Borrowdale is a valley and civil parish in the English Lake District in the Borough of Allerdale in Cumbria, England. Borrowdale lies within the historic county boundaries of Cumberland, and is sometimes referred to as Cumberland Borrowdale to distinguish it from another Borrowdale in the historic county of Westmorland.
The valley rises in the central Lake District and runs north carrying the River Derwent into the lake of Derwent Water. The waters of the River have their origins over a wide area of the central massif of the Lake District north of Esk Hause and Stake Pass, including draining the northern end of Scafell including Great End, the eastern side of the Dale Head massif, the western part of the Central Fells and all the Glaramara ridge. Near Rosthwaite the side valley of Langstrath joins the main valley from Seathwaite before the combined waters negotiate the narrow gap known as the Jaws of Borrowdale. Here it is flanked by the rocky crags of Castle Crag and Grange Fell. The valley then opens out around Grange before the river empties into Derwent Water, overlooked by Catbells, Skiddaw and Walla Crag.
The valley lends its name to the Borrowdale Volcanic Group, a geological development from the Ordovician period. This rock makes up most of the mountains at the head of Borrowdale, including Scafell Pike and Great Gable. The B5289 road runs down the full length of the valley, and at the southern end crosses the Honister Pass to Buttermere.
The valley is a tourist location, with hotels, guesthouses, holiday cottages, bed and breakfasts, youth hostels and campsites. It caters for the lowland visitor as well as the hill-walker who can choose from a range of mountains, including the fells mentioned above as well as England's highest, Scafell Pike.
Some time before 1565 (some sources say as early as 1500), a major deposit of graphite was discovered near the Seathwaite hamlet in Borrowdale parish. The locals found that it was useful for marking sheep. The graphite was pure and solid, and it could easily be sawed into sticks; the pencil industry was born in nearby Keswick. The graphite find remains unique.
Borrowdale provides a home to many creatures, big and small, on land and in the lake. Here are some facts about wildlife in the area. Did you know? Borrowdale is one of the most wooded valleys in the Lake District; There are around 500 hectares of protected Atlantic Oak wood; there are incredibly rare lichens and mosses in the valley's woodland; over recent years otters have returned to the valley; Peregrine Falcons nest at Falcon Crag; Vendace, ice age relict fish, survive only here and in Bassenthwaite; Borrowdale is the 'front line' of defence for red squirrels.
Ancient woodland. A remarkable landscape supporting remarkable wildlife, dominated by its ancient woodlands that cling to steep and craggy mountain sides; these are the Atlantic Oakwoods, the temperate rain forests that once cloaked much of the Western Seaboard of Europe, and as with other rain forests its wildlife is secretive and unobserved.
Animals. Soaring above you, you might hear buzzards and peregrine falcons. The raven is relatively common throughout the valley and during the summer months the striking pied flycatcher takes up residence in the forest. Roe Deer are often seen in the woodlands and the larger Red Deer can be found on the high fells above the tree line. Red squirrels have inhabited Cumbria for the past 6,000 years. Today, their grey cousins are pushing them close to extinction.
Plants. Look down to the forest floor, up to the fell tops, across the ancient pastures to discover an incredible diversity of plants, particularly ferns, and a dazzling array of mosses and liverworts. The Borrowdale valley has a nationally significant collection of outstanding rare lichens and a rich variety of fungi in the autumn.
An ancient place, 4,500 years in the making. Come and experience Borrowdale, which echoes with the stories of people who have inhabited this land for thousands of years. The National Trust care for over 29,000 acres in the valley and the past is incredibly important to the conservation work they do.
Did you know? The first inhabitants of Cumbria lived in coastal camps and caves; more stone axes were produced in the Lakes than anywhere in Britain; A coin of Emperor Nero was found in Borrowdale; Many of the present place names in the area are of Norse origin; At one time the entire valley was owned by Fountains & Furness Abbeys; By the mid-1700s Borrowdale became a major tourist destination; By 1847 there were 14 pencil factories in Keswick alone.
In the beginning... Picture a warm ocean lapping at the shores of a long-lost continent. As the shores of the land mass eroded, and as riverbeds washed out into the sea, the resulting sediment was laid, layer upon layer, on the ocean bed. Its own weight compressed it until it became solid rock. It was all very calm, very gentle, and it took about 50 million years. These became the earliest rocks of what was to become the Lake District. Today we call them the Skiddaw Slates. Meanwhile deep below the ocean something stirred… the tectonic plates were on the move! The huge plates that underlie the earth’s surface were converging, and the results were cataclysmic. Enormous friction produced a massive build up of heat and exerted huge pressure on the surface rocks - the bed and shores of the ancient ocean erupted with apocalyptic violence. The effects were staggering. In the course of a few million years (just a blink in geological time) a layer of rock estimated at 20,000 feet thick was formed. It comprised hard lava beds interspersed with softer bands of ash and boulders called tuffs. Today it is known as the Borrowdale Volcanic Series.
The characteristics of the two rock types are completely different. Skiddaw Slate is a very brittle sort of rock breaking down very easily into thin shards. The fells formed from Skiddaw Slate tend to be smooth and sleek. The fells of the Newlands valley and Skiddaw itself are prime examples. Borrowdale Volcanics, on the other hand, are almost as hard as granite, and tend to break down into large blocks. They are very resistant to external forces. The Volcanic fells tend to be much rougher, with rugged, craggy slopes reflecting the resistant nature of the rock. The head of Borrowdale is wholly composed of these harder, stronger rocks.
So the rocks of Borrowdale and Newlands had been laid, but there was still nothing that could be recognised as the valley we see today, nor of the Lake District as a whole. And it would be wrong to assume that any of this occurred in the place we now call Cumbria. It actually happened several thousand miles away somewhere in the southern hemisphere. The Lake District had a lot of travelling to do before it would reach its present resting place!
Over the course of the next 300 million years the area underwent several periods of uplifting and subsequent submergence. During submergence more sedimentary rock would be laid, whilst during the mountain-building periods stress faults appeared in the bedded rock, and the high ground was dramatically eroded by the elements. During these times the erosion was so great, even the deep underlying Skiddaw Slates were eventually exposed.
Finally, a mere 70 million years ago, there was one more massive period of convulsion, the “Alpine” mountain building movement. This time a huge dome was pushed up with a summit centred on what is now known as the central massif of the Lake District. This period produced a distinctive north/south faulting system which is the general axis of Borrowdale today. Faulting was complex, including fault lines from previous periods of uplift, which in turn would have been distorted and disrupted by the new faulting. Together though they started to drain the dome and eventually they would develop into the distinctive valley systems of the Lake District.
One final major factor was needed to create the much loved landscape that we enjoy today. The Ice Age started a mere 2 million years ago, and in the geological timescale it has only just finished. Unmelting snow, built layer upon layer on the upper levels of the eroded dome formed great ice fields that finally spilt as they started to grind their way down the fault line valleys. Descending under the huge pressure of their own massive weight, the glaciers’ destructive power was awesome. And yet from all this anarchy, something supremely beautiful was being created. Gouging and grinding, ever deeper, ever wider, scouring the fellsides, it was the ice that sculpted the fells of distinction and character, the dramatic crags and waterfalls, the mysterious “hanging” valleys, the lovely lakes and tarns, and the stunning “U” shaped valleys that we see today.
Compared to the great (and slightly more modern) circle at Stonehenge, Castlerigg is not that impressive, but here the situation is everything. Sitting up above the surrounding valleys, it is surrounded by the most glorious ring of high fells. Looking in all directions it is easy to appreciate why this innocuous hill was chosen as the site, for clearly this is the focal point for the entire area.
Dating from the Late Neolithic period – around 2,500BC – the circle comprises some 38 stones with an additional 10 stones forming a small rectangular setting, “The Sanctuary”, located in the eastern quarter. The underlying rock of the site is Skiddaw Slate, but the stones themselves are of volcanic origin. And that is pretty much the extent of our actual knowledge of the Circle. The rest is still, 4,500 years later, a mystery. Of course there has been much speculation, many theories, but the Circle holds its secrets well and nothing has proven conclusive.
The site sits at a crossroads of possible communication routes, east to the tribes of the Eden valley, north and west to the coast, south to the axe factories. A religious place? A prehistoric parliament? A bartering market for stone axes? Some sort of seasonal calendar? It could be any, or all of these. It should be borne in mind that the Circle has a very long history, and as cultures changed, so too could the usage of the site. The monumental nature of the circle suggests that its construction could be seen as a sort of culminating feature to the end of a truly revolutionary era. It is time to take a large step even further back in time…
Picture this: It is 7000 years ago and the great glaciers that covered the area have finally melted. In their wake is a land that is at once both beautiful and devastated. In the valley bottoms are jewel like lakes. There are classic U shaped valleys, and steep fellsides, sprinkled with crags and scree, rearing up to the gnarled and rugged fell tops. Some 3,000 to 4,000 years later when people started to travel through the area, what was later to become the Lake District was a true wilderness; the valley bottoms an undrained marshy waste, liberally strewn with boulders, and covered in a tangled mass of woodland. No roads, tracks or paths penetrated this wild land; nothing easy to aid progress. Bears and wolves roamed the land, and wild boar grazed the woodland. Why on earth should mankind ever want to come here? What was in it for them? Stone axes that’s what!
The very early Cumbrians lived on the coast. By 4,000 BC Neolithic man was becoming a more organised and refined beast, still hunting, still gathering, but now also herding to keep his source of food closer to home. To do this they needed to make clearings in the woodland that blanketed the area, and pollen analysis has shown that vegetation clearance was taking place at spots such as Ehenside Tarn. Here and further down the coast at Bootle there are indications that there were attempts to grow cereals. Later they would start to spin wool, weave cloth, and cast pots. Some have called it the Neolithic Revolution. The tools that drove this cultural change were made of stone, the principal one being the axe.
The geology of the Lake District is complex, but the central core is basically volcanic in origin, formed from numerous eruptions some 450 million years ago, and comprising hard lava beds interspersed with softer tuff bands. (Tuff is compressed volcanic ash) Some of the tuff bands have been altered becoming tough and flinty and therefore more resistant to weathering. These outcropping Seathwaite Fell Tuffs that spread from Great Langdale to Glaramara and Scafell Pikes produced ideal rock to create stone axes. But how on earth did Neolithic man, some 5,000 years ago, discover these remote and sporadic sites? It suggests that they had a surprising knowledge of the fells, and that they had a practical grasp of simple geology, the ability to distinguish the characteristics of differing rock types. Altogether a whole lot more intelligent then, than their primitive typecasting would imply.
Archaeological evidence shows that the axes were only roughed-out at the factory sites. The topography of the land and further scanty evidence suggests that Borrowdale may have formed a conduit for transportation out to the coastal settlements. Paths may have developed down through Langstrath, and probably over Thorneythwaite fell, converging in the middle valley, thence somehow through the tangle of the Jaws of Borrowdale before reaching Derwentwater. Did they boat the stone down through the lakes? Who knows? At the coast the axes would be smoothed and polished using sharp quartz sand and sandstone grinders. Whilst some would be retained for domestic use, the vast majority were exported. Cumbrian axes have been found as far afield as South-west Scotland, Yorkshire, and North Cornwall. Was Castlerigg, and maybe other stone circles, part of this trading network?
It is the year of our Lord 1195. A noble lady kneels in front of the altar in the small rather gloomy chapel of her castle. Something is weighing heavily on her mind, and she prays to Sancta Maria for guidance. Her great worry is her soul. She is rich, she owns much land, and she holds a great deal of power. But one day judgement will be passed on her, so what is to become of her soul? Purgatory? Damnation? The thought makes her shudder, and she prays harder still. Then the solution suddenly comes to her, like a revelation.
The Lady is Alice de Rumeli, heiress to the Barony of Allerdale. The lady was actually very pious, she may well have already been the benefactress of the rebuilding of Crosthwaite Church around 1180, but was that enough? It clearly was not, for in 1195 she granted lands at Crosthwaite, Watendlath and Stonethwaite to the great Cistercian monastery of Fountains Abbey. On the one hand it was a very spiritual act, hopefully safeguarding her place in heaven, but was it not also a hard-headed business decision?
What had Lady Alice inherited? The lands in the five townships around her castle at Cockermouth had been settled and cultivated for many centuries. The yield was plentiful and would pay her well in taxes. In contrast her lands around Keswick were incredibly poor. Borrowdale had only been settled relatively recently, when an influx of Norse settlers from Ireland and the Isle of Man pushed up into the wild mountain valley looking for summer grazing for their cattle. Unlike other valleys, at that time (about 900 AD) Borrowdale had not been settled at all. The terrain was still a densely wooded wilderness, remote, isolated and largely uncharted. But the Men of the North were used to this, and their transhumance agriculture (moving cattle to summer pastures) suited it. They started to make clearings (tveites – thwaites) in the woodland and they named the various features in their own dialect. Fell, Tarn, Force, Longthwaite, Stonethwaite, Seatoller, Borgerdalr, all Norse names.
As their families grew, so a bit more land would be taken, and eventually the valley would have been settled year round. But the land was incredibly poor, giving a subsistence living that barely supported the tiny population – never mind paying taxes to a remote feudal overlord. So by gifting some of her mountainous waste to Fountains, maybe she was looking after her soul, but she may also have been cutting her losses. The plan seemed to have worked, for in 1209 she sold the rest of her Borrowdale estate to another great Cistercian house, this time Furness Abbey. It cost them £156 13s 4d. Not a bad days work, and surely now her soul was safe.
What the monasteries brought to the valley was a determined sense of purpose. The barony might have given up on Borrowdale, but the monks certainly would not. One of their underlying creeds was that austerity and hard toil brought you closer to God, values that would be much needed if the valley was to become more viable. One of the first things they did was to change the emphasis of farming away from cattle, and on to sheep. From an agricultural point of view this would make better use of the land. It has been the same ever since.
In the valley bottom the “thwaites” were enlarged, and the land was drained. Town fields were developed close to the settlements allowing farmers to work strips of land to grow basic crops, a precursor of today’s allotments. By the time of the Dissolution the floor of the valley would look pretty much as it does today. The main commodity from all this industry was wool, one of the great currencies of medieval England. Borrowdale’s wool was not brilliant, a statute from 1380 describes it as the ‘the worst wool in the realm’. A network of packhorse trails were developed to transport the wool out to the monasteries, and these have become the bridleways that fellwalkers now use to access the hills.
The abbeys had granaries, at Grange in Borrowdale for Furness, whilst Fountains maybe had two, at Watendlath, and at Monks Hall in Keswick. These possibly also functioned as the main administration units where monastic law was dispensed, rents and dues paid, and petty disputes settled. Early in their history the lands nearer to the actual monasteries were worked by the lay brethren, who would return to the Abbey at night or after a short period. This could not be the case with the Borrowdale holdings, which lay scores of miles away. As the monastic lands expanded (all those pious souls to save!) it is probable that the order adapted to the change by altering their management to suit the circumstances. The record books for both houses show that by the late 15th and early 16th centuries the farmers held the land with tenant rights. We also know that in 1418 a Royal Survey of Borrowdale for Henry V gives details of 41 farms granted to Fountains Abbey. They had an average of 3 acres of enclosed land for which a total rental of £28.10s. per annum was paid. Today the same area is worked by less than 10 farms.
The Lake District today is one of the most cherished landscapes in the world, but it was not always this way. Five hundred years ago Cumbria was a land that was at best despised, and at worst positively feared. Compared to more southern parts of the country, it was generally regarded as worthless. But some of its fells held something that was coveted by the noblest in the land - precious metals.
Mining these ores was something that had gone on for centuries, but by the time Elizabeth I succeeded to the throne, the need was becoming urgent. The threat of war loomed, the books weren’t balancing and she needed extra money – fast. So she would use copper to debase the currency, and take the silver that was saved as her own. Good plan, now where was the copper? And how on earth was the ore to be processed to make the pure copper that she needed? Bringing in some experts would be a start.
In 1564 the Company of Mines Royal was set up to “search, dig, roast and melt all manner of ores of gold, silver, copper and quicksilver in the counties of York, Lancaster, Cumberland, Westmorland, Cornwall, Devon, Gloucester, Worcester and Wales”. The Company would employ the expertise of German miners brought over from Augsberg, under the leadership of Daniel Hechstetter. The directors of the company included William Cecil, Lord Burghley; Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke.
It is not clear why Keswick should be chosen as the first destination for the miners, but a preliminary workforce were soon prospecting in Newlands, where large veins of copper were outcropping at Scope End and further up the valley at the Longworks. These obvious veins would have already been partly exploited, so their worth was easily determined and mining began in earnest in 1566. So rich was the vein at Scope End, that the Germans re-named it Gottsgabt – Gods Gift. Between August and December it produced 223 tons of good copper ore. Today we know it as Goldscope, and during the course of its 300 year history, it proved to be one of Lakeland’s most prolific mines.
Somehow the ore that was won had to be converted to pure, workable copper, and to this end a massive smelting works was built at Brigham on the outskirts of Keswick. It was the town’s first major factory, jobs were plentiful and everybody prospered for, as with all big industries, the mines required a network of smaller supply businesses to support them. Not everything was rosy however, the “offcomer” Germans were settling down with the local lassies (between 1565 and 1567 there were 27 inter-race marriages) and this caused resentment. There were also drink fuelled disputes that culminated in the murder of one of the Germans, Leonard Stoulz. Small, quiet Keswick had become a Klondyke.
This, together with other disputes, may have led to the miners taking up temporary quarters on Derwent Island known then as Vicar’s Isle. They certainly developed it as a smallholding with a piggery, an orchard and even a brewery. The valuable ore was shipped across the lake from a loading point on the Lingholm shore on the East side of Derwentwater. Legend has it that a boat full of copper sank here, so on the modern map we find “Copperheap Bay”.
The engineering required for the ore extraction was impressive, and for its time was regarded as state of the art. It produced a slick and efficient output that fully realised the copper potential of the mine, and it made Thomas Percy, Earl of Northumberland very covetous. To be fair he had a point. He had been given the land together with the mineral rights by Queen Mary in 1557. Surely he should get the royalties? Not if Elizabeth had anything to do with it! The case went to court. Unsurprisingly Percy lost. It was one of many disputes between Northumberland and the Crown that, following the Rising of the North, led to Percy losing his head.
Whilst the output of the mine was impressive, the smelting operations were fraught with problems. The process was long and needed accuracy at every stage. Whilst the scale of the works were impressive, the actual results were not. The smelting temperature for chalcopyrite (the copper ore) is 1,200 degrees C. It took 112lbs of charcoal to produce just 2 lbs of copper, so the demands on the remaining natural woodlands of Borrowdale and Newlands were huge. It resulted in massive deforestation of the oak and birch that so characterise the valleys today. Eventually the problem became acute, and resulted in compartmentalisation and increased management of the woodland. Some areas such as Langstrath never recovered, and have remained unwooded ever since.
The Keswick smelts were, allegedly, destroyed by Parliamentary forces during the Civil War. It marked the end of the first great mining boom in Cumbria. Nowadays we can see the more obvious features of the mines, the odd cutting, the old spoil tips and milling areas, but little else that would suggest such a productive industry. The woodlands have recovered within their excluding walls and need less management than in the past. But the rivers and streams are still paying a price with the leaching of polluting minerals from the old workings.
'The Regatta, and Great Engagement on the Grand Lake of Derwent. Will be on Tuesday the 16th of September 1783. A prize of Seven Guineas will be given to the winning boat. If more than three boats start, the second shall be entitled to Two Guineas, and the third to One Guinea. ‘Fort Joseph’, or some other grand Battery on Pocklington Island, will be attacked with a formidable Fleet of Row Gallies commanded by old and experienced officers and stout resistance is expected to be made, by officers and men of equal Bravery, when the great Amphitheatre of the world will bear nobel part in the tremendous Uproar. Loud mock the thundering guns and stand unmoved. There will be also serval other most curious diversions; and amongst the rest, magnificent fireworks, to light the concave world, a pleasing, awful, solemn scene. Edward Stephen son. Esq Steward. Joseph Pocklington. Esq Governor and Commander in Chief of the Island. P Crosthwaite. Admiral and Commander in Chief of the Fleet.' Thus ran an advertisement in 1783.
But what had led to this great spectacle? Perhaps Mr Daniel Defoe esq., traveling through the Lake Counties around 1720 might shed some light: “Nor were these hills high and formidable only, but they had a kind of inhospitable terror in them. Here were no rich pleasant valleys between them, as among the Alps; no lead mines and veins of rich ore, as in the Peak; no coal pits, as in the hills about Halifax, much less gold, as in the Andes, but all barren and wild, of no use or advantage either to man or beast” Oh dear, the author of Robinson Crusoe was deeply unimpressed.
And yet in 1769 we find Thomas Gray waxing lyrical about a stay in Keswick: “Our path…opens both ways the most delicious view that my eyes ever beheld. Opposite are the thick woods of Lord Egremont, and Newland valley, with green and smiling fields embosomed in the dark cliffs; to the left, the jaws of Borrowdale, with that turbulent chaos of mountain behind mountain, rolled in confusion; beneath you and stretching far away to the right, the shining purity of the lake reflecting rocks, woods, fields and inverted tops of hills, just ruffled by the breeze, enough to show it is alive, with the white buildings of Keswick, Crosthwaite church, and Skiddaw for a background at a distance. Behind you the magnificent heights of Wallow Crag: here the glass played its part divinely…”
So what had changed so much in those 50 odd years? The answer is that Thomas Gray was in the vanguard of a new artistic movement - the Picturesque. This movement had several contemporary influences. This was a time of increased travel, and, for some, more leisure time. Roads were being improved, in Britain Turnpike Trusts were set up from 1750 onwards. The effects of the Industrial Revolution had started to kick in, and rich parents could afford to send their sons on “Grand Tours” of Europe. These were eye opening, and mind expanding. To get from Northern Europe to Italy, the “Tourists” had to pass through the Alps. Like it or not they were going to see great mountain scenery. And throughout the Tour they would be heavily influenced by the great works of art in cities such as Paris, Florence and Venice.
The enlightened Tourists liked to look at natural scenery as if they were looking at a picture. They would admire or criticise the composition of scenery and the way it was lit. And if the scenery was to be found lacking, then they would “improve” it. They would create dramatic follies, “Druids Circles”, charming ruins, and even at times introduce old hags or peasants to their landscapes. It was exuberant, extravagant, and an altogether unnatural way of looking at natural scenery. And one of its most dedicated followers of fashion was one Joseph Pocklington esq. His regattas were at once incredibly exciting, causing many a flutter in many a heart, but at the same time they helped to open the movement up to criticism and ridicule.
The Picturesque Tourists were so easy to lampoon, but for the Lake District they were incredibly influential, for they spawned a whole new industry that would come to dominate the local economy. The pace of this change was rapid. In 1878 Father Thomas West, a Jesuit, produced the first widely read guide to the Lakes. Hotels expanded and multiplied. Maps were produced, local men were hired as guides, museums were opened to give entertainment during the frequent wet weather, roads continued to improve: it was all good.
Inevitably the next wave of artistic thought blossomed in the wake of the Picturesque. This time it would be longer lasting, more influential, and it put nature right at the heart of its philosophy. This was the Romantic movement, and one of its leading lights was Cumbria’s very own William Wordsworth. With the new fangled railways reaching Windemere in 1847 (bitterly opposed by a very old Wordsworth), and Keswick in 1865, the floodgates were opened.
Rosthwaite Round, fells, tarn and beck walk
This favourite walk will take you to a Borrowdale gem - the hamlet of Watendlath. Along the way, you'll discover oak woodland, two tarns (mountain ponds) and stunning Lakeland views. This walk is classified as Moderate, is 5 miles long and will take about three hours. It is dog friendly. The route follows the track up to Watendlath, before heading to Dock Tarn and descending to the dale of Stonethwaite. 'This walk contains all the elements of a perfect Lakeland day - open fell, spectacular views all the way, a fabulous hamlet, an ancient oak wood and a riverside walk to finish.' - Malcolm Wade, Fix the Fells volunteer.
From the starting point at Rosthwaite National Trust car park, walk back to the main road, turn left and immediate right. Follow the path over the bridge and head up the path signed to Watendlath. The tiny National Trust-owned hamlet of Watendlath is set high between the Borrowdale and Thirlmere valleys, 847ft (258m) above sea level. The name Watendlath derives from Old Norse 'vatn-endi-hlaoa', meaning water-end barn. Located in a classic hanging valley, it is surrounded by fells and sits on the edge of the serene Watendlath Tarn - a popular fly fishing water stocked with rainbow and brown trout. Prince Charles visited in 1995 - spot the commemorative plaque on the bridge. Stop for refreshment at the Caffle Tea-room and enjoy the tranquillity and 360-degree views.
Follow the path up the hill, past a group of trees known locally as the Six Sisters (five Scots pine and a yew). Keep on the bridleway all the way until the white painted farm at Watendlath beckons you to a well earned rest and some home-cooked fare. On the ascent, stop to contemplate the view down into the Derwent Valley from one of the many suitably named 'Resting Stones'. From the Six Sisters, you will see one of the best panoramas in the Lake District. Take in the sweeping views across Buttermere to Rosthwaite and the Seathwaite Valley, and look out for Glaramara, Base Brown, Grey Knotts, and the summits of Green and Great Gable to your left. A little further on, you'll pass Birkett's Leap - a small mound overlooking a tree filled ravine.
After visiting the hamlet, retrace your route for a short distance, then fork left around the tarn, following the signs for Dock Tarn. Over a couple of small fords and kissing gates, follow the path and the well-signed route to Dock Tarn. Situated on moorland near the summit of Great Crag, midway between Watendlath, the Stonethwaite Valley and Borrowdale, Dock Tarn is a peaceful spot to rest and listen to nature at work. The calm waters of the tarn are surrounded by reeds and heather. Look out for the heather and bilberry-clad tarn slopes, lily pads and numerous areas of bog cotton.
Wander along the right-hand side of Dock Tarn and follow the path to a favourite local viewpoint. A fantastic vista of Greenup Edge to your left, Glaramara summit ahead, the gorgeous Langstrath Valley, and a view to Honister, Haystacks and Pillar. From the summit follow the winding pitched path (maintained by Fix the Fells volunteers and donations) downwards. The path leads you past an old building and into the old oak wood that is Lingy End.
Following the pitched path down through the oak wood, the view to your left takes in Eagle Crag (a good climber's challenge), and down below a lovely aspect of Stonethwaite Valley. As the slope eases at Willygrass Gill, cross the wall through a wooden stile to reach a stone stile. Cross another wall and leave the wood behind for a grassy slope to the track. Follow the track past the Stonethwaite bridge (unless your destination is the Langstrath Inn for a pint) and follow the Stonethwaite Beck back to Rosthwaite Bridge and the lane returning to the road. Moderately difficult with steepish ascent and descent (1,500ft, 446m). Dogs welcome under close control, but please do not allow your dog to foul on paths and around picnic areas.
Seathwaite to Sty Head and Grains Gill walk
This is a Challenging walk. This invigorating walk takes you into the heart of the Lake District hills on an ancient pack horse route. Good boots and waterproofs needed for a challenging walk. Renowned peaks like Great Gable loom large as you follow the trail through Sty Head Pass, visiting Sty Head Tarn and Sprinkling Tarn (great picnic spots), before returning alongside Grains Gill stream. Enjoy fantastic views on paths restored and maintained as part of the ‘Fix the Fells’ project. This is five and a half miles and will take about four hours.
Start: Seathwaite farmyard, grid ref: NY235121. Cross Seathwaite farmyard, going through a series of gates. Walk along a streamside gravel track over a small footbridge. On reaching Stockley Bridge, continue straight ahead and begin climbing up Sty Head Pass on cobbled and stone-pitched paths. This historic packhorse bridge was constructed in 1540, but partially demolished after floods in 1969. It's actually designated as a grade I listed building because there are so few such old bridges in the area. Goods like salt, wool and charcoal were transported by pack animals through the Lakeland valleys on mountain passes like this for centuries.
Follow this route, which after a short distance becomes a narrow gravel track on more level but still uneven ground. The footbridge over Sty Head Gill appears in front of you. Cross the bridge then bear left, ascending gently towards Sty Head Tarn. Great Gable rises up to your right. Enjoy the majestic view of Great Gable, a favourite Lakeland mountain with walkers, painters and photographers alike.
Just above the Tarn you will see a mountain rescue stretcher box. From here walk left across stepping stones and on to another stone-pitched path with some sections of gravel and bedrock. Follow this to Sprinkling Tarn, a pleasant spot to rest for a bite to eat. This beautiful tarn below Great End is a nursery for the vendace; Britain's rarest freshwater fish. The vendace is a small fish with a bluish green back and silvery flanks. Its a relic from the last glacial period which only survives in the watercourses that flow into Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite Lake.
Leave Sprinkling Tarn and follow the same path as it skirts around the bottom of Great End until meeting Ruddy Gill, a fairly steep stream. The sheer rock face of Great End rises up beyond the Two Tarns at the head of the Borrowdale Valley. Man has lived in this landscape for thousands of years. The remains of Neolithic stone axe factories have been found dotted across the slopes around here.
At Ruddy Gill turn left and cross the stream. Continue straight ahead and you will soon get back onto the path on Grains Gill again. On a clear day there are great views of the Borrowdale valley and Derwent Water from here. Follow this path downhill, crossing a footbridge on the way. Eventually you'll reach a drystone wall. Go through a gate in the wall and look out again for Stockley Bridge ahead. Return to it and then to your start point by the same streamside route you came up. Can be fairly strenuous in all weathers. Sections of this route have recently been levelled with stone and include a few steep rock steps. Good boots and waterproofs needed. There is a car park at the start of the trail.
Walla Crag to Ashness Bridge walk
From this walk over Derwent Water, the ‘Jewel of the Lake District’, the views are magnificent at every season. Enjoy the timeless beauty of Ashness Bridge. Ashness Bridge, with the lake and the mass of Skiddaw as a backdrop, is a classic and a favourite since the time of pioneering photographers, the Abraham brothers. Classified as Moderate, the walk is four and a half miles and should take about rwo hours. It is dog friendly. Some parts may be quite wet and muddy and others are rocky so good footwear is essential. Gradients are generally moderate. Dogs on leads please, as there are sheep on the open fells and birds nesting on the ground.
From Great Wood car park, with the main road behind you and the cliff of Walla Crag rising up in front of you, take the small path that passes the picnic table out of the top-left corner of the parking area. Continue in this direction for about ½ mile (0.8km), rising steadily through the woods. (Note: the car park location, correctly detailed on the map featured, differs from the location indicated on the OS map, which is incorrect.)
After crossing a couple of small streams, the woods give way to fields on your left and views over Keswick to Bassenthwaite Lake and Skiddaw. After the Ice Ages, Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite formed one lake. Silt, carried down into the lake by the River Greta from the east and Newlands Beck from the west, gradually created marshes that separated the lakes. They became one again during the floods of 2005 and 2009. The settlements are mainly on little rounded hills in the lowlands, like the ones that form the islands in the lake. Across the lake, beyond Rampsholme Island (Norse for wild garlic) and St Herbert's Island (the home of a revered Celtic Christian hermit), rises the ridge of Catbells (the lair of the wildcat), another wonderful scenic walk.
The paths cross to form a T-junction. At this point, turn right (signposted Castlerigg and Walla Crag), following the path with the deep valley of Brockle Beck to your left. Crossing the beck at the wooden footbridge, follow the track up to the gate and turn right along the tarmac lane. At the fork below Rakefoot Farm, bear right towards another footbridge, re-crossing the beck. After crossing the beck the route becomes a stony track rising through a gate, towards more open ground, with a wall to your right.
At the end of the wall, take the greener track straight ahead, still along the side of Brockle Beck, rather than the eroded path that goes off alongside the wall to the right. Follow this green track (wet in places) towards an isolated tree on the skyline, then bear left towards the summit of Walla Crag as it comes into view. Cross the wall at the stile and bear left towards the pile of stones and the summit. A rocky platform ahead opens up stunning views. When leaving, with the lake behind you, head downhill to your right into the top of Lady's Rake, where another stile re-crosses the wall. Lady's Rake is a narrow cleft in the face of Walla Crag. This was the perilous route said to have been taken by the Countess of Derwent Water from Lord's Island (one of seven islands on Derwent Water) directly below, to evade pursuers after the capture of her husband for his part in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.
Walla Crag overlooks Derwent Water, and on a clear day, beyond Bassenthwaite Lake, you can see the Solway Firth and hills of Galloway in Scotland. Keswick lies in the vale to the right. Walla Crag is an edge of the Borrowdale series of volcanic rocks that form the rugged scenery of the Jaws of Borrowdale and the central Lake District fells to the south, in contrast to the more rounded outlines of the Skiddaw Slates to the north. At a pile of stones just below the stile, take the track to the left that arcs across the moorland, rather than the one that heads downhill to your right. Bear right across the heads of the streams of Cat Gill, and eventually you will see the track heading straight for the white buildings of Ashness Farm in the distance. High on the approach to Ashness, there are views into the Jaws of Borrowdale. The marshlands, where the head of the lake is being filled in by the River Derwent, show a fine example of a birds-foot delta; like the Mississippi, but on a smaller scale.
Cross Barrow Beck at the wooden footbridge, then turn right downhill to the famous viewpoint of Ashness Bridge. Ashness Bridge is an ancient packhorse bridge on the road from Borrowdale to Watendlath. The delightful secluded hamlet of Watendlath was the home of Judith Paris in Hugh Walpole's Rogue Herries chronicles. After taking your photos, head down the road a little way to a signpost on your right, indicating the route back to Great Wood. After the first gate, keep to the lower path rather than the one to your right rising up the hill. (Continuing down the road will bring you to the main road, a bus stop and the landing stage for boat launches back to Keswick.) As you approach Great Wood, the path rises at a wall to cross a footbridge over Cat Gill. Continue ahead and down to the car park. A path across the road from the car park leads to Calf Close Bay and the lakeshore path to Keswick, a further 1.5 miles (2.5km) away.
Downstream to Derwent walk
Follow Hause Gill from its source high on Honister Pass, as it joins the River Derwent and continues on to the village of Grange in Borrowdale. On this walk, you will discover a variety of wildlife, whilst seeing how the river has influenced the surrounding landscape. Classified as Moderate, the walk is 4.7 miles long and will take between one and a half and two hours. It is dog friendly.
From the Honister Hause National Trust car park, go through a small gate leading to the quarry and turn left onto the old quarry track. Follow this until you reach the road, continuing until you pick up the old toll road on your left. Follow the old road until it merges briefly with the newer one and then moves back onto the bridleway. Continue along this track, noticing the increasingly abundant trees, in particular in the steep Honister Gill where grazing is limited. Small carnivorous plants known as sundews are plentiful on the upper sections of this walk.
At a sign reading Bridleway to Grange, go straight on towards a group of larch trees. You will notice the large valley joining to the right this contains the River Derwent. The route takes you through a varied landscape ranging from open fell to thick, ancient sessile oak woodland, which is home to many important species. Plants such as sundew and cottongrass can be found here, along with a wide variety of birdlife, including wheatears and the meadow pipit. Go through a gate with a stile, to a smaller path on your right. Take this path down to the road to cross the bridge and get a good view of the river and the huge bank boulders protecting the hamlet of Seatoller (man-made defences).
Follow the road through the picturesque hamlet of Seatoller until you reach the National Trust car park. Go through this, take the track to the left and cross the stile at the top. Follow the path alongside the wall and go through a small gate. You are now walking through Johnny Wood, a famous UK example of Western Atlantic sessile oak woodland. A small track to your right leads to Folly Bridge, where you can catch a first glimpse of the River Derwent. Return to the path and continue onwards to a rocky section with a gate.
Care is needed here. The path traverses a steep, rocky area with a chain provided for safety. This section can be extreme in wet weather. After crossing, carry on towards the youth hostel (YHA) at Longthwaite. Cross the yard and follow a narrow raised path along the riverbank to New Bridge. As you progress downstream you will notice increasing signs of human habitation. The land becomes more cultivated, less wild, with farm buildings and houses beginning to appear in the fertile valley bottoms. Passing the bridge you come to two gates. Take the right-hand gate and continue to walk into the jaws of Borrowdale, between the slopes of Castle Crag and Grange Fell and onwards into High Hows Wood.
Follow this winding path along the riverside until it bends left, away from the river to a T-junction. Take the right turn here and carry on until you reach Hollows Farm Campsite. The Derwent rises high on the fells under the imposing crag of Great End and flows north through Borrowdale before continuing through Derwent Water. It then continues on through Cockermouth before entering the sea at Workington. Calm, reflective pools on the lower river provide an ideal location for a bank-side lunch stop. Its hard to imagine that in November 2009 this river flooded and caused such terrible damage to Cockermouth and Workington. Pass the campsite and follow the track which takes you to the café at Grange. Cross the bridge where you can catch the Honister Rambler bus back to your car.
Steady downhill walk with reasonable surfaces, apart from one difficult rocky section which can become very slippery when wet. Weather can change very quickly so good footwear and clothing are recommended. Dogs welcome under close control, but please do not allow your dog to foul on paths and around picnic areas. Many areas on this route are grazed so please keep dogs on leads at all times. In periods of heavy rainfall this walk can become more of a wade and at times the path will be impassable.
Borger Dalr geology walk, Borrowdale.
Explore the origins of Borrowdale as you walk from Grange to Castle Crag, including the poignant war memorial, Peace How and amazing views of the flat valley bed that was formerly the bottom of an Ice Age lake. The area was described by the renowned fell-walker and author Alfred Wainwright as ’the finest square mile in Lakeland’. Look out for colours in the rock walls of Dalt Quarry, where a wetland habitat has developed since the quarry closed. Classified as Moderate, this walk will take about three hours and covers 4 miles. It is dog friendly.
Start from Grange village. Follow the road across the bridge and through the attractive village of Grange, the site of a medieval monastic farm belonging to Furness Abbey. Continue along the road for about 440yd (400m) until you almost reach the Borrowdale Gates Hotel. Go through the gate on the left, follow the path to a high point, then leave it to climb the knoll on the right, Peace How. The small summit of Peace How was bought for the nation in 1917 as a place where soldiers returning from the carnage of the front line could regain a sense of peace.
Walk down to the gate at the edge of the wood. Passing through, take the clear track going gently down to the left towards Hollows Farm. Notice how you are walking into the volcanic rocks. Pass through the yard at Hollows Farm. After approximately 220yd (200m) take the track to the right. Ahead, across the camping field is the craggy wooded knoll of Holmcrag Wood. It has crags at its left end and a more gentle profile to the right. This piece of solid rock was sculpted by glaciers some 8,000 years ago. It is known as a roche moutonee, French for 'rock sheep' and you will see lots of these, large and small, throughout the walk. Continue on the main path down to the River Derwent. At the first large beck, cross it by the bridge and ahead is a path that ascends to Dalt Quarry.
Turning away from the Quarry, take the smaller track to the right. This joins a larger track near a small bridge. Ascend the larger track, shortly leaving the wood and climbing by the stream of Broadslack Gill. Further up, below the steep crags on the left, a smaller but still clear path branches to the left. Take a breather and a moment to listen to your surroundings. Look out for amazing colours in the rock walls of Dalt Quarry, where a new wetland habitat has developed since the quarry closed. If time, weather and inclination permit, the short steep climb to the summit of Castle Crag is recommended.
Ascend steeply to a ladder and stile. Cross these and follow the fence to another ladder stile. Turn left and keep going up. Now comes the juicy bit. Go up the spoil heaps on a path that is not as hard as it looks. A great view awaits you at the top. Go to the right of the large quarry and climb to the top of Castle Crag. Castle Crag was the site of a hill fort some 2,000 years ago, and it is easy to see why from the stunning views over the surrounding valleys. The Iron Age earthworks gave the valley its name: Borger Dalr, old Norse for Valley of the Fort. Notice how flat the land is in the valley bottom. It represents the drained bed of an old lake that existed here at the end of the last Ice Age, when the glaciers melted.
Carefully reverse the route of ascent to the lower ladder stile. Cross this and follow a grassy track until you approach a stone built footpath, take this path down towards the wall and gate. Follow the narrow track through the woods and you will again find a stone-built path leading you down amongst the mature oaks towards a gate and stile. Cross the stile and bear left towards another set of gates, go through and follow the path. Continue through the woods, passing through an area of quarry workings (if you wish to visit Millican Daltons cave, take the narrow path to your left as you pass through a dry stone wall), until the river is reached once more, near to the campsite and the track to Dalt Quarry.
A detour leads to Millican Daltons cave. Millican was a self titled Professor of Adventure. Between the two World Wars he spent the summers living in these caves. You can still see some wise words that he carved on the walls of the topmost cave. If you wish to visit the caves, its advisable to refer to the OS map. From the river retrace the earlier route to the access lane to Hollows Farm. Turn right and follow the road back to Grange village. National Trust shop nearby with stunning views of Derwentwater. There is a steep but gradual climb to Castle Crag, and paths can be slippery when wet, so suitable footwear and clothing is recommended. The route is not suitable for pushchairs. No bins provided on the route - please take all your litter, including dog waste, home with you.
Pop into the NT Keswick Lakeside shop where their friendly staff will give you ideas of things to see and do. There are two cafes run by tenant farmers in the valley - at Watendlath and at Rosthwaite. The NT look after the public toilets at Watendlath, Rosthwaite and Seatoller. Access for all path to Friar's Crag. Mobility toilet at Watendlath, Rosthwaite and Seatoller. Access for all path on boardwalk at southern end of Derwent Water. Frequent open-top bus service 78 from Keswick to Seatoller. From April-October Honister Rambler service 77a from Keswick to Honister via Cat Bells. Bus services X5 to Keswick from Penrith and Workington, and 555 to Keswick from Lancaster via Ambleside.
Location : Borrowdale, Cumbria CA12 5
Transport : Keswick (National Rail) then then bus. Bus Routes : 78, 77a, X5 and 555 (see above)
Opening Times : Dawn till Dusk
Tickets : Free
Tel : 017687 74649