'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Lost Frontier

Two or three times a week I drive to Cockermouth and work out at Iron John's gym. The last fifty yards of this journey are the best: I park on one side of the Derwent & cross the river by a hideous metal footbridge.
The view from this bridge encompasses the ridiculous and the sublime: on the left bank is the back garden of the house where William Wordsworth was born. You can look down into the rock pools where the poet played naked as a boy and hear the burble of running water that invaded his dreams.
On the right bank there's a little public park where, in my childhood, the BBC recorded a heat of It's A Knock-Out that naffest of 1970s TV programmes, complete with an incoherent Stuart Hall and Eddy Waring mini-marathoning in midstream. (Ren Man - there is a picture of me and the kids in the audience at this event in the local WC Times & Star - happy days)
But cross the footbridge here & you're crossing one of the great lost frontiers of Britain: a thousand years ago you would be walking across an international border between two warring states. For a couple of centuries around the start of the last millenium the border between England and Scotland followed the line of the Derwent from Workington to Keswick.
Before anybody starts bringing contemporary political baggage along & indulging in Braveheart-style fantasies, it should be pointed out that in those days Gallwegian was probably the language of choice on the right bank, Cumbric on the left, and Norse everywhere. If there was any fighting going on then both sides were probably hurling insults at each other in Norman French.
Cumbria's always been a sophisticated, cosmopolitan sort of place.


Blogger RenMan said...

there is a picture of me and the kids in the audience at this event in the local WC Times & Star - happy days

11/4/05 12:33 am  

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