Roughton Gill from Fellside

Walk date – 13th July 2019

Distance – 4.5 miles

Weather – mild and overcast to begin with, sunny later


We haven’t been out on the fells for a while as we’ve been busy with various other pursuits, and we only just had enough time for today’s short walk as we were aiming to be in Hesket Newmarket in the afternoon to cheer on a musician friend who was performing his own compositions in his first solo set. A nerve-wracking occasion for anyone so a bunch of us decided to turn up to provide familiar faces and moral support, together with loud cheers and enthusiastic applause, which turned out to be well-deserved as the set was excellent, just as we all knew it would be. Since we would be in the area anyway we decided to have a quick walk up to Roughton Gill and have a look round the old mining area before dashing back to the music venue to cheer on our mate. Its just a little over two miles up to the gill from the little hamlet of Fellside so we had to crack on bit to get there and back in the time we had available, having been slowed down along the narrow lanes by a herd of sheep being moved from one field to another, oncoming cars and vans, and the occasional tractor or three, but we got there in the end.

Route – out and back

Fellside – Dale Beck – Roughton Gill

There is enough space for about five neatly parked cars on the lane just above Fellside, four of which were already taken when we arrived so we were in luck for once. The lane leads up to a gate beyond which there is an information board and where we take a right turn and follow the old track up to the mining area at Roughton Gill.

From the parking area a look back down the lane to the little hamlet of Fellside where we are just about at the northernmost edge of the Lake District National Park, and where the fells of Caldbeck and Uldale have been scoured by mineral mining activity for hundreds of years. The Roughton Gill mine was regarded as one of the richest sources of minerals and was finally abandoned in 1894.

Heading down the slope along the good track with evidence of mining already beginning to come into view even though we’ve only just started out. The small building above the curve of the track had warning signs plastered all over it informing us that the building was unsafe. Given that it looked as sturdy as the day it was built the signs seemed like overkill to us, but in these over-cautious and litigation-minded days I suppose the need to cover one’s back is paramount. It looked like an old water works building, probably linked to the one we saw when we reached the mining area, and set into the track at intervals between the two were several small inspection covers so water would probably be the connection between them all.

We were joined by some fellow travellers as we followed the track curving over Ingray Gill.

A look back along Dale Beck and the flatter landscape to the north. If you peer very hard you might be able to pick out two telecommunications masts on the skyline.

There’s still a good way to go as we look ahead to some of the Caldbeck Fells so we maintain a swift pace over the more or less level track.

Further along in the valley bottom we see the remnants of old mine buildings, circular in construction, judging by what remains, rather than the more usual rectangular shapes to be found in these old mining areas. Round buildings can often suggest a mill of some kind but that’s as much information as I can offer in this case.

J makes his way across the footbridge over Hay Gill. The pool was very inviting because it was very warm and muggy in the enclosed valley and had we not been in a hurry we might have been tempted to linger a while.

Approaching Roughton Gill mine with Iron Crag rising steeply above it.

The remains of mine buildings can be found everywhere but very little is easily recognisable to our untrained eyes, although we do know a spoil heap when we see one! You can’t move for them up here spread as they are over a very large area. In the next gill along, on the left of the shot, are the remains of another mine, possibly the Mexico Mine although there are so many gills with workings in them its difficult to be certain. Apparently the Mexico Mine was a commercial flop since hardly any significant mineral finds were made there.

As we get nearer we can see three other people up ahead leisurely exploring the mine area, we charge, huffing and puffing, up the last few yards and take a quick look around.

As is obvious, its difficult to get very close to the falls in Roughton Gill without endangering life and limb, and the abundance of foliage at the moment made it hard to see them clearly so I had to be content with this shot of them for the time being. If we hadn’t been so pushed for time perhaps we could have found a better spot but at least it gives some indication of the nature of Roughton Gill.

Another building with signs warning of dire consequences should anyone be considering breaking in although it probably contains very little else but spiders. In any case, how on earth would anyone get in since all possible entrances have been bricked up? Its situated immediately beside the gill so it probably performs, or performed, some water based function in connection with the earlier one we saw back down the valley. Whatever it does, or did, its clear that no-one has been inside to check on things for a very long time. The wall alongside came in handy for a quick breather and drinks before we turned around to make our way back down.

From our perch on the wall a view of the scree slopes of what I think is Peterhaw. Not in the shot but just a short distance away to the north east of it is High Pike. We could see a number of paths going in all directions across the fellsides around here which had us thinking about all manner of new routes to follow across the Caldbeck and Uldale Fells from this particular spot.

A look back at Roughton Gill and the abandoned building as we begin the return leg down the valley. We would have like to have climbed the hillside above the gill but there was no chance of that today so its on the ‘to-do’ list in the pending tray.

Roughton Gill in more benign form as it trickles down from the mine to join Dale Beck in the valley bottom.

In the valley bottom now where the infant Dale Beck is filled by a number of feeder becks emanating from the numerous gills, and a look back at the mining area as we begin to make our way back to Fellside. I think the flattish area on the centre skyline is the long plateau between Great Lingy Hill and High Pike.

Dale Beck squeezes its way between the enclosed fell sides where the track has naturally narrowed quite a lot. We’ve temporarily lost our sunny spell but it was still quite warm and muggy along here.

We’re making good time and are well on our way back to the car so I had time for a quick shot looking back along the valley from the bridge across Dale Beck.

Back at the bridge over Hay Gill where we notice a sheepfold which, for some inexplicable reason, we didn’t see on the outward leg. Perhaps because we were in such a rush. There was a narrow path going up the right side of the gill and in the distance more evidence of mining activity can be seen. Apparently the Hay Gill Mine was a copper mine with a very long history.

The clouds break up once more and we are back in the sunshine as we curve around Ingray Gill once again and climb the last slight rise before …..

….. dropping down to the information board at the bottom of the hill. The track curves round to the left and …..

….. back to the gate at the top of the lane above Fellside. Once through the gate its only a matter of yards before we are back at the parking area. The two and a quarter miles from here to the mine took us fifty minutes on the outward leg and forty minutes on the return leg. Now we have twenty minutes to drive back to Hesket Newmarket to be in time for the set. There were no delays on the return journey and we made it back with just enough time to park the car, get the drinks in and find a seat, phew! Our walk was very pleasant despite being a little on the hasty side, and no doubt we will be making a return visit in order to carry on up over Roughton Gill and follow new routes over the familiar Uldale and Caldbeck Fells.