Date & Time: Sunday 29th October 2006. 10.30 am start.

Location of Start : Seathwaite Farm, Borrowdale, Cumbria, Uk. ( NY 237 125 )

Places visited : Seathwaite, Perched Boulder, Base Brown

Walk details : 5.2 mls, 2550 ft of ascent, a leisurely 6 hrs.

Walked with : John, Jo, Ann and the dogs.

Weather : A fine summer day, good visibility, slight cool breeze over lunchtime.

                   A brief Indian summer squeezed between two very wet and windy days.


John, Jo, Ann and the dogs.
Excellent weather at our Seathwaite start.
The world and his wife were here too !

The forecast had been good for today, it was the last day of the local half-term, and we found a roadside parking spot a few hundred yards down the line of cars which started at the top of the road near the farm. Base Brown was our first objective, seen here above the parked cars.

We turned through the farm archway and across to the bridge.
Good views of the old Plumbago mines, our route down later.

Blue skies, and plenty of water in the river today.

Jo, Ann and John on Seathwaite bridge.

They were slow leaving the bridge - what were they looking at ?
Ah ! Warm enough in the river for a brisk Autumnal swim.

Seathwaite Farm and the Trout hatchery.

The young lady is left to her towel, and the bridge is left far below, as we climb up alongside Sour Milk Gill.

The first of the two major waterfalls.
A young Rowan holds onto the last of it's berries.
Further up an older tree with more bright red fruit.
A small rainbow in the spray of the top falls.
The water as it rushed headlong over the edge.
An artistic bubble and swirl, a fast stream, a gentle backwater.

A pause at the top of the rise to appreciate the view over Borrowdale.

A steady climb up the steep side of Base Brown was made more difficult by the recent weather. The rock scramble as we neared the Perched Boulder was particularly wet and slippery, but with care both ourselves and the dogs negotiated it without too many problems.

We had now been climbing about 1700 feet in just over a mile of walking ~ a consistent and steep climb ~ but a real delight.

Across Gillercombe the farmers were gathering sheep again. They look like grains of sand in an egg timer as they followed each other across the fells.

The sheep and the farmer's dogs reminded me of a joke I heard recently. As it's a clean joke, maybe I could repeat it here . . .

A local farmer was the owner of an unusual companion - a talking sheep dog.

He sent the dog out into the field with the instruction to count the sheep. The dog raced all round the field and returned back to it's master. "I counted forty sheep" he said.

"That's strange" said the farmer, "I only bought thirty eight".

"Oh, that'll be my fault" said the dog . . . "I rounded them up" !!

But I digress . . .

Back to the hills, and we make the summit of Base Brown about an hour and a half after the start of our walk.

slower than the Fell and Rock predicted time, but that's not unusual for us.

From Base Brown you get that wonderful view of the high fells, from Esk Pike and Bowfell, all the way round to Scafell Pike, Scafell and Lingmell.


Looking north west, Pillar is visible above Gillercombe Head.
A damp path over Base Brown, and a stoney climb to Green Gable.

The dark crags of Great Gable, as the mist swirls around the imposing fell side.

Great Gable would add the best part of an hour for us if we climbed it today, but as the clocks have just gone back, it will be dark sooner this evening

so we decline the opportunity in favour of other fells.

Wild Ennerdale. There is a project on to return this valley to it's natural habitat.

There is no public road to Black Sail, and with selective re-planting and habitat control it should improve the potential for the wildlife.

The High Stile Ridge, and the Buttermere Valley beyond Haystacks.

( With apologies to Stephen, who was bending down for his flask of soup at the time.)

Great to stop and chat for a short while on such a fine day.

Kirk Fell with a passing cloud. Great view, and a good time to stop for lunch !

A slight breeze made us put on an extra layer of clothing, but was not that bad that we had to seek shelter.

A slim, muscular body,

lovely chestnut brown hair

a wonderful face,

eyes full of character taking in what's going on around her

a perfect subject for a portrait . . .


. . . . and Jo's not bad looking either !

Buttermere again, this time from Green Gable Crags.

However time was getting on and we had four more objectives en route to the end of the walk

This was the first, the pools at Gillercombe Head, at the start of the gentle climb to Brandreth.

The walk across to Grey Knotts was an easy grass stroll apart from a few rather peat-boggy bits that needed care to cross.

Soft cloud on Pillar from one of the small tarns on Grey Knotts.

Late afternoon sun on the rocky outcrop of Grey Knotts.

The top workings of the Seathwaite Plumbago Mines
Crossing the wall between the upper and middle workings.

These were important mines in that they produced Plumbago or black lead, a form of graphite, with innumerable historic uses.


Seathwaite History by Steve Bulman

In the southern part of this romantic vale, near Seathwaite, is the celebrated black lead or wad mine. The richness and purity of the Wad of these valuable mines is unequalled by any other of the like material in the world. It has been opened at different places where the Wad had probably appeared on the surface. The rock, which is a grey felspar porphyry, is intersected in various directions, by strings or small rake veins, some of which contain a superficial glazing of black lead, without the substance. The Wad is only found in sops or bellies formed by the intersection s of the veins, which are often at a considerable distance from each other. At what period this mine was opened is uncertain, but it is said to have been worked at intervals since the reign of Elizabeth. Formerly it was only worked at intervals of about seven years; for when a quantity of wad had been procured to supply the demand for a few years, it was strongly closed up until the stock was reduced; but latterly has been worked for a succession of years. An old level, re-opened in 1769, was found to have been cut without the aid of gunpowder; and a sort of pipe vein having been pursued to the depth of more than a hundred yards, much inconvenience was experienced; to obviate which an audit or level, two hundred yards in length, was cut from the side of the hill in 1798. The works have been since carried on internally through various branches: the water passing off through the principal level, whilst the wad and rubbish are conveyed out upon a railway, in a small wagon. A house, in which the workmen are undressed and examined every time they leave the mine, is built over the mouth of the audit. Owing to the great value of this wad, and the facilities afforded for disposing of it in an un-manufactured state, the greatest precaution has been found necessary in order to prevent its being purloined; and for its further protection, an Act of Parliament was passed, 25th George II, cap 10th, in the preamble of which this mineral is said to be "necessary for divers useful purposes, and more particularly in the casting of bomb-shells, round shot, and cannon balls." Its use is now well known to every housemaid, in cleansing and glossing cast iron work, such as stoves, grates, &c.; and being capable of enduring a great heat without fusing or cracking, it is used in the manufacture of crucibles; and its excellence in diminishing friction in wooden screws and other machinery, makes it become an ingredient in several anti-attrition compositions. But its principal use is in pencils, for which Keswick has long been celebrated.

Please click on the link if you wish to read more from his comprehensive text



There are many small tunnel openings on the hillside and a sharp eye was necessary to stop the dogs venturing in too far.

The mines are dangerous in that the tunnels are man made, the rock slippery and it is very difficult to predict the presence of some vertical shafts in the dark watery environment.

However an opening on the fell side allowed light in to illuminate a short section of one of the drier addits, and we walked in a few yards to look into the mine (not this one by the way).

Should you read this and decide to follow, you do so at your own risk.

Please be careful.


The tunnel in natural light . . .
and with the camera flash

What can be seen here is the horizontal entrance tunnel which continues further forward into the hill.

What is not so clear is the 45 degree shaft, just visible on the left hand picture, that crossed the addit and disappeared down to who knows where !


Drops of water cascade down the deep shaft (camera at arm's length !)

On a brighter note, a memorial to John Banks Esquire outside.

John Banks was a local benefactor, and a second, more modern memorial plaque was seen lower down in the valley.

After making tentative investigations of the mines, we followed the old miner's paths down through the lower workings

and safely back down to valley level.

Back to the bridge we used at the start of the day

and the end of a fine circular walk above Borrowdale.

- - - o o o - - -

Technical note: Pictures taken with a Canon IXUS 400 Digital camera.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . Borrowdale lead in your pencil.

Go to Top  # © RmH  #  Email me here  # Go to 2006 Archive

Previous walk - 24th October 2006 Grasmoor and a Birkett Round of local fells

Previous time up here - 5th October 2005 Sour Milk Gill and Base Brown

- - - o o o - - -