Greystoke

Paying homage to the original Tarzan

This traditional English vil age, 8km west of Penrith, was built around a green with a pub and a church the size of a cathedral. Discreetly hidden at the top of a long drive and behind a curtain of trees in a 3,000-acre wooded park is Greystoke Castle, seat of the Howard family since the 1500s when they were emerging as movers and shakers behind the monarchies of the late Tudors and early Stuarts.

Tarzan is modelled on one former Baron Greystoke, and there are certainly enough trees for any Lord of the Apes to practice on. It is a family home and business rather than a theme park, so not much is made of the Tarzan link, but I thought Tarzan fans might be interested.

The vilage is probably Roman in origin, lying alongside the road they built from Penrith to Troutbeck. The name means ‘place by the River Creik’, a smal stream nearby. The village was known as Creistock in early Medieval times. Though most of the vil age dates from the 17th century, the foundation of the Perpendicular-style church was laid in the mid-1200s, though building did not start until 1382 and went on into the next century. The bells that still ring out in Greystoke date from the Middle Ages. Inside is some fine Medieval and Victorian stained glass (see picture).

The Spillers Stone in the village was thought to be a plague stone, where plague victims left coins in a pool of vinegar on its concave surface. The vinegar was supposed to protect the healthy, who left food there for sufferers. According to the Cumbria Directory, Greystoke Castle was an integral part of village life, the first version being constructed in 1129 as protection against Scottish Border raiders, early versions of the Reivers, that came to dominate the area before the cycle route picked up the nomenclature.

Cromwell destroyed much of Greystoke and a devastating fire in 1868 ensured that only the medieval pele (fortified) tower and a few Georgian interiors survived and the present building, though it mimics the Elizabethan style, actually dates from the 19th century. The nearby countryside boasts a number of fine old fortified houses complete with pele towers, notably Blencowe Hall , built in 1590, Greenthwaite Hal , and Johnby Hal . All are reminders of the bloody times in the Borders.

The Boot and Shoe pub in the village acquired its name because of the strange sartorial habit of a former Duke of Norfolk of wearing a shoe on one foot and a boot on the other, to ease the pain of crippling gout. Whether or not, thus clad, he shuffled down the long drive and across the green to the pub is not recorded. He would have done better settling for tea and scones at Annie Swarbrick’s Greystoke Cycle Cafe (see entry), a welcome addition to the village.

At time of going to press proposals were afoot to build nine 100m high wind turbines above the village – plans which are being fiercely opposed as they wil have serious visual impact on this majestic spot. Those wishing to object should go to www.blencathra.net.