Monday, 25 October 2010

North-Westward Ho!

No one has complained (yet) but the last few posts have been shamelessly Yorkshirist. Time to go somewhere else, and how better than on the Settle and Carlisle railway line? The southern extension of this to Leeds, and ultimately London, runs below my house in the Aire valley near Apperley Bridge; and I was looking at the most dramatic point on the whole line only on Sunday, when a group of us strode in bright sunshine from Ribblehead to Oughtershaw. The famous viaduct and the ghostly site of its once swarming 'Navvy Town' was behind us all the way.

It is hard to believe, nowadays, that the line very nearly closed in the 1980s. The Battle for the Settle & Carlisle by James Towler (Platform 5 Publishing 1990) tells how determined and knowledgeable community activists saved the day. Towler, who died in 1999, was a mighty warrior who was once told by an opponent: "The trouble with you is, you travel on too many trains." How pleased he would be, today, to see how the line which he helped to save, as the dogged and learned chair of the north's regional transport users' consultative committee, has become a thread connecting regeneration between the West Riding and the Cumbrian-Scottish border.

Cumbria. That means floods, and much has been written about recent ones, from Carlisle's inundation in 2005 to Workington and Cockermouth's devastation last year. Coincidentally this excellent study Floods in North West England: a history c.1600-2008, came out from the Centre for North-West Regional Studies at Lancaster university in December, the 16th, impressively, of their occasional papers. I must collect the other 15. It was providential to me, putting some of the more dramatic headlines and analyses into a long, soaking context of unruly rivers and rain. I apologise to the joint authors for my inept scanning which has removed their names. They are Sarah Watkins and Ian Whyte.

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