22nd September 2007

Seclusion at a cottage, but no corpses on the road


Walk Overview
Time 08.55 to 15.05
Duration 6 hr 10 min
Distance 8.9 mile
Ascent 2600 ft
Walking with On my own
Mardale Head - Gatescarth Pass - Brownehowe Bottom - Mosedale Cottage - Selside Brow - Branstree - Branstree Tarn - Selside Pike - Old Corpse Road - Haweswater - Mardale Head
Fells visited
Directory places visited

Starting Point Information Centre
Car park, Mardale Head, Haweswater

Although I've listed this one as being a car park, the truth of the matter is, if you don't get here early you'll end up having to park along the roadside. At times the line of cars can stretch back along the road for quite someway, but this doesn't really matter. Simply park up at the end of the line and away you go.

Parking is free and despite its popularity there are no facilities at all.


Route Map


The view back down Gatescarth Pass.

Further up Gatescarth Pass you get this fine view across to High Street (left) and Rough Crag's ridge. The darker pointed top towards the right of the picture is Kidsty Pike.

The highest point on Gatescarth Pass.

From the top of Gatescarth Pass we continued down in the direction of Sadgill, but only as far as Brownhowe Bottom; seen here. It was here that we turned left to follow the path over to Mosedale Cottage.

The route between here and Mosedale Cottage is actually along a short section of what was at one time a vast network of drove roads. The transportation of cattle, or droving as it is known, was a thriving industry spanning the centuries between the late middle ages and the mid 19th Century when the movement of cattle in any great quantity was eventually taken over by the railways. Even by today’s standards the drovers were sometimes expected to cover vast distances. Up to 200 cattle and 2000 sheep would have been moved along the roads at one time, covering a distance of between six and twelve mile a day. Scots cattle would be transported to Yorkshire, Lancaster and on occasion even as far south as London.

Farmers from the central and the western areas of Cumbria started to take advantage of this thriving cattle trade during the 17th century. By this time they were already holding local markets such as the ones at Bootle and Arlecdon during April each year. The cattle from these local gatherings were then moved to the bigger markets and from there they would follow, what can be described as local drove roads which link up with the main route south at various points. These local drove roads essentially served as quick, but not so easy links to the main drove road in the east and in so doing, crossed some of the most difficult and inhospitable terrain in England.

Because of the quantity and complexity of the droving routes that were in use I can't describe them all here. This short section however, is part of the route between Ambleside and Shap; following a route which can still be walked to this day. Ambleside - High Skelghyll - Troutbeck - Garburn Pass - Kentmere - Stile End - Sadgill - Brownhowe Bottom - Mosedale - Wet Sleddale - Shap

Looking ahead to Mosedale Cottage and of course Mosedale itself.

Standing outside Mosedale Cottage. My original intention was to walk to the cottage to take a few photos from the outside. Once I saw the little sign on the door, saying the cottage was maintained by The Mountain Bothies Association I realised it would be OK to go inside.

The Mountain Bothies Association is a charity which looks after about 100 shelters in some of the remoter parts of the UK.

After leaving Mosedale Cottage we doubled back almost as far as Brownhowe bottom to begin our ascent of Selside Brow. On the route up Selside Brow we had one of those "who turned the light off" moments. The view across towards Kentmere Pike and Shipman Knotts was black; to say the least and quite a bit of blackness was heading in our direction. The cloud was rolling across and then clearing from the fellside ahead of us almost by the minute.

Branstree summit Clear from cloud now. The wall in the picture leads down Selside Brow; the route we'd just ascended by.

Trying and failing to find somewhere sheltered for a bite to eat. The large cairn seen here on Artle Crag was likely contender as a shelter, but even that failed to deliver, with standing room for one only and even then it left a lot to be desired. No need for three guesses as to who ended up sitting on a big stone in the wind.
A half eaten sandwich later I suggested waiting until we reached the ruined buildings on the way back down to Haweswater to have a proper sit down.

Not quite fed and watered we passed a rather windswept looking Branstree Tarn.

Haweswater seen from the route between Branstree Tarn and Selside Pike.

I guess Captain Whelter (whoever he was) must have been at the back of the queue when they were naming places in the Lake District after people. All the good ones, such as Lily Tarn, Watson's Dodd or Victoria Bay (Derwent Water) had been given out already. The only place left for him was this spot, known today as Captain Whelter Bog.

Looking to the distant Pennines from Selside Pike summit.

The view into the remote valley of Swindale, taken shortly after leaving Selside Pike.

A brief spell of sunshine as we headed down to the Old Corpse Road, difficult to see from here, but it runs across the picture, just above / behind the two sheep on the left.

One of the wooden marker posts keeping walkers firmly on the right track. Apart from these sparsely situated posts, the route has regular cairns / marker stones along the way. Undoubtedly left over from the times when this route was used to transport the dead from Mardale Green to Shap for burial, I'm sure these cairns (and wooden posts, if they had them as well) would have offered a degree of reassurance that the funeral parties were on the correct route. As indeed they do for today's modern fellwalker during poor weather.

Mardale Head (left) and Riggindale (right).

Two of the bigger ruins passed on route to Haweswater. There are actually about half a dozen ruins on this small area, although you do need to wander about a little to seek them out.

The view down to Riggindale and the area where the majority of the "drowned" village of Mardale Green was located. Some of the places lost from this area were Dunn Bull Hotel, Holy Trinity Church, Goosemire Farm and Chapel Hill Farm.


A head on view down to Mardale Head. The fells above are Harter Fell and Mardale Ill Bell.

Wood Howe - formally called Chapel Hill.
The church at Mardale Green was destroyed in 1936 and the church authorities were awarded compensation by Manchester Corporation to the sum of £2405.00, it was said that a new church was to be built above the new water level of the lake, but sadly this never came to pass.


David Hall -
Lake District Walks