right for about a mile before I reach the tarmac road heading back to the village. To the right is an egg shape, an art installation by artist Andy Goldsworthy. Finally, I arrive at the Butchers Arms, ready to feast.
Google map of the route
Principle Village hall, Crosby Ravensworth (free parking available)
End Butchers Weapons
Distance 7.5 miles
year 4 hours
Full climb 355 meters
The beer garden
Outside the Butchers Arms, locals and bikers chat happily around tables. The friendly atmosphere reflects the proprietary status of the community, with 300 stakeholders.
Inside, there are plenty of local ales – I tried the Corby Ale, which is light and refreshing. A leaflet found in a bookcase next to board games details the pub’s history, believed to date back to the 18th century.
For a pub, the menu leans on the adventurous side while paying homage to some of the classics such as battered cod with dripping chips. An appetizer of roasted tomato galette arrived on a bed of arugula dressed in balsamic vinegar, with a puff pastry that’s delightfully crisp and buttery. (There are many vegetarian dishes, but vegans eating here should talk to the friendly waiters about their options.)
For the main, fried chicken breast is drizzled with cream sauce, served with potato fudge and crispy cabbage. For dessert I choose the baked raspberry coconut cheesecake: decadent, rich and delicious.
Where should I stay?
While the Butchers Arms doesn’t have its own rooms, nearby Crake Trees Manor – a working family farm – offers double bedrooms in a lovely old stone barn, with breakfast every morning, along with self-catering cottages, shepherd’s-style cabins. , camping pitches, a fixed berth and glamping pods. There is also a wood-burning hot tub.
Doubles from £210 (minimum two-night stay), craketreesmanor.co.uk