Appleby is a sweet little town; apparently the stage for a huge, annual gypsy festival involving horse racing, markets and dancing. We got some supplies and maps at the tourist information, where we asked about some abandoned train tracks. The women helpfully gave us some details, and we walked to the station to bid farewell to Nat and Bryde. Whilst there we asked the station employee about the train tracks. He was reluctant to disclose their location until I said that the tourist information had been cool about it, and had encouraged us to ask. He perked up at this, and excitedly gave some very clear directions.
We got to the supposed start, which was a scrapyard, but the tracks were blocked by an old bus. We asked the scrapyard owner, who kept wiping his nose with a sooty hand, and he gave us concise directions around onto the railway (he’d blocked it up to stop the gypsies, who he had a particular hatred for). The scrapyard owner swore more than anyone I’ve ever met before, each syllable seemed to be punctuated by profanity. Some sentences consisted entirely of the f-word, conjugated in such a way to complete a grammatical sentence. Before we went on our way he warned us of a council man who, if encountered, needed to be kicked and told to “f-off.” We bared it in mind.
We climbed onto the railway, and after a quarter of a mile we saw a man wearing an official looking yellow jacket standing with his legs apart in a “do not cross” type of body language. He opened with a rhetorical question: did we know it is illegal to walk on a railway line? We answered, truthfully, in the negative. I apologised and said that tourist information had said it was okay.
“No, they didn’t,” he replied. I’m still not entirely sure how he could know one way or the other what they said to us, since I don’t remember him being there.
“Er, yes, they did,” this was an easy reply, since I had been there when I asked.
“No, they didn’t.” Was this his only defense?
“They did not.”
“Yeah, we were just these and they said we could.” This man placed bureaucracy about empiricism. Facts were not the issue here, a procedure had to be followed. The procedure I rely on in these circumstances is a polite ignorance. After gently following this procedure I eventually got him to leave us alone and give us an alternative route. We had stressed that the line was no longer open, why else, I questioned, would he be on the railway? He didn’t get this point, but I skirted over it; he also berated us for being near the pesticide without safety gear (clearly a last ditch attempt to get rid of us), but the only safety gear I could see him wearing was a yellow safety jacket. This was unlikely to protect his health from the noxious fumes. Finally, before giving us an alternate route he tried one last time to impress upon us that:
“this is clearly a railway, you never know when a train will be on it.” Wrong approach to a philosophy student. I told him that firstly, it said on the map it was disused, and secondly, the tourist information had told us that trains run on the weekends on rare occasions, but since this wasn’t a weekend we certainly did know. Sadly this council worker was inadequate at making simple deductions.
The yellow-jacket sent us through a farm, and not two minutes later we bumped into the farmer; he was driving along in his gigantic farm vehicle and stopped to talk to us. The farmer was a nice guy, perhaps only because he sympathised with us and complained about the yellow-jacket. He put us on a footpath to Ormside, which would lead to Kirkby-Stephen.
After going wearily (very wearily) through a field with a “beware the bull” sign, we took our boots and socks off and waded through a river to get to Ormside. I’m still not sure why the footpath led us through such hazards, but if anything it was an illustration of one’s right to roam in Britain; an important privilege. As we dried our feet on the far side we noticed the field we had previously been in was now subject to an influx of cows; lucky escape there.
Kirkby-Stephen is surprisingly big and the hostel is very cool; stained glass still intact. The hostel is full of sociable travelers; a 30 year old philosophy graduate with a Brampton accent and her 6’5” mate who was, reasonably, a bit intimidated by her accent; the three stooges from Lancashire (could have been the three from the Last of the Summer Wine); and a guy who’s been asleep in our dormitory the entire time. The Lancashire lads (in their sixties) were a right laugh, but gave us a lot of stick for traveling down to London. Why? Asked one named Jack, you should be going up North. He has a love for Scotland, which comes out when I ask him what he thinks of Scottish independence. He gives me the finger, and tells us of the patronage he’s given Scotland over the years. They can just f-off he tells us. If they want independence they can just f-off. I took his dislike of London and the South with a pinch of salt, hoping that I would discover his sentiments were off the mark.