Taking the long walk home on route 66

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Get Your Kicks on Route 66 is the refrain of the old rhythm and blues classic by American songwriter Bobby Troup and first recorded in 1946 by King Cole.

We’re familiar with a different Route 66 which is part of the Wetherby Railway Path.

When we last walked along the part of it from Freemans Way to Walton Gates, we saw that the sign located where the path crosses the racecourse road had been blown around by the wind and was pointing in the wrong direction.

Some walkers paused to ask directions for Wetherby and asked if it was really only the half mile the signpost indicated.

They were saddened to hear that the half mile would barely get them to the Freemans Way underpass and the centre of Wetherby and the refreshments they wanted would be another mile further on.

We’ve just been on holiday in Keswick and have walked along Route 71: one of the other Cycle Network paths built along the tracks of another disused railway and very near the A66 road.

We were staying in Keswick and within a few minutes of arriving there, met Jan and Alex Purves from East Keswick who make an annual pilgrimage to Keswick for the Jazz Festival which had started that weekend.

Janet and Peter Watson were also there for the festival. Some of you may remember Janet from the time when she worked as receptionist at the Wetherby News Office many years ago.

There are some nice walks in the Keswick area and we scarcely needed to use the car although we did use public transport (and the Metro bus pass) for some of the return journeys.

The four mile stretch of the Route 71 cycle path between Threlkeld and Keswick is one of our favourite walks.

There is stunning scenery along the route which follows the valley of the River Greta; crossing and re-crossing the fast flowing river by means of the picturesque old railway bridges with their oxbow shaped arches.

In one place the river and track are both crossed by a magnificent concrete bridge of the A66 road; a plaque proudly boasting that in 1999 the Greta Bridge was voted concrete structure of the century.

Building that bridge must have been quite an undertaking and it is here that one of the tunnels of the old railway track was blocked by the construction and the cycle path had to be diverted onto a boardwalk high above the river gorge.

Further along the path was an old railway building now used as a shelter and for information boards about the old railway.

One of these told how the railway was built by ‘navvies’.

It said you could tell a railway navvy by his dress; moleskin trousers, double canvas shirts, velveteen square tailed coats, hobnailed boots, gaudy handkerchiefs and felt hats with the brims turned up.

They dug, they cut, they excavated and they moved soil, clay and rock using only picks, shovels and wheelbarrows.

And they blasted their way through solid rock with gunpowder. It’s recorded that navvies were not known for their good behaviour, the popular image being of debauchery and violence.

The railway cuttings, embankments and bridges of the old railway lines around Wetherby were built by navvies and I remembered Adrian Noble saying to me that their exploits and achievements should really be recorded by a suitable plaque or noticeboard.

On another day of our holiday, we went by launch over to the far side of Derwent Water – and the launch was boarded by pirates.

They were mostly quite small, but dressed for the part. One of the adult pirates was carrying a large treasure chest which he guarded closely.

It could have contained precious jewels but from the way Susie sniffed at it; more probably packed lunches.

We left the Lake District in torrential rain which only stopped as we neared Wetherby. The weather had gone by.

Stuart Rhodes read my recent article referring to the origin of the name “Wetherby” and thought readers might be interested in something he recently came across on the internet.

On the site www.roman-britain.org, there is an article on Verbeia which is apparently now thought to be the Roman name for Ilkley.

It includes a brief description of the origin of the name Wharfe. It refers to a Celtic origin (“winding one”) but, more interestingly, to the Old Scandinavian words”hvarf” or “hverfi” meaning bend or corner. The suffix “by” is also Old Scandinavian or Norse. Together they could form a single language basis of the name Wetherby, perhaps used by the Vikings. It’s one more theory for the collection!