The second installment in my series of Lake District walks takes place in the Borrowdale Valley, an area ever so slightly touched upon in my previous post. This walk was a little bit shorter, finishing up as a nice round 10 kilometres, but it was a touch more tricky underfoot to begin with. As with the last route, I shall add the map of this walk to the end of this post.
Borrowdale’s story began around 450 million years ago, when it was formed from ancient volcanic debris. Over the millennia, the landscape has been altered by ice and man, creating what we see today, and it really is quite striking.
It has been home to various tribes and communities since the Stone Age with farming being an important part of local life since Medieval times. Monks who lived at the local abbey farmed sheep and made their habits from the heavy wool of Herdwicks, and grew rye, oats, and barley to stock their food stores. Following the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, this activity came to a bit of a standstill.
Sheep farming still continued in the area though, so much so that in the reign of George III in 1793, there were 9,000 sheep and only 361 people in Borrowdale!
But back to the walk. Dad and I began in Grange, parking outside the small church. If you pop into the church, there’s a little exhibition about the Borrowdale Valley that is well worth a look. Anyway, we started in Grange, and followed the road north for a while until we reached a footpath that would take us closer to the crags, without going up them.
After that loop, we came back down the road and headed towards the Bowder Stone. The Bowder Stone is one of the quirkiest sights in the Lakes for sure. It is a huge 2000-tonne rock which is strangely balanced on one of its edges. To add more to the mystery, no one really knows for certain where it actually came from!
Some people say it fell the 200m from the top of Bowder Crag on King’s How at some point during the last ice age. Others say it was carried by the ice from as far away as Scotland and left in place after the glacier melted. There’s no doubt that the ice age did drastically alter the landscape in Borrowdale, but how the Bowder Stone landed where it is will remain one of the great questions.
In the 19th century, the Bowder Stone became a huge tourist attraction after being ‘discovered’ by the slightly barmy Joseph Pocklington. He added in a ladder so visitors could climb to the ‘summit’ of the Stone and created a cottage to the side, in which he installed an old lady to add to the quaint and quirky vibes surrounding the stone. He was a real oddball.
The next part of the walk follows the road down to Rosthwaite, where there’s a decent selection of pubs and cafés which cater for the Lake District explorers and ramblers.
On the way out of Rosthwaite, the route becomes an easy stroll following the well-trodden Cumbria Way, a 112km path which spans the length of the county. This part of the path, however, took us past more of the craggy landscapes and caves that define the area. A few of the caves sit just a few metres from the path and can be easily explored! A good proportion of this part also follows the River Derwent which makes for a very lovely change of scenery.
Eventually, we reached the beginning of the end, walking into Grange from the southern end. As I said at the beginning of this post, it is a really easy walk, and there’s plenty of opportunity to make it even easier by cutting out the loop at the beginning. That would however mean that half of your walk would follow the roads which don’t always have safe footpaths beside them. As promised, below is the route map, which is very basic, but it shows the gist.