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SNAPSHOT 242: Lancia Lambda at Rey Cross on Stainmore

A picture-postcard view of a bleak moorland setting, this being the A66 Penrith to Scotch Corner road; more precisely between Brough and Bowes. Right on the western border of County Durham, we look towards Cumbria at the skyline and indeed stretching beyond the watershed. The white paint outlining the mudguards and rear bumper of the disappearing Y-Type Ford 8 dates this photograph to the wartime years: the approaching car holds rather more interest. It is a Lancia Lambda saloon of the 1920s; not, one would have thought, a common sight at any time, and even less so there and then.

Surrounded by the railings we see Rey Cross, also known as Rere Cross, the base and 3-foot pillar fragment of a Scheduled sandstone monument believed to date from the 10th Century. Rey Cross is 1410 feet above sea level. Alternative explanations of the cross’s purpose are that this was a marker for the western boundary of the realm of King Edwin of Northumbria, who died in 946AD. A juicier tale is that it marks the spot where Eric Bloodaxe was killed in 945AD, he being the last Viking ruler of northern England. As they say; “You pays your money, and you makes your choice.”

Today this stretch of the A66 is a dual carriageway, and lay-bys either side have necessitated the relocation of the cross to that on the northern side of the east-bound carriageway. 80 years later, this still is a wild and most inhospitable place, with little to encourage a pause in one’s journey other than necessity, or the consideration of violent events there a millennium ago.

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