Coast to Coast Trip – Leg Six

Borrowdale to Mosedale Cottage, Lake District

12 miles and 2200 feet ascent approx


Be it paper maps or digital ones – perhaps even Google Earth – I personally can spend hours pouring over them.

I love the detail on Ordnance Survey mapping. From walls/fences, tracks and rights of way to points of historical interest (of which there are a great deal if you look hard enough).

Moreover, I enjoy seeking out new points of view for when out on the hills and places I’ve yet to visit.

When I initially chose to do our coast to coast walk I was mindful of the famous Alfred Wainwright route but also the spirit in which he composed it. The idea being to create your own trek across Northern England.

Bearing this in mind, I planned our route to wander through areas where few people choose to explore. I also wanted to take in scenic delights that Wainwright’s route ignores even though they could be within spitting distance. The Howgill Fells is one example.

Borrowdale in the Far Eastern Lakes is another. It’s not within the national park’s boundary but like much of that area it is very beautiful and a pleasure to explore on foot.

We set off from our latest pitch and chose to take the track that meanders through this valley. A pleasant start to the day that shouldn’t be too strenuous on our battered bodies.

The valley itself was a real eye-opener to what lies outside the Lake District’s borders. We passed farmers at work in fields repairing walls and fences, lambs skipping merrily in meadows with tall fells looming over as we walked. It was very relaxing and made us think is this what the Lake District was like before the tourist’s came along (and have done so since of course).

We hit Huck’s Bridge by the A6 in good time, had a quick break and then walked over the road to start another rough country trudge aiming for Sleddale Fell. The weather was OK, no rain but grey and overcast and up ahead we could see low cloud and clag. Nevertheless we were in good spirits but a little apprehensive as to navigating our way ahead.

Partly due to there being no paths or tracks of any sort (again) but also due to the number of walls and fences marked on the map.

To be fair, it started off as a hard plod but once we got a bit higher and noting the cloud was lifting, we felt that bit stronger. It wasn’t too far a walk for this day but we now realised that counted for nothing when walking on open fells with no foot friendly tracks.

It was a bit of an ankle killer and along with the humid warm temperatures it made things quite hard mentally.

We were approaching White Howe contemplating how we were going to cross a high barbed wire fence when out of the blue a Barn Owl leapt out of the heather nearby and then gracefully flew and touched down on a fence post not too far away.

I couldn’t believe we were seeing one at that time of day and on reflection it wasn’t that surprising. Only moments earlier we were slugging our guts up a steep crag when I noticed some high pitched squeaks and squeals. I turned my head to see three small rodents darting about amongst the tall grass!

This seemed a day for wildlife spotting!

We chucked our rucksacks over the fence and hobbled elsewhere to clamber over and on we went. After noting the triangulation point on White Howe and glancing down to a distant misty Kendal, we came upon a wide and barren view of the way ahead.

Miles of empty clear fells with just a few stone walls criss-crossing here and there.

We stood there and took in the scenery and couldn’t help but realise how close we were (as far as the crow flies) to the honeypots of the Lake District. And here we were with not another soul about.

It was good stuff. And we could observe Sleddale Fell up ahead. It only looked about a 30min walk away but as time went on – it was about 2 hours away!

The ground looked fine from a distance but on closer footing there were many peat groughs, swamps and marshes.

Real pain in the ass terrain to meander through which only slowed our progress.

But this only heightened our sense of adventure and exploration. It was our place in the wilds, so to speak. We did none of the screaming or shouting some tend to do in such places. Oh, no. We just took a seat on some damp moss and sat in silence looking around.

Eventually, we made it to the summit of Sleddale Fell. It was craggy and rough with small tarns dotted about with peaty streams making there way down to the valleys below. A good place to wild camp actually with fine views.

We could now see over to Harter Fell, a mountain we were due to ascend the following day.

But we had to cross a place called Greycrag Tarn before hoping over another fell to drop down for Mosedale Cottage.

We had to laugh at the name of this place on the map as there was clearly no tarn. Just bogs and marshes. More of the bloody things!

But as it happens we did come across a path of sorts which hand-railed a boundary fence and in next to no time we were standing on Harrop Pike marvelling at the crags and cliffs of Harter Fell and it’s neighbours which overlook Haweswater.

We then turned our heads to another wide and barren valley whereupon our jaws dropped upon seeing Mosedale Cottage.

My goodness! This small white cottage with a small wood adjacent sat all on it’s own in the middle of this barren landscape. We grinned from cheek to cheek in anticipation of visiting this bothy! So, with spirits lifted and tired limbs suddenly re-energised we made our way down the fell on course for a comfortable night’s sleep.

It was on the descent I chose to stop and take a panorama photo of the view when I noticed a face looking over in my direction.

Then another and another.

There was a herd of red deer – about seven – all relaxing on the fell side. We were only about 30 metres distance from them but they stayed put with a watchful eye on us as we then continued our walk down.

A day for wildlife? It certainly was. A little visited part of the Lake District – no wonder such creatures were out in force.

We arrived at the bothy in good time. About 5pm in fact. So, plenty of time to settle down and even take a much needed wash in the nearby beck.

The bothy is well-maintained with a number of rooms. Some with raised floors for sleeping on and a large kitchen area with a fireplace, table and chairs. Clearly an old farmers cottage, part of which is still used by the local landowners – or we assumed – as some of the building is closed off. But what’s available is roomy and could easily take in a number of people for the night.

After jotting down our names etc in the bothy book, Eion set out to get the fire going as I nipped outside to bathe in the beck as well as clean some socks and other clothing.

The sun shone down on me and so the water didn’t feel too cold – it was quite a liberating feeling. It was nice to feel clean, too!

But the hours went by quickly and soon it was twilight so we headed on in and cooked food and tried in vain to get the fireplace roaring (the coal that was there was damp and next to useless).

We sat in the kitchen in silence. Eating, drinking water and just taking in the atmosphere of the place.

It was quite a spooky bothy, to be honest. It wouldn’t surprise me if there are stories of hauntings there. You could feel a thick air of history with the place.

A room that Eion chose to sleep in looked like and old butchers closet. A raised floor for chopping meat on and metal hooks on the beams above. My room was more homely with a window view to the fells outside.

I slept rather well that night but Eion woke a couple of times to strange noises. No doubt his imagination! But you never know!

The next morning we were disappointed to learn it was raining. And quite heavily, too. I suppose our luck had to run out sooner or later. I was a bit pissed off cause I had a small washing line outside with my laundry on hanging to dry. This was only because we couldn’t get a fire going and the previous evening was dry and a bit breezy.

We ate breakfast, packed up and were about to set off when the rain finally stopped.

The next leg was going to be another tough one. Now on paths, but with quite a bit of ascent and descent involved over several miles as we headed for Patterdale and Helvellyn….

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. twiglegs says:

    Cheers mate, sounds like an interesting leg and that bothy looks mint, cept the meat hooks, reminds me of “the hills have eyes” or summat.
    Bet not that many people can boast of staying in that place it being off the popular routes, one to remember i bet.

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  2. Yuri says:

    That's quite an amazing little place, worth a visit that's for sure (still got a week off work at least…mmm)

    Agreed about maps, I read them like I would read a book, an OS Explorer tells you a story about the place you're visiting.

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  3. Paul says:

    Good write up mate lol I think I would have heard noises like Eion too, prob. selecting in my mind that I would be someones next victim on them hooks lol

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  4. terrybnd says:

    Yes, the bothy was indeed a good one. And going by the logbook, not often visited. Seemed there were a hardcore group of people who used it regularly.

    Even a DofE group had once stayed the night.

    But like I said, it had a thick air of history about the place…which did make it spooky at night

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