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Walking in Cumbria and Beyond

History Lesson

History Lesson

A few months ago I was scrabbling about in the ‘bargain bin’ at a local farm shop and pulled out The Tarns of Lakeland by John and Anne Nuttall.  Two out of print Cicerone Books at a mere £2.99 each.  Yet more books on walking, but too cheap to miss.

For several months they sat around suitably ignored, until a few weeks ago I picked one up and idly read a page or two.

As well as the obvious walking routes around tarns there are quirky descriptions of what happened to the authors and interesting morsels of local history.  So as well as Wainwrights, Birketts and any other list of hills I discover there are 355 Lakeland tarns to ‘bag’.

Which brings me to this short walk.   Admittedly it was planned to ‘bag’ at an outstanding  AW but the historical stuff comes from the tarn book.



Even living on the edge of Cumbria it takes over an hour  to get to Borrowdale and with the lull in the current storms not be quite as reliable here as it appears to be further south, a short walk over High Crag via the Dock Tarn and back via Watendlath looked just enough start the fight with the Christmas calorie excess.

Eagle Crag

Eagle Crag

Parking at Rosthwaite the route began over my Day Three of the Coast to Coast.  I looked without longing to Greenup Edge.  Although the weather had been much better it was one of the most beautiful, hardest, longest days of the whole 192 miles.  So the sharp left turn up Willygrass Gill.

Willygrass Gill

Willygrass Gill


Yes, truly, Willygrass.  I would love to know the history behind that name, was a welcome diversion.


Though pretty much straight up at this point the track is well ‘fixed’ and takes on a staircase quality almost up to Dock Tarn.  As it was not late summer, there was no ‘delightful scent of heather’ nor were the ‘pied wagtails flitting’ about as described in the ‘book’.  But lovely it was, none the less.

dock tarn

Dock Tarn

Disregarding the diversion to the top of Great Crag, the paved way continues almost to Watendlath.  Over this valley John and Anne wax lyrical.  But interestingly so.  And I found that there was a link with my last blogged walk.  Fountains Abbey.

Dale Head

Dale Head from Great Crag

Nothing could be more different than those straight lines of captivated water and landscape than the wild little valley of Watendlath, with its Hugh Walpole tales.  I would never have made the transition, but it was given to the monks of Fountains Abbey by Alice de Rumelli the great grand daughter of the first Norman overlord.  The rest of Borrowdale she sold to the Furness Abbey monks.  Not good for the locals, they had then to pay taxes.



Another book fact.  The far bank of Watendlath (the end of the lake) is dotted with pollarded trees.  Apparently Ash.  I did not go to see if they had die back.  Apparently pollarded to give food for cattle.  they would eat the bark leaving clean wood for the fire.


The summer cafe was not open.  Sitting on the shore and eating our lunch quickly attracted the attention of the local community.


And of course we had to make a quick detour to the old pack horse bridge before returning via the equally well ‘fixed’ bridle way.


The books are out of print, I think, but can still be found on that infamous retail site, here.


Route described in this little Cicerone book.


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