Drawing 379: In Eskdale
Direction of views: Church: NE. Bridge: SE Gravestone: NW
Notes: The church is St Catherine’s, by the River Esk stepping stones (easiest access down the lane opposite Boot). The gravestone (of Thomas Dobson) is visible from the entrance to the church. Both are unchanged since AW drew them, though his precise viewpoint for the church is now inaccessible due to conifer trees. The bridge is named Esk Bridge, and is at grid reference NY 173004. A single track road south of Dalegarth station leads over the bridge to a car park.
Comments: On 2nd May 1992, Andrew Amos, Peter Messenger and I started a weekend break in Eskdale Green, and after checking into our B&B, we set off for Coniston, getting a few sketches en route, including these at the church (images 1 & 2), and both of those at Hardknott Fort. The day’s walk was Coniston to Boot, part of Paul Hannon’s “Furness Way”.
For the digital project, I visited the church on 21st June 2013 with Anne Setright after a visit to Whitehaven, and since the weather was beautiful, we walked down to the church about 6pm, just in time to get excellent conditions, with sun on both sides of the building (image 3). The gravestone was, of course, not right for the light at that time of day; a planned visit for the following morning never happened, as rain was threatening.
Anne and I visited the bridge on 8th September 2015, during another stay at Lane End Cottage in Boot (image 4). Although the weather was dry, the rocks were treacherously slippery. The bridge is under trees, and difficult to photograph effectively.
A picture of the gravestone in sunlight was finally secured on 24th May 2016, by a short walk from Lane End Cottage, where Anne and I were enjoying another week’s stay. Someone had pushed a Remembrance Day cross and poppy into the gravestone (image 5). It seems impossible not to get another gravestone in the picture; this must predate AW’s sketch, and perhaps he just chose to exclude it from his drawing.
None of these three scenes appear elsewhere in Wainwright’s published works. He comments that Tommy Dobson’s local reputation as a Master of Foxhounds was greater than John Peel’s; but that his name has not lived on in the same way. Having come to Eskdale originally as a bobbin turner aged 21, “Laal Tommy” was master of the Eskdale and Ennerdale foxhounds for 53 seasons. Following the hounds on foot, he had been known to climb Scafell three times in one day. He died of pneumonia in 1910 aged 85, having taken his hounds to join a hunt in Langdale. There is a lot more information about him on www.lakelandhuntingmemories.com