Ruskin’s ‘prettiest’ view under threat in Kirkby Lonsdale |  Cumbria

Ruskin’s ‘prettiest’ view under threat in Kirkby Lonsdale | Cumbria

An unspoilt and exhilarating countryside view, celebrated by 19th century critic and poet John Ruskin as one of the finest in the world, is under threat unless £1million can be raised.

It was after a visit in 1875 that Ruskin described the view over the River Lune from St Mary’s churchyard in Kirkby Lonsdale as “one of the finest in England, therefore the world”.

He wrote: “All that the hill of moorland, the gentle river and the foliage of the English forest can be seen at their best are gathered there. And especially view of the steep bank which falls on the side of the stream from the upper part of the city itself… I do not know in all my country, much less in France or Italy, a place more naturally divine, or a possession priceless of the true ‘Holy Land’.

The view was painted by JMW Turner in 1822 but was already famous, with the poet William Wordsworth describing it as a must-see in his Guide to the Lakes of 1810. This is why many tourists visit the small borough of Cumbria, but if they do today they will come across a locked door.

The problem, according to City Council President Mike Burchnall, is that the trail is on an embankment and when the Moon below is high, it cuts the bank. Work was done in the mid-1980s to try to strengthen the bank, but much of it was washed away in Storm Desmond in 2015, “and we’ve had big storms since then, so the whole bank is eroded” .

A scene of the River Lune from the graveyard of St Mary's Church in Kirkby Lonsdale by JMW Turner
A scene of the River Lune from the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Kirkby Lonsdale by JMW Turner. Photography: Album/Alamy

It’s a big job to fix the problem and it will cost around £1million. The council, which received the land in the 1800s, is investing £100,000 and has given itself until this time next year to raise the money.

“The problem with the Moon is that you can only do the work between June and September, so we want to try to do the work in 2024,” Burchnall said. “Every year we don’t collect money, the trail will be closed and we have a longer deadline to do the work. We must try to get the money as soon as possible.

The council hopes to successfully bid for the Heritage Fund lottery money and raise the rest through donations.

The local brewery made an 1822 beer from which 10 pence a pint goes into the fund and shopkeepers set up collection boxes.

“That’s a big ask,” Burchnall said. “But failure is not a possibility because if we fail, the trail could disappear into the Lune River. We really have to. Closing it has been very difficult for tourists who come here. The view is completely obstructed and we had to install metal barriers to close off the entire trail because it is unstable.

It’s also a nuisance for locals, many of whom walk their dogs or want a quick route to the rugby club.

“It is a very important link in the city which has been closed for over a year. There has been a lot of concern and opposition, but I think most people realize it had to close and we need to do something about it,” Burchnall added.

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