Borrowdale – the other one

Walk date – 2nd January 2023

Distance – 6.7 miles

Weather – blue skies, sunshine, no wind


A long valley walk today to get our legs back into some sort of working order after the enforced idleness of the poor weather and to mitigate the indulgences of the festive season. It’ll take more than a long valley walk but its a start. The ground is thoroughly sodden, becks, tarns and lakes are full to overflowing and paths are generally well churned, muddy and puddly. Borrowdale was no exception but it is close to home, easy to get to and the lay-by just above Huck’s Bridge is rarely full. Walking along the valley would entail being in the shade now and again but that applies to most places at the moment as the sun is so low in the sky at present. Our south facing back garden, for example, gets about half an hour of sun these days, if there is any sunlight to be had of course, before it disappears once again behind neighbouring buildings. Anyway, suitably wrapped up in our winter gear and with a flask of hot coffee and a couple of chocolate bars in the pack off we went. As I write this the boots are drying out nicely, two pairs of muddy trousers are in the washer and yes, its lashing with rain again!


Out and back – Borrowdale from Huck’s Bridge lay-by to the bridge crossing  below Greyrigg Forest

A shot of Greenside Crag bathed in sunlight from the lay-by on the A6 just above Huck’s Bridge with the shadow of Ashstead Fell covering the lower fields. From the lay-by its a short walk up the road to gain access to the track leading down into the valley. We heard the sound of an engine as we walked up and as we got to the top of the rise a farmer driving a quad bike plus trailer came out of the valley, up the access track onto the main road and headed off in the Kendal direction. An empty trailer suggested that somewhere along the valley the sheep were tucking into their morning feed.

High House Bank from the access track into Borrowdale where …..

….. Ashstead Fell is casting its shadow along this section of the valley. Borrow Beck has plenty of water and is rapidly making its way down the valley to join the river Lune at the eastern end of the valley. The silvery ribbon just in front of the beck is the path and its often full of puddles so we know what we’re in for after so much rain recently. Over on the right skyline is Whinash Fell.

Borrow Beck and a smidge of the fells on the opposite side reflected in one of the calmer pools. It all looks a bit chilly but as we were well wrapped up so it didn’t feel nose numbingly cold.

View back towards High House Bank as we walk along beside the beck.

As expected there were plenty of large puddles along the way. They had obviously frozen over during the night and the quad bike and trailer which had driven through just a few minutes earlier had broken the surface layer of ice and scattered the shards everywhere, hence all the white specks you can see in the photo.

The  puddles get larger and longer with shards of ice all around them. We’ll be in the sunlight when we reach the end of the tree plantation on the right.

A pile of ‘pencils’, aka fence posts, so J proceeds to write with one.

Out in the sunshine at last and a look back up the valley as we cross the bridge.

In the fields directly opposite the bridge is this old barn which was renovated when the Friends of the Lake District charity purchased the fields and derelict farm in this part of Borrowdale. It stands directly below the little col between Winterscleugh and Whinash fells.

A look back as we walk through the valley fields. The sheep will be turfed out when the the growing season begins and these fields turn into hay meadows once again.

As we walked through I became aware of movement over to my left and noticed a deer running beside the fencing. We stood still and watched for a few minutes as it went back and forth along the fence line trying to find a way out and away from us. The sheep standing on the slope above took a keen interest in all that was going on.

We quietly began walking again and as soon as the deer noticed the direction we were taking it made a beeline for the open track behind us. The animal isn’t clear to see but…..

….. the photo editing program came to the rescue so here she is trotting happily across the field and making her escape. I’m only assuming it was a female as there are no antlers or ‘dangly bits’ on show but I could well be wrong.

Still walking across the fields with the steep slopes of Winterscleugh Fell over on our left.

At the foot of Winterscleugh and directly ahead of us is High Borrowdale farm.

The farm buildings have also been saved from complete dereliction by the Friends of the Lake District charity …..

….. and this building was, at one time presumably, the farmhouse. The doorway has been barred although you can enter the ruins of the house from the other side. We didn’t go looking round today as all the ground within the enclosure was completely saturated, the water was creeping rapidly over my boots during the very short time it took to take the shot.

A look back at one of the old farm’s outbuildings after we had extricated ourselves from the squelch and took to the track again.

‘And pretty maids all in a row.’ Have a rummage through your memory and see if you can remember the nursery rhyme that came from. The lead sheep had obviously spotted something of interest and the four of them were marching determinedly towards whatever it was.

Mabbin Crag nearest the camera and the sunlit top of Ashtead Fell at the far end.

We’re back in the shade again as we carry on towards Low Borrowdale farm, this time its the shadow of Castle Fell which is being cast across the valley. As we were walking along here we heard voices to our left and then saw two people on the alternative and slightly higher path walking in the opposite direction to us. The first walkers we’ve seen so far but they were too high up and too distant to have a chat with.

In the farmyard the personification of a bingo caller’s well worn line – ‘two little ducks, twenty two’ although these two seemed not to have heard of it because they did not oblige and turn themselves around into the necessary formation. Despite having webbed feet they still slithered around occasionally on the wet grass.

Back in the sunlight again so an illuminated shot of Low Borrowdale farmhouse. I think the Friends of the Lake District charity has someone living/working here in a sort of ‘keep an eye on things’ role. On a previous walk, some years ago now, we did see a youngish chap sitting outside with a glass of wine and a barbecue on the go and we wondered if he was still there. There was no-one around to ask so we still don’t know. Its not a working farm any more, that we do know.

The outside W.C. is still standing despite its ramshackle appearance. Two runners also came along so only a quick exchange of greetings with them.

Heading towards the cattle grid with Belt Howe on the skyline. Just above the tall pole beside the break in the wall you may be able to make out a wall slanting upwards towards the skyline on the right. Behind the wall is a path which begins behind the buildings of Low Borrowdale farm and leads up to a little col between Roundthwaite Common and Birk Knott. At the col several routes are available to walkers for further exploration of the higher ground above Borrowdale. There’s some great walking to be had up there on a sunny summer’s day.

Approaching the bridge and now the shadow comes courtesy of Greyrigg Forest, but there’s a sunny view of Whinfell Common behind us. We’ve just met a solo walker, we also met him at High Borrowdale farm on the way back, so he was doing the same walk as us but starting at the Lune Valley end. Borrow Beck has widened out considerably by now but its about to get squeezed …..

….. as it makes its way through the much narrower channel above which the bridge is situated.

The view upstream from the bridge …..

….. and the downstream view. There are two options here at the bridge, a) turn around and go back the way you came, or b) cross the bridge and follow the path on the other side of the beck, for about a mile or so, to the small car park just off the A685 on the Lune valley side.

We turned around at the bridge and began the walk back, stopping on the way at a couple of picnic tables I had noticed on our outward leg. Its not visible in the photo but there was a patch of flat land atop a slight rise further along and that’s where the picnic tables were. When we got there we also noticed a largish circle had been cut out of the turf, down to bare earth level, and in which were the remains of a small campfire/barbecue. We have seen organised camping groups, mostly youngsters, along here in the past so perhaps the area we used is part of a recognised camp site. Whatever its purpose we made use of one of the tables, got the coffee and choc bars out and had a pleasant ten minute break.

A lovely walk back in full sunshine to the accompaniment of the beck gurgling along beside us. Plus two more walkers and their dogs, making their way to the bridge, and another exchange of greetings.

Mabbin Crag and Ashstead Fell still have sunshine, we’re about to enter their shade again.

Meanwhile, back at Low Borrowdale farm, the two little ducks were making their way towards us so we waited …..

….. not quite deep enough for a swim but definitely adequate for a paddle and a root around below the waterline to see if there was anything worth eating.

We varied the route a little at the farm. Rather than walk back through the fields we turned up the slight rise beside the farm to where there is a path junction. The one in the shot goes up behind the farm and eventually meets the one going over Belt Howe which I mentioned earlier. The path we took is behind me at this point. Very waterlogged here and no choice but to wade through it.

Once out of the squelch there’s a lovely wooded path, slightly elevated above the valley as can be seen, and it was this path that the two walkers whose voices we heard earlier were walking across.

From the path the view down to the meadows which we were walking across when we heard their voices, too high and distant to exchange greetings between us and them at the time as is obvious from up here.

Further along the higher path but still in the shade of Mabbin Crag nevertheless.

A look back along the hay meadows towards the sunlit fells above the Lune Valley.

Back at High Borrowdale farm where the sun has passed its zenith so the shadows cast by the fells on the opposite side begin to lengthen. We were in full sun when we were here on the outward leg. Its only just turned 12.30 pm too. A solo walker carrying quite a large backpack caught up with us along here and swapped a brief hello with J. I was several yards away from him trying to find a dryish patch of ground, I didn’t find one.

Crossing the hay meadows, where we saw the deer earlier, with Whinash Fell and Greenside Crag on the skyline.

High House Bank is back in view so we aren’t too far away from our starting point now. This part of the valley doesn’t get any sunlight at all during the winter so its always a chilly walk back through here.

A look back towards Winterscleugh Fell from the puddly path …..

….. and a look ahead to the sunlight we’ll be enjoying before much longer. Note the still in good repair old sheepfold on the other side of the beck.

We are about to walk up the access road to the A6 at this point. In the distance are the buildings of the farm at Huck’s Bridge and over on the right the stepping stones across the beck. As we approached this point a solo walker came towards us, so we  each said our hellos as usual, I took the above shot and then we began walking up the hill to the A6. We were only a very short distance up the hill when the very same solo walker came back up the slope and made her way back up to the A6 just a few steps in front of us. The sun was directly in our eyes during all of this so we couldn’t actually see where she went but there was no sign of her as we walked down the hill to the lay-by so she must have turned left heading in the direction of Kendal. Perhaps, as J thought, she was looking for another path, most likely up to Ashstead Fell, and took the valley path by mistake.

On the A6 now and walking back down the hill to the lay-by. On our right the Breasthigh Road snakes its way across the fell side and the moon has appeared above Whinash Fell. It always feels odd to see the moon during daylight hours even though its a very normal occurrence.

Back at the lay-by and a look down the hill towards Huck’s Bridge. Beyond the bridge the A6 road rises over the Shap fells and onwards to Penrith. We’ll turn off once we’re beyond Shap and head off down into the Eden Valley and home. We’ve had a great day of weather today but the forecast for the next few days is not looking good, gales and heavy rain are being predicted so there may well be another period of gazing at raindrops pouring down our windows before we can get outdoors again. I started writing this walk report this morning and mentioned then that it was raining, a few chores have been done in between the writing of it  and now, as I finish writing, the afternoon is turning dark and the rain is still bucketing down. Ho hum.