Saturday, 1 August 2009


Emily -my daughter- and I spent the first part of this week camping in The Lake District. We arrived by car Monday lunchtime and I took the road to Borrowdale, as I remembered seeing several campsites on the map there. Sure enough, it wasn't long before we found one. The campsite at Grange is a wonderfully wild place, surrounded by woodland. Castle Rock towers over the Southern end, while the Bowder Stone is only a few minutes walk away.

Once we had pitched our tents and sorted out our things, we headed off in the car again. We were going to climb Blencathra. We parked at Scales, only a short walk from the path that skirts the Southern side of the mountain.

Blencathra is very satisfyingly steep-sided for an English mountain, with clear-cut ridges falling away from its summit like folds of material. One or two of these ridges are rocky enough for their ascent to involve more than a mere walk and it was one of these, Hall's Fell Ridge, that we hoped to ascend. There is no actual rock climbing involved, only the satisfying experience of clambering over rock using one's hands as well as one's feet combined with a sense of being a long way up!

A path skirts the foot of the mountain on its Southern side and we followed this to the start of the ridge. Half way along it we came across a steep rocky step that was more difficult to overcome than anything on the ridge itself. We soon found ourselves at the foot of the ridge and headed up it, on a path through the bracken. We wanted to get the first part over and done with. It was getting late: we'd parked the car around four o'clock and we were not exactly sure how long the walk would take us.

I don't know why, but, when ascending a ridge, there is something very pleasant about being able to see down both sides at once. So it was as the ridge narrowed. As it got narrower it began to get rockier. One could choose: either one walked along the path or one scrambled along the rocky crest. Quite close to the top we reached the point where all the paths seemed to peter out and rock was the only option.

It had rained all morning and we seemed to be enjoying a break in the weather. However, as we approached the summit, wisps of cloud began to brush around it, and I thought for a minute that we were going to be deprived of a view. Fortunately the cloud moved on and when we arrived at the top we were treated to an all-round panorama. Our ascent coincided with the only break in the weather for two and a half days: for the next day and a half the mountain was almost continuously shrouded in mist.

We stopped at a sheltered spot close to the summit to eat our sandwiches before making our way down to Scales Tarn. At the far side of the tarn Sharp Edge curves upwards, back towards the summit. We considered making a second ascent to the summit via this famous scramble, but thought better of it. We were making good time, but we did not want to over-reach ourselves. Instead, we continued down to Scales, jogging and walking above the River Glenderamackin.

It rained a lot that night. We had intended to climb Skiddaw the next day, but the weather was so foul we decided it was a bad idea. Instead, we went for a run around Borrowdale: through the woods and over the river to Rosthwaite, returning via the Bowder Stone. Three-quarters of the way round and in search of The Bowder Stone, I took a wrong turn which sent us off on a steep ascent, through waist-deep bracken, up the flank of High Seat. We finally found the stone, still curiously balanced on one edge. We returned the campsite soaked through and, once dried out, we went to Keswick to investigate the Oxfam shop there. Late in the afternoon we drove up to the car park at the start of the Skiddaw 'tourist path' in the hope that the weather might ease off the way it had the day before, but no such luck.

The weather the next night was even worse than the night before. The wind roared through the trees making a sound like the sea (it sounded as if we were camping on the beach) and my saturated dome-tent kept blowing in and out like a demented jellyfish. In the morning, one end of the field (not ours, fortunately) had turned into a lake. It was time to go home. We had considered doing a short walk -to the top of Cat Bells perhaps- but I don't think either of us wanted to get soaked again.

Photo of Hall's Fell Ridge Copyright Gordon Hatton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Map image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

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The Weaver of Grass said...

It was good to read this after Emily had rung me from the top of Blencathra. I must say I do enjoy the way you call me from mountain tops - it is as near as I shall ever get to them these days!

Susan at Stony River said...

Loved this post. I've been wanting to go to Harper's Ferry but it's a four hour drive (with our kids, that's looooong). We've been debating about making it a day trip or staying over... now I definitely want to stay over, camping!! You've brought back some wonderful memories. The Lake District is beautiful.

Rachel Fox said...

That's the second wrong turn you've mentioned recently. Do you do it on purpose?

BarbaraS said...

Blencathra - you lucky things that you were blessed on the ascent like that!

Titus said...

Oh, thank you Dominic. This may convert my husband to blogging.

Lyn said...

Your adventurous camping is as close as I'll get..I love your descriptions, can feel the rain on my face..keep going, keep writing!!Thank you..
Once went camping in Yosemite National Park in Cal...beautiful vistas, but beware of bears!!

Frances said...

I spent many happy childhood and adolescent holidays in Borrowdale. I have picture of me somewhere as a child sitting on top of the Bowder Stone.

Totalfeckineejit said...

I'm jealous:)

Dominic Rivron said...

Pleased you all enjoyed it!

WG: The wonders of modern technology...

Susan: Pleased, if I've inspired a fit of camping!

RF: Yes, I have kept getting lost recently, now you mention it. It does make life more interesting. The cause in this case was not carrying reading glasses to read the map! (An old excuse, but there it is).

Barbara: Not exactly The Old Man of Hoy, but one of my favourites.

Titus: It would be nice to convert a non-blogger!

Lyn: You're welcome. Re Bears... A joke.

Q: What kind of cheese do you use to entice bears?

A: Camembert.

Frances: Interesting. Are you going to post it?

TFE:It was good. Re jealousy: There were times when it was peeing down in the night when I envied people living in houses. They didn't last long though. A few milliseconds perhaps...