20080621 : Castle Crag Circular – Borrowdale Walk
When : 21 June 2008
Who : Just me
Where : Lake District – England
Approx distance : 8 km 5 miles
Significant height : 200 m
Parking : Car Parks in various places in Borrowdale – As the walk is a circular, just choose the best position for you.
Public Transport : Yes, Buses run up and down Borrowdale calling at villages in the valley.
Route Summary : Longthwaite – Borrowdale Youth Hostel ; River Derwent ; Seatoller ; Allerdale Ramble ; Castle Crag ; Low Hows Wood ; High Hows Wood ; River Derwent again.
This was scheduled as the fourth and final walk of my short break in The Lakes, although my wife had said I could stay over an extra day and another long walk did beckon …
I fancied taking the bus to Honister Hause, Climb up Dale Head and then a ridge walk northwards taking in High Spy, Maiden Moor and Cat Bells returning to Borrowdale Youth Hostel past Derwent Water.
However, the weather forecast was horrendous for the afternoon – Persistent heavy rain (potentially a couple of inches in a matter of hours), strong winds and poor visibility on the fells, not very nice at-all. The following day was not going to be much better either. I therefore decided that discretion was indeed the better part of valour and I decided not to spoil my break by staying longer than originally planned.
The forecast for the morning was not too bad though; dry with low cloud, with the heavy rain to arrive around about lunch time. I’d poured over my map looking for a short morning walk, which proved to be quite problematic. The problem was that Borrowdale almost has a surplus of low level walks, and choosing which to do was quite difficult and I narrowed it down to a handful of options including :-
- Up the valley to Seathwaite to Taylor Gill Force (waterfall).
- Up the valley via Stonethwaite, toward Langstrath, to Galleny Force (falls).
- Over to the National Trust Tea Rooms at Watendlath via Puddingstone Bank – very tempting – and back via Lodore Falls.
- Grange Fell including Joppelty How and Cummatatta Wood (Great names don’t you agree?), perhaps taking in The Bowder Stone on the return.
- A whole bunch of other options suggested themselves as well.
Such a choice! What to do ? …. In the end I settled on none of the above, sorting out a nice little circular starting at the youth hostel. [ http://www.yha.org.uk/find-accommodation/the-lake-district/hostels/Borrowdale/index.aspx ]
Following the river upstream (south) to pick up the higher level route of the Allerdale Ramble just above Seatoller, swinging round to head northwards under the lower flanks of the Dale Head/High Spy massive, a quick blast up Castle Crag in the Jaws of Borrowdale, then onwards into the woods south of Grange-In-Borrowdale, then swinging south again following the river path upstream to the Hostel. I figured this was possible to do before lunch time, and hopefully before the weather turned for the worse.
I had started early, after a good Hostel breakfast, trying to beat the weather and I was on my way before 9:00 am but not before saying farewell to my three friends of the day before. By complete contrast to the day before, this walk started extremely gently, really a bit of a stroll by the side of the river. As with all low level routes, good concentration was needed on the map reading, just to ensure I was on the right track, it wasn’t particularly difficult but it could have been easy to branch off onto an unwanted path. After the hard craggy landscapes of the day before, the soft, river and woodland terrain was a lovely contrast and very easy going until near the back of The Glaramara Hotel, where upon there was a short pull up, out of the valley bottom to join the bridle way above Seatoller.
The weather was dry, but low clouds over the fells glowered down and felt just a little ominous. Never-the-less I was enjoying the morning and up until now I hadn’t seen another person out apart from a lone mountain cyclist that had crossed my path.
I know it takes all-sorts, but tearing about very rocky terrain on a push-bike just isn’t for me. It looks very jarring and you can’t possibly fully appreciate the scenery being passed through whilst concentrating on the boulders immediately ahead. As it happened a couple of off-roaders that I spoke to volunteered that the path was a little rougher than they’d anticipated and maybe, in hindsight, they wouldn’t have chosen that particular route. Still, each to their own and all I spoke to were very friendly including a kind gent who alighted to take a photo of me, saving me the very awkward process of finding a flat and level rock to take a self-timed snap with Castle Crag in the distance.
The very obvious bridle path northwards away from Seatoller (Labelled Allerdale Ramble on the OS map) was pretty easy going despite its rocky nature, being generally downhill. However, the aspect was quite open and felt much more remote and higher than it actually is. The footbridge crossing of Tongue Gill, on it’s rapid descent from Rigghead Quarries, made a decent short refreshment stop before I continued on down to Castle Crag. This little slate knoll standing proudly in the narrowest part of Borrowdale is dwarfed really by the flanks of Low Scawdel, but it maintains it’s own unique attraction. In fact just looking at the OS map you could quite easily miss the significance of this little crag … it’s position is all … and belies it’s lowly height.
The stiff little climb zig-zagging through the slate screes from past mining activities, brings you out onto a top with superb views northwards over Grange-in-Borrowdale and Derwent Water to the Skiddaw / Blencathra mountains.
Pease take a moment to read the memorial plaque set into a vertical piece of rock-face at the top and remember those gave their lives for our great country ….. Oh, and I can’t go on without mentioning my disgust at the person (Carole if I remember rightly) that had defaced the plaque by scratching her name into the metal underneath the names of our fallen heroes… it’s obscene really, I just can’t understand why ! … there’s no rhyme nor reason to doing things like that, especially after she’d made the effort to climb up there in the first place. Please accept my apologies for my little diatribe but it made my blood boil … perhaps I’ve become a little immune to the antics of those in our towns and cities, but seeing such wanton vandalism in such a lovely place got under my skin this time.
Anyway, the clouds had darkened further and the first heavy spots of rain prompted me to move on. I didn’t fancy the steep descent on wet slate scree, so I reluctantly left the viewpoint. The drop down the zig-zaggy path was quite straight forward, the hardest part being the number of fellow walkers coming up in the opposite direction, in what was becoming a steady stream of people climbing this very popular crag. It was now just after 10:30 a.m. and the rain was becoming more persistent already … unfortunately it had arrived earlier than forecast.
Picking up the main path again, I dropped quite quickly into the woods to the north of the Crag. There were many walkers now, making the climb up towards Castle Crag which looks much more prominent and imposing coming to it from the North, rather than the southerly direction I’d approached from. I suspect most had made the walk from Grange-In-Borrowdale, about a mile to the north. Perhaps the BBC’s recent Wainwright Walks TV programme with Julia Bradbury [ http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006yl97/series ]had inspired some of these walkers, but there again perhaps not … Castle Crag has always been popular.
The rain was becoming quite heavy now, but being in the trees didn’t bother me too much, and I only donned my cag’ deciding, as I was low level and warm, to allow my trousers to get wet … which they did quite rapidly … perhaps it was a bad choice not to put on my over trousers as walking became quite uncomfortable. The last couple of miles upstream through Low Hows and High Hows Woods, would have been a charming easy stroll in half-decent conditions, but with the rain splashing straight down, I just pressed on, head down, just to finish off the walk, although I did take a brief detour on a side path to have a quick look at some old quarry caves.
The path rejoined the river and as I continued, I smiled at the antics of a large party of people enjoying a set of stepping stones traversing the river close to Rosthwaite village. I suppose if you’re wet already, playing around getting a bit wetter doesn’t really matter too much, although I didn’t see anyone fall off the stepping stones there were plenty of near-misses with the necessary accompanying raucous laughter, proving you can indeed have fun in the rain.
Soon after I arrived back at Borrowdale Youth Hostel and my little Fiat Punto was waiting patiently in the now very persistent rain. Errmm, using fairly polite vernacular, it was fairly “Hissing down” … I’ll let you, the reader, change the capital letter for a slightly more crude phrase that might describe conditions more succinctly.
Apart from the rain, the plan had pretty much worked; I’d arrived back at the Hostel at around noon. I’d got wet, but hey this was The Lake District, what else could I have expected! A change of clothes from the boot of the car, a bite to eat from my rucksack, and I set off for the M6 (and home) with the car blowers on full blast to clear the widows steaming up from the damp. I think going home was the correct decision.
All in all, a good four days in one of my most favourite places anywhere – The English Lake District. A bit of coastal walking was anticipated as the next walk at the other end of the country, on The Lizard in Cornwall. Anyway, I resolved to get more active again and promised myself the Lakeland tops would be revisited as soon as possible.
I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….
As it happened I did indeed do a walk in Cornwall, and I’ve already posted a diary of it :-
Next walk = 20080813_South West Coast Path, St. Keverne to Gwendreath … Link = https://tothehills.wordpress.com/2008/09/13/20080813_swcp_stkeverne-to-gwendreath/