Grid Ref : NY 615374
Melberby, with a population of about 200, is on the A686 road leading from Penrith over Hartside Pass to Alston. It is supposed to have taken its name from its having been the residence of Melmor, a Dane who lived hereabouts in the ninth century.
Nestling at the foot of the Pennine scar, Melmerby is typical of a number of picturesque fell side villages which lie along the eastern edge of the Eden Valley, with the village green bisected by a winding stream. The green was also the site of cock fighting and wrestling.
The village consists of red sandstone buildings overlook an 11-acre green, where the villagers still have traditional grazing rights. Horses now find a meal where there were once flocks of geese, that gave rise to a feather pillow and mattress making industry.
The A 686 from Penrith in Cumbria to Corbridge in Northumberland was chosen by the AA Magazine as one of their ‘Ten Great Drives’.
From Melmerby, the road climbs the Hartside Pass to a height of 1904 ft, from where there are magnificent views across the Solway Firth to Scotland. This long and steep climb also forms part of the Sea to Sea Cycle Route. To the south, Melmerby lies only 4 miles from Langwathby.
Nearby is the Church of St John the Baptist, a 13th Century building of red sandstone. Some of the windows, all of which are plain, may be as old as 600 years. Through the East window one can see Melmerby Fell on the North Pennines. On top of the tower, with its stepped turret, sits a weather vane in the shape of a cockerel.
Melmerby has one of the ‘Sheepfolds’ by Andy Goldsworthy. The ‘washfold’ is at the south end of Melmerby Village, beside the A686. The fold can be seen by parking above the village green, but access to the fold is over a small footbridge beneath which Andy Goldsworthy has carved a ‘dub’ stone set in the river.
In the village stands Melmerby Hall, a Grade II listed manor home, which started as a defensive tower in the 1300s. It is set within its own sandstone walled grounds, which are entered through an arched gateway at the edge of the village. The grounds include an archery lawn, walled vegetable gardens and a Victorian castle folly at the foot of the lawn. The forested grounds extend for 20 acres, and incorporate a small tributary of the River Eden. Inside are a number of unusual features that include a priests hole, an enormous inglenook fireplace and doorways through old fireplaces.
The first mention of the existence of the Hall is in the reign of Edward II (1307-27) when it was owned by John de Denum. It passed some time later to the Threlkeld family, who extended the tower in the 17th century and again in the 18th century in a Georgian style at the front of the house. It is now rented out for accommodation.
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