Sunday, 10 September 2017


After our sojourn in Northumberland we headed over to see an old friend of mine who lives in Western Cumbria.  This was a rare treat to renew acquaintances and have our children have some company of their own age for a few days before heading home.  As our children are all a little young for the high mountains of the Lakes just yet we wanted them to have the chance to taste Lake District scenery without the conditions putting them off.  We settled on Borrowwdale as being an excellent place to explore and used walk 10 in vol 13 of the Pathfinder Guides Lake District Walks as the basis for our day out.

Stepping Stones
Officially the walk commences in the hamlet of Seatoller, but for convenience we started halfway round at the hamlet of Grange.  As we got underway the heavens opened and we had a very sharp shower to welcome us to the beautiful valley of Borrowdale.  As one of the wettest places in the whole of the British Isles I suppose it was inevitable that we would experience rain at some stage on our walk.  Our little party stomped off along the lane that follows the River Derwent along the edge of Holmcrag Wood.  The sound of the river diminished a little as the lane headed away from it and around the other side of a small hill protecting some campers.  Most looked like the had had enough of the rain for their were several light green patches of grass denoting places where tents had been.  A couple of hardy souls remained but even they looked like they were on the brink...

River Derwent
Just past the campsite and we met the river once again, this time at a junction with another fast flowing stream coming down off the high moors above.  We had to cross by stepping stomes which added a little spice for all the children.  Luckily there wasn't a huge amount of water otherwise we would have had to consider another option.  We all got across without getting feet too wet which was a relief so early on in our walk.

Riverside Path
The path started to climb briefly away from the stream and went round a delightfully rocky path alongside the river.  By now the rain had stopped and we had a brief spell of bright sunshine which lit up the whole scene so that the countryside positively sparkled.  Further on and we saw the remains of mining activity in the rocks.  I'm not an expert on the geology of the Lake District but the rocks looked slate-like and I wonder whether they were quarrying for building materials?  The joints were almost vertical suggesting some serious forces at play when the rocks were formed.  They certainly needed a closer look in any event!

Further on and the rest of the valley started opening up as we left the trees behind us.  We could also get a feel for the length of the walk as high above us to the west was the return route.  For now though we followed the river path, keeping it within metres of us almost all the way to Seatoller.  If we had taken the route from the official start this would have made for a pleasant end to the walk indeed.

Arched Bridge
As we headed down the river we passed a set of stepping stones that leads to the village of Rosthwaite.  It was a measure of how much rain there had been recently that the stones weren't usable.  Our friend advised us that they had been across only 3 weeks earlier.  At Longsthwaite we paused briefly at the bridge that could be used as an alternative access to Rosthwaite.  This allowed for the children to catch up.  They were doing pretty well but their pace definitely slowed as the chatter intensified along the way.

Submerged Stepping Stones
The stop at the bridge gave us all the chance to enjoy our surroundings for a bit and get some refreshments inside everyone.  Sitting on the rocks beside the river was very pleasant but I imagine on a hotter day the river would be more enticing!  After our break by the arched bridge we headed through the well appointed looking Youth Hostel alongside.  I haven't stayed in a hostel for a good many years - I understand that they aren't nearly as basic as they used to be.  I was never a huge fan - I am a bit too self conscious of me snoring for that!

Approaching Longthwaite
We had a bit of a scramble up some rocks along the river valley.  I suspect that the path was under water for it did seem a bit more rugged than I would have expected.  Even as we resumed our course on what I took to be the path it still somewhat resembled a river bed with water running down it with more than a trickle.  Elsewhere in the valley the sun was really doing its best now - we hadn't had any more rain and the sun was breaking through quite regularly between the clouds, making for some dramatic skies.  The moors and fells were also benefitting from shafts of light that looked almost theatrical.

Longthwaite View
Soon we reached Seatoller and had high hopes that the pub marked on the  map might still be open.  Sadly this wasn't to be and our hopes of a cold drink and a sit down were dashed.  We had to use a different tactic to get the children motivated to carry on - luckily we had just the thing; more about that later!  There were a couple of longing glances at the bus that had just pulled up - this could have taken us back to Grange but as we pointed out to the kids we wouldn't earn our reward if that was the case!

River Derwent
The climb out of Seatoller was quite modest by Lake District standards but quite tough for little legs.  They did make it though even if slowly.  They did appreciate the reward of the view at the top though - the view out across Borrowdale was quite special and by now we had also the benefit of bluer skies and the best conditions of the entire day.  The next couple of miles along to the distinctive Castle Crag were really enjoyable.  The path was mostly level and the views uninterrupted down to where we had walked earlier.

The path passed to the left hand side of Castle Crag - we didn't get to climb it on this walk.  I imagine any suggestion that we might would have been met with mutiny!  The path instead took a downhill course along a quite loose surfaced route.  We had to be very careful with our footing to make sure that we didn't have any accidents on the way down.  It wasn't too much further until we met back with the path that we had headed out of Grange on earlier, just near the stepping stones across the stream.  By now the children realised that their special treat was getting nearer and we had no problem at all getting them moving along the last part of the path.  In fact we all decided to forego the small loop path of the original route here so we could finish more quickly.

Borrowdale View
What was the special treat at the end of the walk?  Ginger cake and ice cream at the cafe in Grange.  It went down a treat with everyone!  Bang on cue it started raining as we got back in our cars at the end of the walk.  We felt pretty smug by now though as we had managed to squeeze our walk into by far the best 3 hours of the day and had enough time for a treat at the end before the weather closed in.

Castle Crag
This walk is a great introduction to the best scenery the Lae District has to offer.  It was pretty quiet all the way round with only a few other walkers in evidence.  Contrast that with some of the more popular routes in the Park and you will know what I mean.  The view from the upper level section between Seatoller and Castle Crag was particularly memorable and I'm pleased my children had the opportunity to do it.

Descending Into Grange

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