Castle Crag and a cave, the long way round.
by trailmasher » Sat Nov 26, 2016 9:08 pm
Wainwrights included on this walk: Castle Crag
Date walked: 09/11/2016
Time taken: 4.11
Distance: 15.28 km
Ascent: 622m3 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
It was cold and wet with sleet when the door rattled at 6:45am to announce the arrival of Chris and Steve who had suffered a slow journey along the highest stretch of the A66 due to snow lying across the top of Bowes Moor. I was a bit surprised to see them this early - or at all - as looking at the fells earlier and seeing the amount of snow lying I thought that maybe the snow gates were down refusing entry to all traffic both ways across the highest part of the A66. Anyway, they're here now so I suppose they've earned their mug of coffee as we discuss the plans for today that are now about to be altered due to the weather.
The plan was to get into Wasdale so that Chris could see off Illgill Head and Whin Rigg whilst I, having already walked these two fells before could also summit my last three Birkett's. But unfortunately due mostly to the very low cloud cover and not the weather we decided to do something closer to hand, not as high, and more importantly for the views. Also to fit into the equation was Steve, who hasn't done a great deal of walking in the mountains or fells, so today could be a good starter for 214, maybe.
Looking for something not too high and about 12 to 15 kilometres long we decided that Castle Crag starting from Grange and taking in Seatoller would fit the bill nicely. Off we set then with the nearby fells covered in not only snow but a swathe of low lying cloud making it now impossible to see anything but the lowest of the surrounding fells. With sleet hitting the windscreen and the countryside buried in clag it was a rather depressing start to a day on the fells and a last look at the MWIS website didn't make for a happy ending neither.
After a decent drive to Grange we parked up on the National Trust car park that is just over the bridge on the right, is in front of the Village Hall/Church and is large enough for around eight cars if parked sensibly.
It was cold and misty across the lower fells with a light rain falling through the thicker fog that for now had lifted ever so slightly leaving the lower slopes behind Grange a hazy sort of visible. This should, and proved to be, a simple walk with no untoward difficulties taking in good paths through woodland, partly riverside, a look at a couple of 'caves', and good elevated paths that don't climb too high so that with a bit of good fortune we may be able to get some decent views into and across the valley of Borrowdale.
Booted and bagged we set off to walk along the narrow tarmac road through the village firstly southwest and then naturally following it as it turned northwest, but after just a few metres we then took the south fork to follow the well laid out lane that leads through the tree lined fields to a couple of caravan and camping sites and into the multi-coloured and autumn leaved Dalt Wood.
It was still raining; well we thought it was as with walking under the trees we couldn't be sure whether it was raining or the remnants of it dripping from the trees. It's a lovely walk through the woods at any time of year and today was no exception as the rain seemed to bring out the colours of the leaves as they clung on to the branches before finally parachuting gently to the ground to form a carpet of golden brown and yellow.
We soon arrived at the banks of the River Derwent at its widest point that is overlooked by the lovely fell of King's How sitting on the west face of Grange Fell.
It was here that we now took the right hand track as it runs between Dalt Wood and Low Hows Wood and also alongside Broadslack Gill that for now is hiding behind the left hand wall. This track that we would follow all the way to Tongue Gill was originally a quarry/miners track that went from Grange to the workings at Rigghead Quarries as well as servicing the ones around and on Castle Crag. The track is good and wide varying between being roughly stoned below and around Castle Crag, paved by cobbles after Castle Crag, and then a good stretch of evenly surfaced track as we progressed upwards to Tongue Gill.
The views from this point got progressively better the higher we climbed and Borrowdale opened up below us. The low clouds are becoming more compliant now as they have lifted high enough to see the valley below and the surrounding fells with just a narrow band of cloud hanging just above the valley bottom and splitting the fells in two. Great Crag, Eagle Crag, Rosthwaite Fell and just a hint of a view towards High Raise are visible, but the low clouds don't seem to be giving much away as they still persist in covering the tops of the higher fells.
As we have climbed higher we met the snow behind Castle Crag, not much underfoot but enough to be wary of not slipping and there is no chance of the rain getting rid of it as that thankfully stopped whilst we were passing through the woods.
The combination of snow and thin mist give the fells an almost ethereal appearance as we steadily climbed southwards…
across the fellside to eventually arrive at Tongue Gill…
from where we would then turn roughly east to follow the gill down a narrow and stony path to just below a footbridge that spans Tongue Gill from where the path took a turn to the south again and also a turn for the worse as we left the stony path behind to be now walking along a part grass part dirt one that had become fairly slippery due to the previous rain and snow.
Apart from the greasy path there were no untoward incidents as we passed over Scaleclose Gill from where the path is now a wide green lane with a thin covering of wet snow making the going no easier as we now descended to Seatoller. We had contemplated leaving Seatoller by the lower route alongside the north bank of the River Derwent but then decided to retrace our steps back the way we had arrived there and take the higher path above Seatoller and then along the paths through Johnny Wood.
As we left our previously walked downward path the going was good along another green lane that took us to a single wooden gate in a wall with another gate immediately to our right as we passed through the first one. As the path continued straight on we followed it into the trees as it got gradually more indistinct but still in sight.
We had a chat about it and decided that as there were still the makings of a path that we would carry on and follow it as it wound its way downwards through the trees into a leafy hollow. From the hollow we then climbed up a short bank onto a wide track that we then realised could have been accessed earlier through the aforementioned gate to our right. No matter, an ancient path was followed and we're where we want to be, heading for Rosthwaite.
The walk through the woods was a pleasant experience with the only slight hazard of a short sloping section of wet and greasy rock to contend with just prior to our turning downhill at Longthwaite to arrive at the grounds of Rosthwaite Youth Hostel where we took advantage of the barbecue tables and seats to eat in a more civilised fashion than that which is not usually afforded in the high fells. It was pleasant sitting on the snow free lawns whilst looking at the snow clad fells around us, but far too soon it was time to move on to bypass the village of Rosthwaite itself before ascending Castle Crag.
Passing back through the gate that had got us here we now took the long, narrow path that runs alongside the River Derwent and found the old stone footbridge under repair as well as the river bank being stabilised. Entering the first field after the bridge we crossed it to reach an old wooden gate where the ground in front of the gate was just a sodden mass of grass, rushes, and mud that unfortunately had to be negotiated to access the gate. Once over the gate the ground was nice and dry and led onto an old grass track that went part way up the hill before running out of steam and left us to follow narrow paths across Lingy Bank and through the dead bracken from thereon.
We slowly climbed passing over a tumbledown dry stone wall to access the next field where the path now got much steeper, and then passing a couple of places where badgers sett's had been dug out we reached the next wall which we followed uphill until a cross wall was reached. This wall we scaled and followed an easy path to reach the usual one that rises up from the path to Grange.
From there the ladder stile was soon reached and it was then but a short climb up the zigzag path of the massive heap of slate waste to the summit of Castle Crag.
A family group were on their way down and held back to let us pass them by and we found another couple of chaps on top who were just finishing up their sandwiches, so after having a short chat with them it was our turn to take in the fantastic views north towards Derwent Water and the green of Borrowdale with its multi-coloured leaved trees sat by the river and cloaking the fell sides.
Looking south the rest of Borrowdale is laid out, branching off into Stonethwaite to the left and Seathwaite to the right with the surrounding Borrowdale Fells dressed in white and cloaked in cloud overlooking all beneath them.
We also had a great view over Lingy Bank, Scaleclose Coppice, and High Doat with our outward path plain to see as it winds its way through the brown of the dead bracken. The snow covered paths that we had walked on earlier are now seen to be clear, an indication of a rise in the temperature over the last couple of hours.
After having a short snack and a drink it was time to set off once again but not before having a look into the shattered depths of the old worked out slate quarries below us and across to the old workings and buildings sat on the lower slopes of High Spy just below Lobstone Band Door. Looking up into the confines of the various gullies that adorn these slopes it is to be noted that there are many signs of past workings in the way of waste tips and dark holes that must indicate the old mine entrances.
We've seen the views, we've stood on top of the memorial bearing rocky upstand…
we've been fed and watered and now we're leaving to continue on to Grange.
It's a simple matter to just re-trace our steps to the ladder stile and then continue down the regular path to once again take a walk through the woods. But we haven't finished yet, Chris and Steve have still to take a look at Millican Dalton's caves, the caves where the guide and mountaineer of yesteryear chose to live and entertain guests whilst he was working in and around Borrowdale. He was known as 'The Borrowdale Caveman', was born in April 1867 and died in 1947, was one of the pioneering climbers of the day and mixed with the best of them. In 1897 Millican, Andrew Thomson, and an E.R were the first to climb the crags of Dove Nest. He also climbed with the best of them and was a founder member of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club of which the first meeting was held in the Sun Hotel, Coniston on the 11th November 1906. There is much to tell about Millican Dalton and for those interested in such things it can all be found in a small book that goes by the name of :-
The Life and Times of a Borrowdale Caveman.
A Search for Romance & Freedom.
After a short time of walking through the trees of High Hows Wood there is to be found a narrow path to the left at NY252160 that slopes gently upwards to arrive at a 'cave' that was actually a slate quarry that was dug out of the hillside to form a large cave like hollow with a large entrance. This is the cave that Millican lived in whilst the weather conditions were favourable to do so, but apart from the winter months it was mostly occupied by him.
Higher up the hill to the right there is a second 'cave', known as the 'Attic' with two entrances, and this is where his guests were quartered and it is said that many a discussion - some heated - was entered into by his many friends who visited him. After one such heated 'discussion' with a Scottish friend he carved into the left hand face of the rock of the lower of the upper caves the inscription:- 'Don't!! waste worrds, jump to conclusions!'. The word 'worrds' was not a misspelling but seemingly a play on his Scottish friend's accent.
The 'caves' are an interesting item and there are quite a few words carved into the rock in various places of both caves and a good bit of time could be spent finding them and trying to decipher the words that are sometimes hard to figure out amongst the wet and grime of the intervening years since they were carved out.
We eventually left the caves behind and returned to the woodland path that now took us back to the banks of the River Derwent and the point where we had originally turned off to the right to walk behind Castle Crag. It was now just an easy stroll back past the camping and caravan sites and the car at Grange.
A day of mixed weather and low cloud turned our attentions to this walk instead of Wasdale, but it has worked out alright with the rain stopping quite early on in the walk and the underlying snow, although not deep, did cause some slippery areas of path on occasions. The views although not great were better than I could have expected them to be, and a cold start turning to quite mild was another bonus to thankfully grab. Looking over the autumn coloured lower fells from on high, with the lightly snow covered high fells was another added bonus as opposed to the bare and grass covered mountains and fells of Wasdale that we were going to walk today. Okay, there are lots to see in Wasdale on a good day, but today wasn't a good day for climbing any higher than we did. The light grey of the sky did nothing to help me get a good shot of the snow covered fell tops whenever they peeped out of the cloud as they blended into the sky and burnt out with only the odd black mark of rocky crags letting you know that there was something there more than grey sky.
by Guinessman » Sat Nov 26, 2016 9:22 pm
by trailmasher » Sun Nov 27, 2016 5:03 pm
Guinessman wrote:Excellent and informative report Trailmasher. Interesting route up a wainwright still to be done by myself. Thanks
Thanks very much GM and that way makes a nice change from the 'tourist' route
by ChrisW » Thu Dec 01, 2016 6:45 am
Great stuff as always mate
by trailmasher » Thu Dec 01, 2016 1:49 pm
ChrisW wrote:That's an uncommon route TM but a lovely one if the pics are anything to go by. It seems so late in the year to have such an abundance of autumn colour, maybe I've been away too long so I don't remember....in fact there's no maybe about it
Great stuff as always mate
Different way of going but a good little walk I'm looking out of my den window just now and the trees are still hanging on to their autumn leaves As ever, thanks for your comments Chris
by thefallwalker » Tue Dec 06, 2016 9:00 pm
A good leg opener & lung acclimatiser after a few weeks off!
a great bonus to see Millican's caves
by trailmasher » Wed Dec 07, 2016 12:11 pm
thefallwalker wrote:a cracking little day out this 1 mate, it doesn't always have to be the "big uns"
A good leg opener & lung acclimatiser after a few weeks off!
a great bonus to see Millican's caves
Glad that you enjoyed the 'stroll' and there are plenty more 'little 'uns' to go for
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