Winter sun in the Lakes

This is a tale by Jim Convery of a winter trip to the Bowder Stone Hut in the Lake District in the early 1990’s. The photo is of Pillar.

When I first came to Inverness in the late 1980’s and joined the IMC the possibility of a private enterprise trip to Lakes in November was discussed. Luckily at that time, we had a member of the Northumberland Mountaineering Club in our midst, Alison Robertson, who went on become our first female President.  The Northumberland Club leased from the National Trust the Bowderstone Hut and as it was little used during the weeks in winter, we were able to use it as our base. The YHA at Eskdale provided our weekend accommodation as the hut was full.

Armed with the hut key, a set of directions and instructions a small team comprising Ewen, Colin and myself set off down the A9 in November 1990 for our first winter sun trip to the Lakes.  The Bowder Stone is a big rock, six times the height of a person and balanced improbably on its edge. It sits in the jaws of Borrowdale and is an easy 15-minute walk from the National Trust Bowder Stone car park.

The Bowder Stone is a tourist attraction established by the eccentric Joseph Pocklington in 1798. He had a house built on Derwent Island and created the tradition of an armed invasion as part of the Annual Derwent Water Regatta. Furthermore, he built a cottage at the Bowder Stone where he installed an old woman whose duty was to lend atmosphere to his visitor attraction.  The old lady has long gone, with the cottage reverting to use as a mountaineering club hut.

Regrettably, the Northumberland Club had eventually to give up their lease due to structural issues with the roof sinking, resulting in pressure on the walls. The good news is that the cottage has been refurbished and is now a private hostel. It sleeps up to 12 people and its sole use can be secured for £100 a night. Just in case this article inspires a future club visit.

Our first morning in the Lakes saw us drive the short distance to Seathwaite to begin the long walk up to Esk Hause and over Great End and Ill Crag to England’s highest summit, Scafell Pike.  From there we descended via Styhead Tarn & Gill back to the car at Seathwaite.  A good day out with autumn colours on the hills and snow on the high tops.

Next morning heading for the car I noticed from a short distance that the driver’s door was slightly ajar. The local criminals from Maryport had had a night out in the Lakes and burgled all cars in the National Trust car park. Fortunately, they did not realise the value in mountaineering equipment; ice axes, crampons and a tent remained intact. However, they did get away with my bank cards stupidly left in the glove box of the car. This resulted in a wasted day contacting the Police, bank and credit card providers and finding an auto glazer to repair the broken quarter light through which they had accessed my vehicle.

The National Trust car park is a well-known place for car break ins and thefts, but I didn’t know that before this event. To prevent a re-occurrence on our future trips we parked at a small layby just off the road on a corner. It’s a shorter walk to the hut and less easy for an opportunistic car thief to break in.

For our last day in the Lakes we drove from YHA Eskdale to Wasdale Head. From there we walked up to the top of Black Sail Pass and did Pillar, Steeple and Red Pike. When we reached Dore Head a quick discussion was held as to whether to continue to Yewbarrow or descend quickly to the Wasdale Head Inn for a pint. There was a danger that the pub would close at 2:30 and at that time Scotland was a real ale desert. No choice then, it had to be the pub!