A mystery that has been in the back of my mind for a while was
finally solved with a visit to Borrowdale (the Keswick one) and
a walk from Chapel Farm up river into the Combe Gill Valley.
Here my friend and local guide today, Gill, introduced me to the
old Borrowdale Mill.
Trevor was not well enough to join us but Finlay needed a walk
and Gill was able to join myself and my two for a quick local
We are in
Borrowdale at the foot of the Stonethwaite Valley.
The Chapel has gate artwork
similar to that of Buttermere Church.
Parking for a few cars behind Borrowdale School
on the short local road to Chapel Farm.
St Andrew's Church, near Rosthwaite in Borrowdale.
Chapel Farm . . . the public foot path we are
using today passes left to right, diagonally through the farmyard.
leaves the farm . . .
. . . and heads out under
the slopes of Bessyboot.
It would seem that the Chapel Farm campsite is
virtually full to capacity.
It has been over twenty years since we ourselves
stayed here with our caravan as tourists on our visits to the
Behind the campsite there's a signpost where one
path leads back to the main Borrowdale Road.
The other, to the left behind the dogs, will take
us more in the direction of Combe Gill.
Follow the sign here . . . and leave the track
in favour of the path that continues above and to the left of
the fell wall.
Stout shoes are an advantage . . . we are out
onto the more open fell paths.
"Finlay of Borrowdale" makes good company
for "Dylan and Dougal of Loweswater".
Hopefully I also make good company for Gill on
the walk today.
Across the bridge which spans Combe Gill, the
path splits once again.
To the right the path heads down to the houses
at Mountain View, to the left it follows the river upstream.
On the other side of the beck we reach the object
of our desires . . . the Mill in Borrowdale.
A convenient gap in the fence allows us to cross
to the river bank
from where we get a better view of this lovely
With the thick summer vegetation and tree cover
the view of the mill itself was a bit restricted but still good.
The old building was originally built on 1546,
which makes some of the stone construction here around 465 years
It was built to grind corn for the valley.
The current water wheel mechanism actually dates from about 1800.
In later life the building gets a mention on the
1947 Ordnance Survey maps as a saw mill for cutting timber,
possibly for Honister Mine but no doubt for other
commercial purposes as well.
functioned as an active mill for a very long time.
The water leat that feeds
it no longer flows.
According to an
article in the little Cumbria Magazine that Gill sent me,
the wheel mechanism was removed in the 1930's
and re-located to Grange Village where it generated
10 volt DC electrical power for Ellers House (now High Close).
With the arrival of mains electricity to the valley
in the 1950's the generator became redundant and the wheel was
replaced here at the mill.
At this time the mill building was derelict but
was rescued and refurbished as a bunkhouse for residential purposes.
- - - o o o - - -
The present owners ask that visitors and photographers
respect the building, any occupants within it
and also respect the historic nature of the structure.
I hope we've done that.
- - - o o o - - -
Gill and I followed the river upstream to the old weir where
the water would have been first diverted to feed the mill.
The history of the site is further complicated by a more modern
structure which could have been an old mill pond
but which was covered over and converted to form some sort
of holding tank.
It's purpose was unclear and I'm not going to speculate here.
From the weir we headed directly uphill, towards the path on
the map that traverses the higher slopes.
The three dogs really enjoyed the freedom of this part of the
From our high vantage point we cold look across to the three
story houses of Mountain View.
As we walked back towards Chapel Farm three adjacent buildings
gradually fitted neatly in one photo.
Mountain View is top left, the old mill directly below, to
the right the barn-like structure of a new hydro electric generating
which creates up-to-date electricity from the present day waters
of Comb Gill.
If you look closely you can see the dark plaque on the wall
that apparently gives some historic information about the mill
and also visible are the old mill stones that seem to be laid
flat in the garden area outside the front door of the building.
The Mill without
the zoom lens !
The elevated view ahead
of the campsite and valley.
Strangely a young sapling grows from the ancient
trunk seen beside the path us as we descent back down to the valley.
We've rounded a rather irregular circle and returned
to the hut in the field.
It was just a short distance to return to the
farm and St Andrews Church.
One last photo of the breakdown truck sent out
to rescue a certain young lady's scooter.
Either that or it was a convenient place to put
it, out of reach of its young owner !
Time to return home to Grange for an early evening
supper with Trevor and Gill.