A Pilgrimage to Cumbria, November 2018

A Pilgrimage to Cumbria to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of Romany’s death on the 20th of November 1943.

The 20th of November 2018 saw the 75th anniversary of the untimely death at the age of 59, of the beloved naturalist, author and Methodist Minister, the Rev.G.Bramwell Evens – ‘Romany of the BBC’.  On the same date this year,2018, an enthusiastic party of ten Romany Society members made the pilgrimage to Romany’s beloved Old Parks Farm at Glassonby in Cumbria. The party included Les Horton, John Thorpe,, Father Leonard Hollands (former committee members), Trish Hollands, Desmond Potter and Edith Stockdale, David and Jacquie Kidd and Peter and Margaret Wilson.

There was an air of anticipation at the meal on the evening prior to the trip up to Old Parks, and when the party met up at a moorland cafe the next morning ,a double rainbow in the sky above was surely a sign from Romany that the day was going to be a success. The party set off in convoy after some much needed refreshments, and made their way to High Force, the highest waterfall in England, across miles of endless and starkly beautiful moorland.

The sky was brooding and cloudy, but the sudden explosion of a large covey of Red Legged Partridges from the roadside was a joy to see. The spectacular beauty of High Force, a new experience for some of the party ,was breathtaking, and after much photography and expressions of awe, the group set off again, under a darkening sky, to the highest town in England, the picturesque town of Alston.  Filming for many productions has taken place here, including a BBC TV production of Oliver Twist.  The cobbled streets are a feature here, but there has been much local opposition to the removal of some and their replacement with tarmac!

After a refreshing afternoon tea, the Romany convoy headed towards the farm so loved by Romany and his family and so well known to readers of his books as Fletchers Farm – Old Parks Farm, Glassonby.  The Raine family live and farm here, and like the Potters who originally owned the farm, are hospitable and accommodating.  Somewhat windblown, the party gathered, at first outside in the yard, then, driven in by the wind and rain, in the warmth of the parlour, where readings from Romany’s books ,the beautiful poem by Geoffrey Dearmer, First World War poet, and one of Romany’s own prayers, were read by members of the group . The local radio station, Radio Cumbria, had been approached prior to the trip by John Thorpe, and had shown great interest in covering it,. Their roving reporter, John Bowness had driven out from Carlisle and arrived in time to record recollections from various members of the group, including Leonard Hollands, Desmond Potter and Edith Stockdale and John Thorpe. It was atmospheric to say the least, to be sitting in a room which, over the years, Romany relaxed in on many an evening, and everyone was touched by the poignancy of the occasion.

The weather abated a little, and to beat the fading light, the group braved the now quite strong wind to walk over to the Memorial Birdbath, where flowers were laid (with difficulty in the gusting wind!), and a prayer read by Fr.Leonard Hollands.  The few sheep in the field looked on with surprise and curiosity at the small party braving the mud and wind as they walked  back the few hundred yards to the warmth of the farmhouse, and Father Hollands stayed behind for a few moments to pay his own personal tribute to Romany, a dark figure silhouetted against a gradually darkening sky.

After a little more recording and chatting about Romany, members took their leave, thanking the Raines for their wonderful hospitality, and made their way homeward down dark lanes and silent fields. It is worth at this point, thanking not only the Raine family, but also Graham Moss, Assistant Editor at Radio Cumbria and especially John Bowness, their wonderfully enthusiastic reporter who braved the weather to cover the story so thoroughly and professionally ,and the lovely people at Valley Stream in Wales, who not only restored the vardo so beautifully some years ago, but willingly gave permission for Radio Cumbria to use sound extracts from ‘The Lost Half Hour’ CD, also produced by them.

At the time of writing, 22nd November, two items on the event have been broadcast on Radio Cumbria, one featuring members of the party, the other broadcaster and author Eric Robson. There are two more to come, one tonight and one on Sunday evening between 6.00 and 9.00 pm, and members wishing to listen to them can go to Radio Cumbria’s website and tune in for the next month. Radio Cumbria has also been put in touch with Terry Waite and Simon Bain and there may be contributions from them in due course if they agree to do so.

Everyone concerned was delighted with the success of the trip and the amount of positive publicity it gave to the man whose life and work we all celebrate – the modest but hugely influential broadcaster who was Romany of the BBC.