The Vault Regulars

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Borrowdale backpack and tent test.

We planned to do this overnighter last week but it didn't happen and then we planned to do a 2 night trip which also got relegated to a one night trip, to test out the new tent which we have christened Rosa.

The walk started and finished at the small but adequate car park just off the A685 Kendal to Tebay road at NY606 014. We were the only car there which was a bit of a surprise given that it was a bank holiday weekend.
A hot start along a narrow tarmac road then a gradual up hill on a good track through deciduous trees to reach the Post Office repeater station at NY586 002. It was terrific weather giving us good views across the Lake District, kendal and Morecambe Bay.
Onto the next mast on a metalled road and upwards to Greyrigg at 494 metres. Then reverse walk back to the repeater station.
Greyrigg is a perfect lookout spot with the Roman "Fort" right below. There is no sign whatsoever of any activity but the high ground above the Fort must have been occupied.

At this point we realised that there was no water anywhere and all we had was 0.5l between us.
In front was the large bulk of Whinfell Beacon, only 471 metres but it looks huge with a lot of up.
From the mast we stuck to the high ground and picked up what i guess was just a sheep trod but has now become a path, which isn't on the OS maps and terminates at wall corner. GR. NY 577 003.

We stopped for a couple of minutes then took our time getting up to the Beacon. It is steep but it's not a long slog and in no time we were atop and admiring the fantastic view.

Our next objective was Old High at 462 metres which meant clambering over 2 walls to get there. There were no stiles which was a bit strange. Then onto Castle Fell 478metres which was a bit disappointing. With a name like that and Roman activity in the area i expected more than a hump or two. Still it gave good views down Borrowdale.

Two fell runners and a dog past us as we made our way down to the large ladder stile before Mabbin Crag. Thickly covered in trees Mabbin Crag was one of my points to overnight but again there was no water apart from a few uninviting peaty pools. A small bothy had us wondering if there was a spring nearby but we found nothing.
The bothy of sorts was in a poor state with part of the roof collapsed. It would suffice in a winter storm but otherwise it is not worth stopping.
The view from the top is wonderful and today we could make out Great Gable and the Scafell Range along with many other tops. At the wall between Mabbin Crag and  Ashstead fell the map shows streams running both north east and south west. I checked both sides, finding only boggy ground and dry beds. I was a hot day and we were feeling a bit dehydrated now, we needed to find some water.

From the cairn on Ashstead Fell Sheila had this idea of going down into Combs Hollow where quite a large ravine looked promising. The map shows a number of prominent streams.
I wasn't too happy about descending the comb with a full backpack, one false step and its a long roll down. We walked along the edge looking for the route of least resistance and i spotted a quad bike track which terminated about the 370 metre contour. The plan was to slowly get down to that which we did.
Reaching the ravine and seeing more dry river beds was a disappointment. This is the Lake District, what is going on with all these dry fells. We now had no alternative, we would have to go all the way down to the valley floor and Borrow Beck where camping may be a problem.
At the land rover track we sat down and weighed up our predicament. Camping below tree line in England is illegal without permission and even camping above tree line could mean getting moved on by the land owner if he so wishes, but this doesn't usually happen.

I didn't fancy pitching by the side of the LR track as this was just asking for being moved on. I checked a few spots within the forestry but where there were openings i found just marshy ground.
We had a brew which was much needed and perused the map. There was a footpath indicated on the opposite side of the river but it was a bit higher up than ground level. There looked to be a nice flat bit of ground however which would do the job but we didn't have permission. At this point the farmer with dog sped past, too fast for us to flag him down and ask. We waited but he didn't return.

We crossed the river, well waded i should say, and climbed over the wall. The spot was perfect. What do we do? Pitch and get told to move or wait for the farmer to return?
Another brew and some food was had and a bit of a snooze, but no farmer. We had to make a decision and decided to take our chances. We couldn't much hide a red tent anyway.

Tent up and within 10 minutes, yes you guessed it the farmers quad bike could be heard. I got out of the tent and expected him to stop and give us a telling off but he just gave us a wave and carried on.
Relief. All was well with the world. A nice pitch, plenty of water, no people and a good view.

Round about 6 o'clock we heard engines and numerous 4 wheel drive vehicles crossed the river and went up Breasthigh Road which leads to Bretherdale Head.  We watched and waved, the last vehicle was a VW campervan! How he managed to get that up there was miraculous and not something i would fancy doing. Part way up the track on a bend he stopped and we both thought, that's it he's had it. But after a short delay, he carried on. All credit to his skill.

Darkness came at around 9pm and with it a gust of wind, the first wind we had felt all day. Then the wind picked up quite a bit and the tent was in a pretty exposed spot. To make matters worse i had picked up the wrong tent peg bag which resulted in us being 5 pegs short.
I made use of the walking poles to peg out the least important pegging points. It wasn't perfect but it coped.
Morning came after a very breezy but warm night. We were up at 7.30am and struggled with the strong wind to get packed up. The temperature had dropped so much from yesterday. From tee shirts to down jackets.

Up the valley we crossed the stepping stones at the ford and then back down the valley using the LR track. We hadn't been going long before the sound of the quad bikes engine met us. When he reached us i flagged him down and apologised for pitching the tent without permission. I told him of our plight of wanting to stay on the tops but the lack of water forced us down. He said there was no water about but it would have been a rough night with the high winds camping on the tops.
He then said he wasn't bothered about us camping where we were because it was his neighbours land.
So we camped illegally after all.

The Borrowdale valley is an unspoiled beautiful lush green valley with flower meadows a wide Salmon and Trout river flowing the whole length, fringed with forestry and pasture land for cows , sheep and fell ponies.
High Borrowdale farm buildings are derelict and from the looks of them they have been for a long time.
Low Borrowdale is a Grade 2 listed farm house dating from the 1680's and has recently been purchased and is currently being updated. It was purchased by Natural Retreats who didn't get planning permission to convert it and so they sold it on.

At Low Borrowdale we came to a gate with a sign PRIVATE, we had missed a turn off and as we had to go that way we risked being told off and crossed the private field. It was our mistake and we are sorry, honest.
This reminded us of a story from a while back. We have a Lake District farmer friend who farms in the Duddon Valley, he said he had never been to the top of Harter Fell which we were doing and so we invited him to join us. On the way back down we came to a gate with an old sign on it with PRIVATE written. Our friend went through the gate to which we said, "its not that way, it's not a right of way, we have to keep to the footpath". To which he pointed out to us that footpaths are only for people who don't know where they are going and seeing that he did know where he was going it was ok to cross Private land. We disagreed but he just laughed and said "Come on its quicker this way".

All too soon we were back at the car. It had been a good walk and although it hadn't rained it was a good first outing for the tent.
Apart from the tent peg issue its a good solid tent, ideal for 2 medium height people. I think it would be a struggle for 2 six foot people though but as the inner is bigger than the Terra Nova Voyager it must be above std size. As with all tents of this shape the narrow end will not take 2 full size sleeping pads. The dimension is 850mm.

Slideshow (Only 40 pics taken with iphone 6s). Thanks for reading.
Click on the first photo and then click the play button at bottom left corner.


Sir Hugh said...

i have walked and run up and down Borrowdale many time and walked more or less the full circuit you followed on a day walk (not backpacking). that is a wonderful ridge.Now going to look at your slideshow. i'vee just got my Mac desktop back, but am still having to typ with one finger and the wrong hand and ditto with the mouse. very tedious.

AlanR said...

Well thanks very much for taking the time and making the effort to comment. Its much appreciated. Yes our route is a good day walk with no problems. Our intention was not to do miles but to test the tent out and have a good day doing it. The ridge is splendid and the views are wonderful. I will definitely go back and do the other side one day.

Al said...

It's a really lovely valley Alan, the ridges on both sides are great. Good Bank Holiday destinations! The tent looks great Alan. The hills are very,very dry...quite a fire risk I would think, although I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere.

AlanR said...

Hi Al,
Sheila said the same that the hills are so dry that the grass is like straw and a big fire risk. Something we need to keep in mind when backpacking up top.
I have decided to take the tent to Scotland (Challenge first week) so i will do a review on it after that.

Dawn said...

Good write up Alan, your usual high calibre photos, tent looks good, though maybe porch space looks a little small?

AlanR said...

Hi Dawn, thanks very much. Sheila took all the photos on her iPhone 6s. The camera is reasonable and better than my 6. It does have limitations though.
I've not compared porch space with others yet Dawn but I will do. It didn't jump out at me as being a problem as yet.

Al said...

I didn't realise you were doing the TGO this year, Enjoy!!
Trust the tent will serve you well.

AlanR said...

Hi Al, Sorry, we are not doing the challenge. We are just doing a week in Scotland. We booked an overnight in Oban on what we thought would be challenge 2nd week, so giving challengers the chance of getting well away but as it turned out it is the first week.

afootinthehills said...
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afootinthehills said...

Nice trip Alan with good iPhone photos from Sheila. Everything is so dry up here with various wildfires reported- wall to wall sunshine for about a week plus a strong dry easterly wind. I hope it stays sunny for your trip north.

AlanR said...

Thanks Gibson. Looking at the forecast it's going to rain next Saturday. Sunday. Then it will probably snow all week with temperatures plummeting and winds not below 20mph. A typical Scottish week. We will have a good time whatever happens.

Phreerunner said...

A good little outing Alan, if only a brief test of the tent. I'm also a fan of 'the other Borrowdale'.

Hope to see you during the TGOC if you are around. You know where to find me!

AlanR said...

Thanks Martin.
Our plan is to walk from Oban to Tyndrum Via Glen kinglass. If we stray onto any tops it will be because of good weather. We are in no rush to pile on the miles so i think you might be just in front of us looking at your itinerary. But you never know, things can alter on the trail.

Phreerunner said...

I'm going a long way round, so you may well catch me.

warsh dean said...
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