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Base Brown and the Plumbago Mines

Date & start time: Tuesday 20th July 2010, 10.45 am start.

Location of Start : Seathwaite Farm, Borrowdale, Cumbria, Uk ( NY 235 122 )

Places visited : Sour Milk Gill, Hanging Stone, Base Brown, Gillercomb, the Plumbago Mines and back down alongside Newhouse Gill to Seathwaite.

Walk details : 4.2 mls, 2000 ft, 5 hrs 10 mins including lunch.

Highest point : Base Brown 2120 ft - 646 m.

Walked with : Ruth, Jo, John, Ann and the dogs, Jodie, Amber, Polly, Harry and Bethan.

Weather : Sunny and warm with a slight breeze over lunch. Rain on the way home.


 Base Brown and the Plumbago Mines at EveryTrail


Recent heavy rain and busy times at home have reduced our fell walking activity in recent weeks, but we're back up and running now with a walk from Seathwaite. The regular four plus a visiting "Loweswatercam viewer" set out on a dry day to explore the fells at the head of the Borrowdale valley.

Ever since the hosepipe ban imposed on Keswick and Central Cumbria it seems to have rained non-stop.

The rain of the last few weeks has therefore swollen the rivers and waterfalls, which are now flowing far above their normal levels.

Today we enjoyed the best of both worlds, the sunshine and warm weather plus the views of the overfull waterfalls as we set off on our walk.

To get to Seathwaite we had to pass the Buttermere Pines.

A cry from the passenger seat of "Not another Buttermere Pines photo" was treated with the respect it deserved.

Parking today was alongside the road to Seathwaite Farm, at the head of the Borrowdale Valley.

The tearooms are still closed . . . no after-walk refreshments from here then !

Through the arch in the farm yard and across the valley towards the waterfall.

Jo was the last across the unusual ladder stile at the base of the climb.

The path up alongside Sour Milk Gill is not the easiest.

Despite being a nice pitched path there are several short sections of rock scramble, easier in ascent than on the way down.

Sour Milk Gill, one of at least three in the Lakes, looks particularly white and frothy when full of water as it is today.

The water cascades down the rocky fell side.

A Rowan sapling alongside the falls . . . the white water contrasting with the delicate green leaves of the tree.

The fast moving water captured for a moment in time.

Higher still and above the fell wall, the water cascades over a water shoot with dramatic force.

I cross over (carefully) below the falls to catch the view from the other side.

The view includes the slopes of Base Brown that we will be climbing shortly.

At the head of the falls now and the slope eases as we enter Gillercombe Valley.

Quite a small stream . . . but it goes on to produce quite a large waterfall.

Looking back into Borrowdale as the water starts it's cascade "over the edge".


The falls were quite impressive today so I captured a few clips on video.

[ Click on the picture above to see the story so far ]

Residual white but poor weather clouds drift up the Thirlmere Valley from the Southern Lakes

and cross below the summit of Helvellyn in the distance.

Our next objective . . . the Perched Boulder.
The ascent is steeper than it looks.

Hold on tight if you're looking down this steeply from above !

The answer is self-evident

May we introduce Ruth from Cornwall who's up here with her husband on a Cumbrian Holiday.

Is she happy to be here ? [ Move your cursor over the photo to see ]

The boulder is perched on several smaller ones which prevent it from falling further down the slope.

Note: this is not the " Hanging Stone " mentioned on the map. That's about sixty yards further down.

To get a proper picture of that we'll just have to go again !

John was first to spot another walker on the fells, but to be technically correct he jumped more than walked.

His/her identity . . . A Common Frog but that name belittles what was a delightful creature.

Above the boulder we reach the ridge

and were able to see beyond it towards Esk Pike and Great End.

From the summit however, the view extends further to include the whole of the ridge towards Scafell Pike and Scafell.

To the right, Great Gable and the green grass of . . . yes, Green Gable just this side of it.

Further right again, Ann and Ruth look across to Pillar Fell, its summit just touched by the cloud.

Zooming in . . . the three summits of Scoat Fell, Black Crag and Pillar.

Time for lunch on the summit.

Ruth explaining that she eats human food not dog food !

Polly had heard that one before too . . .

but was convinced that she could eat human food if it was offered.

Mmmm . . . dark skies over the Southern Lakes as we set off after lunch.

Click here or on the photo above for a big value, Loweswatercam 360 degree annotated panorama.

The gentle back-slope of Base Brown leads down to the head of Gillercombe Valley.

We take the pitched path down and so avoid the worst of the erosion on the old route.

The winter storms have washed out the new path as it crosses the gully where the old path used to climb.

We would walk the length of this shallow 'hanging valley' back to the top of Sour Milk Gill.

We will cross the stream near the Gillercombe slabs, the grey top of which can be seen on the extreme right of the photo.

John crosses the beck using his poles to balance.

Harry and Bethan lead the way

recognising a crossing point of the wall without any prompting from us.

A high wall needs a high ladder stile.

Rather than take the easy path back up alongside the wall

we decide to climb the slabs on a direct line to the top of the mines.

Ruth gives Jodie a helping hand as she scrambles up the occasionally grassy crack in the rock.

Jo seems to enjoy the off-piste route.

Ann too, but her smile is hidden as she contemplates her next move.

Following the fell wall again we reach the first of the spoil heaps of the old mine.

Far below the farmer has gathered his sheep into the walled track around his farm buildings.

The different shades of Herdwick grey making it look like a broad, dry stone wall rather than a waiting flock of sheep in a lane.

But I digress . . . we have entered the area of the Plumbago Mines.

You would normally associate Plumbago with the possible abbreviation Pb which implies the metal Lead, but in fact Plumbago was a very pure form of soft carbon. The deposits mined here used to carved into moulds for making cannon balls (hence it's military importance in Elizabethan times ) and later it provided the lead for lead pencils, a misnomer but one that has stuck.

It was this mine that produced the first raw materials for the Keswick pencil industry, which produced the first ever 'lead pencil' in the world.

Harry and Bethan, ever inquisitive, check out a mine entrance . . .

Nice smells but nothing to eat . . . !

I venture in a short way as the others look in.

A second mine entrance was passed.
It was illuminated by a shaft reaching down from the fell side above.

A good job it was light here

because the slippery and unprotected shaft

dropped diagonally down,

deep into the mines at an alarming angle.


If you wish to explore too

make sure you have a torch and take extreme care.


Do not venture too far . . .

we hate to lose any Loweswatercam viewers !


Down the steep fell side and nearly at the valley level again, with a view back across the lowest of the old spoil heaps

and across to Sour Milk Gill and Base Brown beyond.

Jo on the smaller bridge before we crossed the main river back to the car.

Acrobatic sheep walking the wall . . .

They had become trapped in the lane so climbed a broken section of wall, balanced along the top from right to left

and then dropped down into the field beyond.

Clever sheep . . . but I don't imagine it did the wall any good !

- - - o o o - - -


Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Canon 75 or my Canon G10 digital camera.

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

This site best viewed with . . . a head for heights on the climbs and on the stiles.

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Previous walk - 8th July 2010 Haystacks with Hilton and Sarah

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

Next walk - 21st July 2010 Dent and Nannycatch Valley

Click here to see John's photos of the day.