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What the locals really think of Kirkby Lonsdale

PUBLISHED: 09:11 20 July 2015 | UPDATED: 11:23 14 April 2016

Devil's Bridge

Devil's Bridge

Archant

This beautiful border town is a magnet for newcomers, including a metalwork artist with an international following. Sue Riley reports

Andrew Kay sculptor, Kirkby Lonsdale Andrew Kay sculptor, Kirkby Lonsdale

It’s not often you see a 5.4 metre giraffe in the heart of the countryside - and certainly not one likely to be admired by Hollywood A-listers. On the outskirts of the charming town of Kirkby Lonsdale, the steel creature is being created for the garden of Luc Poullain, head cameraman on the James Bond movies whose credits include Casino Royale.

‘It will be shipped out to his townhouse in Brussels where it is destined to be a birthday present for his wife,’ said sculptor Andrew Kay. ‘He could have had a rabbit or something smaller, but it’s such a fantastic commission!’

From his workshop up a tiny country lane, Andrew has been quietly making life-size steel animals for gardens, stately homes and parks around the world. He casually mentions that he’s sent a herd of deer to Mauritius and the Ukraine and that his animals can be spotted on the shores of Lake Geneva; there’s water buffalo in Spain and in 2013 he had a touring exhibition with the National Trust where his two stallions were on show outside York Minster.

Heron by Andrew Kay sculptor, Kirkby Lonsdale Heron by Andrew Kay sculptor, Kirkby Lonsdale

His deer sculptures, particularly the stag, are his bestsellers. ‘Without sounding cocky (he’s not) it’s an international business yet we are here in the middle of nowhere because we love it,’ he says. He started his career 20 years ago with a degree from Leeds, became inspired by Scandinavian design and now employs six people at his workshop in Lupton. ‘I’ve always done metalwork. It’s a quick way of putting things together, a fast medium, and I am quite impatient. With the skeletal, sinuous forms it works really well.’

He started creating the ‘animals’ seven years ago. Before that he says he was ‘making ends meet’ by making curtain rails and mending machinery. Then he advertised and suddenly found a luxury niche market. He lives and works with his wife, Anneley, a few miles outside Kirkby Lonsdale, named one of the top places to live in the North West by the Sunday Times.

In the courtyard of one of the town’s restaurants is one of Andy’s sculptures – a 6ft spider. ‘Andy Wilkinson at Avanti always wanted something different, he stopped me in the street and asked how much would a 6ft spider cost. It’s in his courtyard as we speak. We absolutely love it here, we feel so lucky. The thing is not to get complacent,’ Andrew said.

Kerry Ormston at his Devil's Bridge Snacks business which is famed for its bacon butties Kerry Ormston at his Devil's Bridge Snacks business which is famed for its bacon butties

One of most people’s favourite parts of Kirkby Lonsdale is the river and the famous Devil’s Bridge. For those in the know, the snack bar on the bridge which has been supplying food since 1955, is another treasure. Run by Kerry Ormston and his wife Melanie for the past 18 years, the former fruit and vegetables caravan is feted for its bacon butties (they use local meat and bread) which attract locals and also motorcyclists from across the UK.

Originally from Newcastle, Kerry arrived in Kirkby Lonsdale for a job as a chef, met his future wife and, as he says, ‘I gave up being a chef to flip burgers’. He’s another fan of the place. ‘It’s absolutely brilliant,’ he said. ‘I grew up in the middle of a council estate in Newcastle but the quality of life is here if you want it.’ Last year the couple bought an acre of land directly opposite their Devil’s Bridge Snacks business and have put in some seating so people can eat by the river. It was overgrown, so as Kerry says: ‘We thought we would make it nice for people.’

Stuart Lambert has lived in the area all his life, at Kitridding Farm. He’s a second generation farmer; his father bought the 120-acre upland hill farm in the 1950s and it’s now tripled in size. They sell their beef (shorthorn cows) and lamb (Swaledales) at their farm shop and at farmers’ markets across the area. In the last couple of years they have created a lake near the farm shop and now intend to diversify further and welcome touring caravans.

Christine and Stuart Lambert with butcher Jonny Harper at Kitridding Farm Christine and Stuart Lambert with butcher Jonny Harper at Kitridding Farm

‘In my life I have moved three metres from one bedroom to the next,’ Stuart says. He fully understands why people want to live in the area. ‘It’s got everything; a good community, good facilities, shops, good schools.’ He says people moving into the area are often older. ‘It’s people who have made their money in the city and are moving out.’

Tourism and town manager Sarah Ross moved to the town with her family ten years ago. ‘We are definitely part of a phenomenon,’ she says. ‘A lot of people move here for the lifestyle and the facilities. It’s a great place to work and live. It has a unique combination, it’s a very welcoming place, cosmopolitan and not dominated by holiday cottages. There’s not a huge number of second homes and has extremely successful schools. It’s a vibrant combination. It’s not paradise but it’s pretty good - if you have the weather.’

The town is about to get even more residents as a scheme to build up to 80 homes on the outskirts has been endorsed by the council – it will be the biggest boost in housing since the 1960s. Two of the newest faces in the town are John and Renata Strange. They moved there last year to create the Crossing Point café in the market square. After years of working for Simon Rogan in Cartmel, John decided it was time to open his own business.

Now his wife has followed suit and is opening Tails of Kirkby Lonsdale, selling accessories for dogs. They’d always wanted to open a café, but it wasn’t until they got their own dog, a Jackapoo called Soda, that they realised there was a market for another business. ‘We really fell in love with Kirkby Lonsdale, it’s perfect for us,’ says Renata. ‘And Cumbria was voted the most dog friendly county in the country,’ adds John. ‘Most places in Kirkby accept dogs, it’s a dog walkers’ paradise.’

Given how passionate people are about Kirkby Lonsdale, it’s not only a paradise for dog owners. w

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