​Borrowdale, one of the wettest places in England. The hamlet at the bottom of the photo is Seatoller nestling at the foot of Honistor Pass. And the farm left of centre is Thorneythwaite, the National Trust’s latest acquisition.

Besides the fields the 300 acres of land the Trust has brought includes woodland, fellside, wood pasture and a flock of Herdwick sheep. The farm buildings however are not part of the deal which has caused some consternation amongst other Borrowdale farmers who wanted to see it continued as a working farm.

Currently the farm is untenanted and Lodore Estate, the owners, put the farm up for sale in two lots: the land, with a guide price of £750,000, and the buildings, of £800,000. Together this would have been too much for the Trust to afford so, as a second best, it put in a bid for just the land of £950,000. A figure high enough to deter the auctioneer from accepting any joint bid for both the land and buildings that may have been received. A calculated risk. The figure is also justified by the Trust’s own independant valuation of the land. 

After the completion date of October 14 it is anticipated the agricultural tenants of the Trust’s other farms in Borrowdale will take over management of this land and its flock of sheep.

The farm buildings? I guess they are destined for holiday lets or for someone’s second home.

Crag Hill

​There’s always been a sense of permanence about Ordnance Survey triangulation points. Manmade clutter on the hills yet viewed upon with some affection. They’ve been immortalised in the drawings of Wainwright and in countless photographs that prove that folks have bagged the summit. So it’s sad when a trig point is no more. And a reminder that they too are subject to the same natural forces as the rest of our fells. 

Crag Fell is a 839m peak, not quite the highest point of the Coledale Fells, Grasmoor is a few metres higher but it commands the head of the very straight Coledale Beck making it visible from Braithwaite village and giving clear views of the Skiddaw fells.

The Ordnance Survey surveyors built this trig point from pieces of the flat rock that litter the summit around a 3″ steel pipe. They would only have had to carry up bags of sand and cement. And water too of course for the summit is dry. Although the pipe shows rusting which must have weakened it must have taken some force to actually topple the pillar. More so you would think an Atlantic gale could inflict. Perhaps man had some hand in its destruction which makes it even more sad that mindless vandalism should reach this far into the hills.

Robinson’s Cairn

​Below Pillar Rock and overlooking the rewilding valley of Ennerdale. The copper plaque says it all:

For the remembrance of John Wilson Robinson of Whinfell Hall in Lorton who died 1907 at Brigham one hundred of his comrades and friend raised this.

He knew and loved as none other these native crags and fells. whence he drew simplicity strength and charm.

“We climb the hill: from end to end of all the landscape underneath, we find no place that does not breathe some gracious memory of our friend.”

Low Scawdel

Three days in the Central Fells of the Lake District which is a black hole as far as mobile reception is concerned. This is the view down the valley from Borrowdale YH on a sunny Thursday afternoon. Wispy clouds above Low Scawdel, a knoll on the slopes of High Spy.

Greenhow Bank

A sultry evening view towards Botton Head where the forestry plantations are systematically being clear felled. The Ingleby Incline, a former railway incline, can be seen ascending the bank right to left. Greenhow Bank is capped by a series of crags and rock outcrops over a distance of a hundred metres or so. This crag, with its two prominent cracks, has been named as Political Buttress by the rock climbing fraternity.

Pond on Great Ayton Moor

For all the whinging about the British weather there are not many days in the year when I actually end up running in the rain. I did so this morning. With poor visibility I headed up onto Great Ayton Moor intending to look at the heather and ended up by this pond. I’m not sure if it’s natural or manmade. I suspect the latter but it has no name on the Ordnance Survey map.

It’s quite easy to find. The lone self sown larch tree gives it away in the sea of heather. The banks are covered with rushes which are unpalatable to sheep. In 1709 a tax was levied on candles. Consequently, rushes were collected to make rushlights. They were dried and peeled to expose the inner pith which was soaked in animal fat to make a sort of taper. The tax was abolished in 1831.


Red Barns

I read somewhere that if Gertrude Bell had been born a man she would be as well known today as Lawrence of Arabia. Even so a film ‘Queen of the Desert’ has been made of her life played by Nicole Kidman.

Writer, traveller and mountaineer, Gertrude survived more than 50 hours on a rope on the then unclimbed north east face of the Finsteraarhorn. Political analyst, archaeologist and linguist, speaking eight languages including Persian, Arabic and Turkish. She was the first women to get a first class degree at Oxford in Modern History and in 1921 was instrumental in defining the outline of the modern state of Iraq as well as helping to create the Hashemite dynasty in Jordan.

So an amazing woman and she lived in this neglected house in Redcar where only a blue plaque records the fact. I know times are hard but it must be very short sighted of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council to let Gertrude’s family home fall into decay when on the seafront £1.6m have been spent on that wonderful public building the ‘vertical pier’.

The house itself, named as Red Barns, is architecturally very significant. It dates from 1870 and was designed in the Arts and Crafts Movement by architect Philip Webb for local industrialist Sir Thomas Hugh Bell. It is a Grade II* listed building. In the 1990s it was converted into a hotel and pub and acquired a reputation for having llamas and other animals in the garden. Several years ago there was a proposal to convert it back into residential properties but that seems to have stalled.

And more recently a campaign has been set up to save the building. Surely some public use can be found. To me it’s a no brainer.

Across the border meanwhile Middlesbrough have shortlisted Gertrude Bell to be the subject for the town’s first ever statue of a female. Although Gertrude was born in Redcar the claim is that she was “strongly associated with Middlesbrough”. If Redcar and Cleveland are not careful they are going to lose out.