Bowder Stone to Dale Head

The Bowder Stone, Borrowdale's biggest boulder by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe forecast was atrocious again, expecting more of the gales that had caused so much damage during the week; I was hoping that the wind would ease off by the time I got on the ridge. I did think I was being a bit optimistic as the car was buffeted by strong gusts when I was on the motorway. I parked at the Bowderstone car park in Borrowdale; in order to give the winds a bit more time to settle down I decided to pay a long-promised visit to the Bowder Stone.

At the car park exit there is a signpost showing the way to the Bowder Stone; before that I went through the gate at the side of the signpost to visit the impressive little Quayfoot Quarry. An easy track leads to the Bowder Stone; a sturdy wooden staircase allows you to climb to the top of the room-sized boulder and the polished rock on the top indicates that it has many visitors. After climbing up and down the stairs I carried on along the track which led me back to the road; you have to cross the road to walk along the footpath on the other side. After a short distance the footway ends where a wall meets the road; across the road a stile gets you onto another footpath.

Stonethwaite Beck at Rosthwaite Bridge by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe rather wet path goes uphill for a short distance before turning right to keep roughly parallel with the road; you could keep to the road but there is very little in the way of footpaths and the car drivers don't give you much leeway. The path almost rejoins the road at a point where a substantial track heads uphill towards Watendlath. I stayed on the smaller path, which is much drier from that point apart from the stream crossings; the way isn't obvious at one point but I followed the fence. The path appeared again leading to a tarmacced lane which eventually took me across Rosthwaite Bridge and back to the road.

At the road I turned left and then right shortly afterwards; the little road takes you past the Village Hall, various holiday homes to farm buildings and a track goes across fields before you reach the River Derwent at a ford. There is far too much fast-flowing water to consider using the ford so I carried on to New Bridge and crossed the river there. Thinking I knew where I was going, I turned right, but after realising I was on my way to Grange I finally checked my map and retraced my steps back to New Bridge. I carried on past the stone bridge to the first of two wooden footbridges; I used the stile on the first bridge to get onto another wet field.

View from the ascent of High Scawdel by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe soggy path keeps close to Tongue Gill for a short distance; its banks have been built up so that the water level is slightly higher than the surrounding fields. The path goes through a gate by the side of a pond and then turns left to cross another wet field before it starts to climb up towards the quarry workings in Tongue Gill. I was heading towards the Allerdale Ramble route to Seatoller where it crosses Tongue Gill when I came across a ladder stile in the wall on my left; I had to see where the stile would take me didn't I? It didn't really take me anywhere, the faint path veered left so I carried on across rough, pathless grass.

I was walking parallel to a stone wall and the first gap in it was where a smaller stream was coming downhill. I climbed upto the gap in the wall but it wasn't as easy as that; I had to climb over some wire fencing (without causing any damage of course) to get onto the other side of the wall. I continued going uphill until I reached the path I wanted to be on and turned left. I carried on along the path until I almost reached a gate at a three-way wall junction just before reaching the old toll road from Seatoller to Honister Pass. I didn't really fancy walking up the road to the pass anyway and I thought I saw a small path going up the steep fellside on the right.

View from the ascent of High Scawdel by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerIt didn't look too steep and I reckoned the path would take me to Launchy Tarn, a place I haven't visited before; it seemed a reasonable alternative to climbing Dale Head from Honister Pass. The path such as it was didn't last for long so I headed towards a gap between crags on the skyline; as the gradient eased a bit there was a good view of Castle Crag and beyond. I could also see there was a grassy way up between more crags, all I had to do was to cross the big stone wall that was in my way. As I got close to the wall a faint path reappeared and it wasn't until I got there that I saw a gap in the wall with a gate.

Once I got through the gate it got steeper again as I was climbing up beside the impressive ravine of Scaleclose Gill. Once I got above the head of the gill I was walking by the side of a fence; as the steepness became less I saw some higher ground, with a cairn on top, on the other side of the fence. With the help of a couple of wooden stakes either side, I was able to step over the fence without damaging it or me, and made my way over to the summit of High Scawdel. It is the first time I had been there but I could tell that on a good day you would have a good but unfamiliar view of some very familiar hills.

Scaleclose Gill on High Scawdel by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThere was no longer any hint of a path so I made a beeline for Dale Head; I had to step over the fence again but the top wire was sagging a bit which made it easier. The heathery ground was surprisingly dry but I was glad I didn't have to walk through it for too long until I reached another fence. Either by accident or design the fence runs along a sudden change in ground conditions, dry heather on one side and swampy wet ground on the other. I had to step over the fence anyway and on the other side a faint path showed a safe way through the soft, wet ground around Launchy Tarn; I'm always fascinated when I see that much permanent water sitting on the top of a hill.

From the tarn I could see the big path I wanted to be on down below but I was fairly surprised that there was not even a hint of a path to get down there. The ground wasn't too steep and there were no swamps, holes or rocks to negotiate on my way down to the youthful Newlands Beck. I crossed over the beck and walked around to the sheepfold-cum-shelter by the side of a rock outcrop next to Dalehead Tarn; I took five minutes while I was there to think about the rest of my route. As I had hoped, the wind had been nowhere near as bad the forecast but it was quite cold; I had been wearing warm gloves since reaching the summit of High Scawdel.

Launchy Tarn on High Scawdel by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerThe path up to Dale Head is obvious enough; a reconstructed path that is far better than the original steep, stony grass to climb, but it is one of my least favourite paths to descend especially when wet. Strangely, the Ordnance Survey map only shows the original path that starts on the other side of the tarn. After the slog up the reconstructed path you reach a small grassy shoulder where the valley of Newlands comes into view; from there I had a ten minute climb on an eroding path and through a couple of snow patches to the summit of Dale Head.

As I was sitting in the shelter of the tall, substantial summit cairn I noticed that there were white-looking showers to the south and a couple of stronger gusts of wind sneaked in from behind the cairn. When I stood up it was difficult to put my rucksack back on because the wind had suddenly picked up and was blowing strongly, sweeping the hail in. I decided that I probably had seen the best of the weather and getting off the ridge, as quickly as possible, would be a good idea. Firstly, I had to get across Hindscarth Edge which is more exposed that I wanted to be in the strong wind. I was keeping as low as possible and holding on to whatever was available waiting for a gust that would blow me over; what is the quickest way down from there?

View from the ascent of Dale Head by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerI remembered that there is a path down to Newlands from the summit of Dale Head but I couldn't think where it started; it was not the right time to be messing about so I got down to the lowest point on the col as quickly as possible. I couldn't see any signs of a path but the way down towards Newlands was grassy and it didn't seem too steep. The ground was good and I could see all the way down to the valley; I was soon out of the worst of the wind although the gusts caught me a couple of times with enough force to make my photographs look blurred.

Ahead of me below was a large gully so I turned right to avoid it, mainly keeping to the contours but descending slightly in the general direction of the head of Newlands Beck; I was hoping to find an obvious way down from below Dalehead Crags. I got down to what seemed to be a dried-up tarn, overgrown with reeds but there was still plenty of water flowing out of it. After a small rise I started to descend into Dale Head's corrie but I could see no traces of mining activity or any path and I was beginning to wonder if I was getting confused with somewhere else.

Dale Head mine workings by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerI suddenly came across a shallow groove going up and down the hill, it didn't seem to be a natural feature and I wondered if this was what I was looking for. I followed the groove uphill for a short distance and sure enough I found the old mine workings, including the ruined building that I remembered. There are no obvious holes in the ground, the larger rocks in this small area were more sandy coloured than the surrounding scree boulders and there were nuggets of darker slate-type rock that I haven't seen lying around before.

I followed the groove downhill and it looked as though it was going to dive steeply downwards but, without me noticing, it became an easy-walking, zigzag path. Once it had negotiated the steep part of the fellside it took a more direct route down to the valley after crossing Far Tongue Gill; the impressive ravine containing the gill was the gully I had avoided earlier. Looking back to Dale Head I could a substantial mountain stream coming down from Dalehead Crags that just disappeared into scree and didn't come out again.

Disappearing Torrent below Dalehead Crags by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerFrom the path you can see other mine workings on the valley floor; one obvious slanting adit, a water-filled hole above it and one or more openings disguised as a sheepfold. Eventually I reached Newlands Beck and all I had to do was get across it; the fast flowing water was generally too wide to cross and where it narrowed the water was deep and even faster. There are stepping stones that are fine when they are dry, but I don't trust wet rocks at the best of times. After a bit of a wander up and downstream I found a place narrow enough for me to jump across where the rock I jumped from didn't wobble and wasn't wet, and my landing place looked safe.

There is a good mine road all along the valley taking you to Little Town but I was hoping I could take a short cut up to the lower plateau of Maiden Moor and have an easy walk to Hause Gate. I knew it would be steep but I was going to have to climb somewhere and with daylight running out it might be quicker than going all the way round. There was a faint path, probably just a sheep trod, that kept to the contours a little way up the fellside and stayed parallel to the road; I was hoping it would branch upwards at some stage towards Maiden Moor.

Goldscope mine workings on Hindscarth by Andy Wallace Andy FellwalkerI could see a grassy slope ahead of me that seemed to be going in the right direction but it didn't look as though there was any kind of path and it might be uncomfortably steep. I passed the Goldscope Mine workings on the other side of the valley, I had intended to visit them but that will have to wait; shortly afterwards I came to the steep slope I had seen. The trod that I had used so far was heading for scree so I thought I would see what the grassy slope was like; I started to walk diagonally upwards across the contours. I came to a rock outcrop and had to go straight upwards from there; it was as steep as I had feared and quite an effort to eventually get up to the skyline.

As I reached the crest I could see a hill in front of me; I knew that I wasn't where I had intended to be. I had climbed up onto Knott End at the terminus of one of Maiden Moor's ridges and there below me was the mine road to Yewthwaite Gill that I could have stayed on; as it was, I had a steep descent on softer and more awkward ground to get there. The path up to Hause Gate is one of the most badly eroded paths that have not yet been repaired, although it is so wide now that it isn't likely to become any more eroded.

It was getting dark by the time I crossed over Hause Gate and got onto the path towards Grange; if you have to walk in the dark, a reasonably well constructed foot path is as much as you can hope for.

Andy Wallace 20th January 2007

© 2003 - 2017 By Andy Wallace. Reproduction of this work in whole or in part, including images, and reproduction in electronic media, without documented permission from the author is prohibited.

Back to Walking in Cumbria

Content