Sunday, 8 April 2012

Not *that* Borrowdale, the other one!

Easter Sunday crowds in Borrowdale.
A very pleasant Easter Sunday in the Lake District and the biggest challenge you'll face is how to avoid the crowds, trust me; Bowness, Ambleside and Keswick will be heaving.  As we've already established in previous blogs I'm somewhat antisocial when it comes to hiking so we were keen to avoid the crowds in the towns and on the fells.  The first thing I did this morning was reach for my list of Wainwright's; I reckoned that so long as we avoided anything in there we'd probably be OK.  That only rules out 214 peaks, so still plenty to aim for.  Coffee and map were deployed and I soon happened upon Borrowdale; no, not that one, the "other" Borrowdale, the one just north of Kendal and sandwiched between the M6 and the A6. It looked to be a suitably pretty spot on the less popular side of the county.

Borrowdale Valley from Thunder Stone.
We breezed through Kendal town centre and soon reached Huck's Bridge layby where there was loads of parking still available - our brilliant plan was working!  We glanced at our route up Breasthigh Road and spotted a couple of Land Rovers making their way up - curses!  Still, they'd be long gone by the time we got there.  Not that Wainwright ignored this place, he claimed it was "the prettiest valley outside of the national park."  At least that's what the tourist info board told us in the layby.  Each time I Google "Wainwright" and "Borrowdale" I keep ending up in the wrong one so I'm going to take their word for it.

Looking across to Yorkshire from Borrowdale Edge
We soon hopped across the stream on the biggest stepping stones I've ever seen - even I couldn't fall off these ones.  Heaven knows how they were manhandled into place; but as the area clearly suffers with a lot of erosion they probably need them to be pretty substantial, in fact they were probably twice that size when they were put there.

The route up Breasthigh Road is an easy hike and you're soon onto Borrowdale Edge.  The views from here are different to the views from the central fells; away to the east beyond the M6 are the North Yorkshire moors, whilst on the southern side of Borrowdale is Whinfell Common.  Everything here is smaller, greener and more rounded.  That said the ridge walk is stunning and perfect if you're not in the mood for a big hike, the whole route to the end of Casterfell Hill and back along the valley is only around 7 miles with no hard climbing.

Looking back up the valley from
Casterfell Hill
The rain that had been threatening for a while now turned up just in time for lunch, so we waited until we'd dropped down into the valley and found a nice sheltered spot.  Maybe I'm getting soft in my old age.  After that it was a very easy but wonderfully peaceful stroll back along the valley to the Huck's Bridge.  The valley is full of wildlife including ponies and so many birds that my iChirp app just couldn't keep up.  We're trying very hard to learn more about birds but they generally don't stay still long enough for us to make a definite identification and it's really hard learning to spot them by their songs.  We have finally managed to identify what was known to us as the "doink doink" bird as a Chiff Chaff - odd song but easy to spot now.  Last week we also identified a Skylark and I then proceeded to annoy Steve with tales of a 1970's kids TV show all about Noah and Nelly.  He thought I was barking till I showed him this, though to be fair, it probably didn't help my claims to sanity much when he saw it.

Anyway, back to Borrowdale.  This is the perfect place for a gentle Sunday afternoon stroll.  If you're looking to add a bit more adventure you could always head back via Whinfell Common.  We decided to save that side of the valley for next time we fancy a quiet stroll far from the madding crowd.  Borrowdale may share its name with another rather more dramatic area of the lake district, but it's certainly not a poor substitute and is most definitely worth pausing to visit next time you're zooming up the A6.