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Rossett Gill and the Pack Woman's Grave

Rossett Gill and the Pack Woman's Grave


Postby trailmasher » Sat Jun 06, 2015 7:41 pm

Wainwrights included on this walk: Rosset Pike

Hewitts included on this walk: Rossett Pike

Date walked: 14/10/2014

Time taken: 5.23

Distance: 19.81 km

Ascent: 999m

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Pack womans grave.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


I had read about the unfortunate demise of the pack woman who died from exposure during a very bad snowstorm when descending down the old and original pack horse route whilst on her way from Wasdale to Langdale, in Wainwright's Southern Fells Book 4. He, Wainright, says the incident happened 170 years ago but that was when he wrote the book in 1960 so it must be presumed that the ill-fated passage between the two valleys occurred in the winter of 1780.

For those who don't know the story I will give a short narrative but more can be found at http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMTK8_The_Packwomans_grave_Langdale_Cumbria and just follow the links - are you sitting comfortably!

In the days of old before the means of communication and roads were not as they are in the present time, goods, - and very importantly - information, letters, gossip, and such like were transported about by a man or woman leading his/her packhorse or teams of packhorses from valley to valley crossing between them by using the high passes over and between the mountains.

Apart from the packhorses there were pack men and women of whom this lady was one. The difference is that packhorses carried the often larger loads whilst the pack men/women carried about the smaller, lighter items which were mainly household goods. This particular lady carried a leather bag containing thimbles, pins, knives, etc.

Whilst dropping down the Rossett Gill path the snowstorm through which she was travelling increased in ferocity and she lost her way, but not by much when seeing where the location of the grave is sited. She was found a month later leaning against a rock by a man travelling over the pass. It appears that these travelling vendors of goods also carried a short handled spade with them - for a number of duties I suppose - which the finder of the body used to dig her grave at the spot and bury her along with her basket/bag of goods and trinkets.

When researching this incident I discovered that the people who know of the location of the grave are reluctant to reveal its position for fear of vandalism of which does occur even in this green and pleasant land of the Lake District. I found many photographs and stories but no grid reference relating to its site but eventually I built up a picture using old photos, Google Earth, and other snippets of information gleaned from the internet.

I myself will also not reveal the graves position but everything pertaining to it can be found by following the various links at the above web address which I found after the event of my visit to the grave site. It would have made my search easier if I had come upon the link early in my quest. But then again, I would not have had the same satisfaction of finding it if I had been able to go straight to it.

There are three parking options at the village of Stonethwaite. The favourite spot is in the small parking area just off the side of Stonethwaite Bridge in the village itself. If that is full then there are plenty of spaces available on the wide grass verges that are near the school and sewage works. The third option is to use the school car parking area for which they charge a small fee of £2.00p - unless it's gone up recently.

I was early enough on this occasion to get parked in the village so saving a walk on tarmac. The weather was good enough, cool and cloudy, but dry and looked likely enough to remain so all day.
1 - The hamlet of Stonethwaite in Borrowdale.JPG
Stonethwaite in Borrowdale.

There are two ways to leave the village, both heading northeast. One is to follow the walled track which runs under Bull Crag and Alisongrass Hoghouse before it turns in a roughly southerly direction on the west bank of Langstrath Beck to pass Johnny House and finally petering out at the gate by the side of Blackmoss Pot, that favourite spot for picnickers and the hardy ones who love to get into the very cold and deep water pool that lies between the mini cliff like confines of Langstrath Beck.

From here the track is replaced by a path which at first is indistinct but soon re-appears after a short walk across the grassy area which is met once through the gate at the 'Pot'. This path continues on to meet up with a footbridge across Langstrath Beck which is used to gain access to a second footbridge which crosses Stake Beck and leads to the start of Stake Pass.

The other option is to leave the village and walk through the fields and camping area - a much more pleasant way than the first option - until reaching a footbridge that when crossed will lead you onto the aforementioned walled track and path which then climbs steadily to a height of some 100 metres higher than at the footbridge just crossed to the bottom of Stake Pass. On this occasion this is the option I took whilst passing a few happy campers with one or two just using their cars for overnight accommodation.

The walk along the track is stony, wet in places, but all in all not bad to travel on and a fair rake of knots can be maintained all the way up to Blackmoss Pot. Overlooking Blackmoss Pot and on the west side is the steep grassy bank below Woof Stones and Cam Crag where the elusive cave bothy is rumoured to be so well hidden that many have tried to find it on numerous occasions, and failed.

On the east side we have Sergeant's Crag connected by the hip to Eagle Crag to the north, and Lamper Knott and Bull Crag to the south. Despite being in the confines of this massive valley there is plenty to look at. All around there are crags of all sizes and shapes and the view along the length of the valley is far reaching even when turning the corner at South Crags to look into Tongue Head and Allan Crags if going that way to get to Angle Tarn. Anyway, now I digress.

Crossing the relatively level area of grass where the path is indistinct it makes an appearance again, is in a decent state, and simply follows the beck upstream to arrive at Tray Dub and the footbridge mentioned earlier. This is where I took a moment to take a drink and look back to check on an Australian girl who was walking the Cumbria Way, had stayed the night at Rosthwaite and was now making her way over to Langdale. I came across her parked up just before Blackmoss Pot with her bag on the ground and looking decidedly weary. I asked if she was alright to which she replied in the positive and confirmed that she was heading for Langdale for her overnight stay in the Olde Dungeon Ghyll. Good choice!!

I walked with her for a while but to be honest I couldn't walk as slow as her so I slowly picked up pace and went on ahead. The footbridge is a good spot to rest up for a few minutes as long as you sit with your back to Stake Pass. Why would anyone want to look at it for a while before attacking it? One could get quite depressed if dwelling upon the thoughts of having to get up it.

Leaving the bridge I started on the good and well graded path that zigzags its way up the fell side alongside Stake Beck. From about halfway up the pass I turned to check on the girl again and saw that she was way in the distance still creeping along.
2 - Looking into Langstrath from half way up Stake Pass.JPG
Looking into Langstrath from halfway up Stake Pass.

At just about the last turn on the path before it levels out somewhat I came across a gang of Park Rangers who were repairing some washed out bits of the path. Having the crack with them for a few minutes I established that their car was parked up on the grass under Langdale Fell so they had quite a walk to get to their place of walk before even starting it. Doh!
3 - National Park rangers repairing a section of Stake Pass.JPG
National Park Rangers repairing a section of Stake Pass.

Upon reaching the top of the pass I decided to have a bite to eat whilst looking across to the unnamed tarn…
4 - Unnamed tarn at the top of Stake Pass.JPG
Unnamed tarn at the top of Stake Pass.

and Rossett Pike before setting off across Langdale Combe and then down the path which runs alongside Stake Gill before meeting the footbridge over Mickleden Beck.
5 - The view into Langdale from Stake Pass.JPG
A view into Langdale from Stake Pass.

6 - The view into Langdale from Stake Pass.JPG
Another view into Langdale.

I myself turned off and cut across the corner to meet up with the path which runs up, and alongside Rossett Gill where in the higher confines of I will hopefully find what I am searching for.

The sun is out despite the clouds which have dominated most of the sky since I set off and it's warm as I make my way up towards the conclusion of my online research, and now, the search with the boots on the ground and the GPS in the hand. As I get nearer to my target and when the GPS tells me I'm quite close to the spot that I've marked I check the compass and then switch off the GPS to hide me from this point as it appears that everyone who has found the spot keeps the grid reference a closely guarded secret. Huh! And after this event I find it on the internet, albeit the person that published it got a rollicking from many quarters.

I left the path and worked my way through rocks and bracken until after climbing a small bank I saw it, laid out on a level patch of grass, the cross, made from rough, locally picked up stones and with the head pointing northeast in line with the valley and looking across the lower slopes of Crinkle Crags.
7 - The pack womans grave - picture by John.JPG
The pack woman's grave - 1

8 - The pack womans grave - picture by John.JPG
The pack woman's grave - 2

9 - The pack womans grave - picture by John.JPG
The pack woman's grave - 3

10 - The pack womans grave - picture by John.JPG
The pack woman's grave - 4

I couldn't believe my luck in finding it so easily and quickly. A few photos were taken followed by a drink and a sandwich whilst sat on a rock and musing about the poor woman's unfortunate end in this - what was then - desolate place. I felt a prayer coming on so a few quiet words were spoken before I left this sad place and made my way to the top of the pass after turning my GPS back on once back on the path.

Once at the top of the path I turned east up the easy sloping fell side to reach the top of Rossett Pike from where I believe the stone cross can be seen, although I didn't test this out.
11 - Sergeants Crag and Eagle Crag from Rossett Pike top.JPG
Sergeant's Crag and Eagle Crag from Rossett Pike.

The last time I was around this area I had come off Allan Crags with E and dropped down to Angle Tarn before leaving there by the small path which runs down the side of Angletarn Gill and then walking down the full length of Langstrath back to the car at Stonethwaite. It was a hot day and wide as the valley is the air wasn't moving which made for some thirsty moments and frequent stops to drink and re-fill the bottles up from the beck.

The path along from Rossett Pike is good enough and only gets a bit rough as you drop down the ridge of Mansey Pike before reaching the unnamed tarn again. This is where I met the Park Rangers again having moved from the north side to here. Had another short chat with them and then proceeded to drop down the pass and into Langstrath once again.
12 - Waterfall by Stake Pass.JPG
Waterfall by Stakes Pass.

It was at the bottom of the pass that I now met a large and elderly group of walkers who were walking the Cumbria Way to Langdale. They looked quite tired and didn't seem to like the look of Stake Pass one bit but I tried to re-assure them that it really wasn't as bad as it looked and to just keep plodding steadily onwards and upwards.

I'm on my way again and this time I walk down the east side of the beck on a path which is good but a lot rougher than the one on the west side. After a while Blea Crag at 309 metres is passed and looks odd with a single tree growing out from the top of it. It's a long way down the valley from the bridge and the going is slower than the west side due to the nature of the ground with many rocky areas to pass over.
13 - Putting sheep on to the fells in Langstrath Valley.JPG
Putting the sheep on to the fells in Langstrath Valley.

I finally arrived at the footbridge by Smithymire Island, whereby the island - it's not really an island - got its name because at one time in the distant past there used to be an iron smelter located there. Crossing over the bridge I then turned northeast onto the Greenup Edge path - another old packhorse route - following it down to reach Stonethwaite Bridge where I turned to cross it and return to the car.

Apart from finding the pack woman's grave this was not an exciting walk by any means, but I did accomplish another of my personal projects of finding these long lost/forgotten, or hidden things of interest that are scattered about the Lake District. And the weather was good.
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trailmasher
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Re: Rossett Gill and the Pack Woman's Grave

Postby Alteknacker » Sun Jun 07, 2015 12:22 am

Not such an uninteresting route at all. The area looks really wonderful, and if you fulfilled a personal ambition, even better.

And it wasn't raining in Borrowdale??? :eh:

Come on now, are your pics real....??? :wtf:
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Re: Rossett Gill and the Pack Woman's Grave

Postby trailmasher » Sun Jun 07, 2015 2:04 pm

Alteknacker wrote:Not such an uninteresting route at all. The area looks really wonderful, and if you fulfilled a personal ambition, even better.

And it wasn't raining in Borrowdale??? :eh:

Come on now, are your pics real....??? :wtf:


Thanks for your comments Alteknacker and yes, Borrowdale is a great place to be :D , even in the rain :wink: . There are so many hidden corners to root out, and the pics are straight from my trusty little Panasonic, no Photoshop involved.
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trailmasher
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Re: Rossett Gill and the Pack Woman's Grave

Postby ChrisW » Mon Jun 08, 2015 6:28 am

Another great report Trailmasher, there is a stark beauty to those treeless hills of home, I really do miss them. I think you should have given that Aussie lass a hand with her bag for a mile or two though :lol:

Such a sad story of the 'pack woman' it reminded me of the huge cairn on top of the small hill 'Carnferg' in the forest of Birse (south of Aboyne, Aberdeenshire) it has a stone inscribed "to Joseph and his son 1911"....."from a heartbroken widow" :(
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Re: Rossett Gill and the Pack Woman's Grave

Postby trailmasher » Wed Jun 10, 2015 6:58 pm

ChrisW wrote:Another great report Trailmasher, there is a stark beauty to those treeless hills of home, I really do miss them. I think you should have given that Aussie lass a hand with her bag for a mile or two though :lol:

Such a sad story of the 'pack woman' it reminded me of the huge cairn on top of the small hill 'Carnferg' in the forest of Birse (south of Aboyne, Aberdeenshire) it has a stone inscribed "to Joseph and his son 1911"....."from a heartbroken widow" :(


Hey Chris, been away for a couple of days walking so late getting your post. Re the Aussie girl, she could have carted me about as not casting any aspersions but she would have made a great contribution to the front line of the All Blacks :roll: . It's a strange thing but I do tend to enjoy the starkness of the bare fells and their valleys as it gives a feeling of great openness :crazy:. Next time I'm north of the border I'll try and look that cairn up.
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Re: Rossett Gill and the Pack Woman's Grave

Postby ChrisW » Sun Jun 21, 2015 9:48 pm

trailmasher wrote: Re the Aussie girl, she could have carted me about as not casting any aspersions but she would have made a great contribution to the front line of the All Blacks :roll: .


:lol: :lol:
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