Gilsland is a small village just a few miles east of the farm house we were renting near Brampton in Cumbria. Upon entering the village is a small free car park on the right-hand side for about a dozen cars, presumably for visitors to experience and walk a section of Hadrian’s Wall (fig #1) across the road. Tragically the Wall is truncated by a house and garden at his point. I can’t help wondering at what point did we, the Brits, started to value the historic heritage value of structures like Hadrian’s Wall. I can only image that many of the lovely houses of Gilsland are built from stones robbed from Hadrian’s Wall, much like the farm house I once owned in Somerset that was built from the rubble of a monastery, which was constructed by King Alfred and demolished by Henry VIII. So, it could be seen as a natural and logical system of recycling.
I left my car in the free car park and strolled towards the village and came across a poster (fig #2) promoting the reopening of Gilsland railway station, which was closed to passengers in January 1967 under the Beeching Report. The poster included directions to a web site that alas no longer functions. However, my research did reveal some encouraging news about the future of the station. So hopefully in the not-too-distant future the village will benefit from the reopening of a fully functioning railway station (figs #3 & 4).
Continuing my stroll there’s what appears to be a large, abandoned house (figs #5 & 6). It’s a delightful property but with gaping holes in the roof and broken and rotting windows. I’m however, reliably informed that someone still lives there. In the driveway there are what appears to be abandoned Volvo and Renault cars (figs #7 & 8); peering over the low wall there’s a proliferation of farm-type equipment and old truck bodies (fig #9), presumably used for storage. Cats and kittens are running free (fig #10) and there’s even a cast metal sign by the ‘Ministry of Works’ (fig #11) warning not to “damage or injure” a monument, although it’s difficult to see to what ‘monument’ it is referring. Interestingly, the ‘Ministry of Works’ ceased to function as a Governmental department in 1970, so the sign itself could be considered as an historic monument.
Moving further on down the hill to the ‘centre’ of the village is the House of Meg tea rooms (fig #12), which appears to garner high praise for the food on offer, apart from not being dog friendly, which inevitably excludes me. My wife and I did, however, take advantage of the excellent ‘Thursday pizzas’ by Fire & Dough. I see from Meg’s FaceBook account that they have recently installed some great looking shelters in the garden, which is a boon for dog owners.
From the centre of the village there’s a lovely clear view over the river Irthing towards the Gilsland Hall Hotel (fig #13), and bizarrely from the same vantage point there’s a small, scaled model of a blue and red windmill sitting on the side of the road (fig #14). Continuing my stroll, I chanced upon what I believed to be the village hall (fig #15) with a notice board of local postings (fig #16) and opposite the hall there’s a conveniently placed defibrillator and a brilliant ‘library’, located in a bus shelter (figs #17~19).
I retraced my steps and embarked on a stroll towards the Gilsland Hall Hotel that I had seen from the roadway, passing another derelict building (figs #20 & 21) on my way. There is a long, winding road up to the hotel with a well-placed seat (fig #22) to admire the view over the valley. Here, I recruited an old gent (fig #23) to be my seat-model, he stopped and chatted with me for a while about the village and the campaign to reinstate the railway station.
On the road to the Gilsland Hall Hotel there is yet another derelict building (fig #24). It’s a stunning property with wonderful views over the valley to the village of Gilsland. It’s easy to imagine horse drawn carriages trundling up the driveway (fig #25) to the main entrance (fig #26). Unfortunately, the property has been neglected for some while, with rotting doors and window frames and failing masonry (figs #27 ~ 32), it would be a shame to allow this wonderful building to completely fail; with the views over the valley and village, it would make a stunning small hotel. There are two, what may be, arched carriage parking bays (fig #33), in which some picnic tables have been stored and a memorial bench for ‘Mrs Gladys Dargie 1916 – 1997’ (fig #34); I wonder who she was?
A short walk further up the hill is the Gilsland Hall Hotel (fig #35), which was established in 1901 as the Gilsland Spa convalescent home for Co-operative Society members in the North of England. It is such an ugly, monstrosity of a building in a stunning landscape, one wonders how planning permission was ever granted. It has the look of an oversized HMO or block of flats more suitable to an urban environment (fig #36). Despite my efforts, I failed to find any encouraging vistas in the hotel grounds (figs #37 & 38).
I enjoyed my stroll around Gilsland, it’s a charming and historic village and I hope the residents are successful with their attempts to reopen the railway station.