But we veered left, off into the green woods and up a very steep set of stone steps. Goodness knows how long it took the National Trust workers to construct it and how much work is involved to maintain it. We take walking for granted in the U.K. but that freedom comes from hours and hours of hard work by thousands of staff and volunteers. It always boggles my mind but I'm very, very grateful.
And here are some of the views when we emerged out of the wood.
The path then leads to Dock Tarn, secreted away among the bracken. At this point, you don't feel at all like you are in the Lake District as the colours and terrain seem so different. You feel high up, but from this little dip, you can't see the other mountains. It's a very still, peaceful, almost magical place. In the Lake District, I always feel that the lakes are for the tourists, but the tarns are for the walkers. You simply couldn't stumble upon this little gem any other way.
Our first destination was Watendlath, nestled among the hills and along the shores of Watendlath Tarn. Here's the first view as you leave Dock Tarn behind you.
On this day, I had the choice to go on the A walk instead which was going up Great Gable, but as soon as I heard the name "Watendlath", I was definitely going on the B walk. I'm still working my way through Hugh Walpole's Herries Chronicles (on Vol 3, The Fortress, at the moment), but Watendlath plays a huge role (as does the entire Borrowdale Valley) in the books, most particularly Judith Paris. I just had to see it for myself.
To get there, we had to walk through some moorland first.
Where the herdys roamed freely. They are owned by the National Trust in this area as part of their preservation programme.
And then we were on the path beside the tarn. Our goal was a little cafe where we stopped for a cuppa.
Dora Carrington also painted this farm after spending a summer holiday here. You can see the painting here.
After a quick stop, we were soon climbing the hills on the other side of the tarn and the whole nature of the walk changed.
From the top, you can look back and see Derwent Water.
And you soon come to another, less picturesque tarn. This is Blea Tarn, (there's more than one in the Lakes - this is NOT the one near the Langdales). I think it could easily be renamed Bleak Tarn.
Bleak is the way to describe the next hour or two of walking. We were up on the top of Ullscarf, a long, exposed ridge and as a result, the wind was extremely fierce and cold and the ground was very boggy. This was just one long, long slog. But despite all this, I suppose it is an interesting place for geographically positioning yourself in the middle of the Lake District. There aren't too many spots where you can look back and see Derwent Water and then look down just past this rise and see Thirlmere (that's the Helvellyn range rising above it).
And then a little further off, you get a glimpse of Lake Windermere. You can also see Grasmere as well; that's quite a lot of lakes for one walk.
Eventually we started heading off Ullscarf towards the Greenup Valley and thankfully, the wind died down a tad.
I have to give all due respect to our leader's navigational skills because although you can easily see the valley, finding the path that leads down it is by no means straightforward. Before you know it, you are at the top of Lining Crag and have to negotiate a steep descent. There was no time to take a photo until I was safely down and looking back.
I remember going up this route when I did the Coast to Coast walk three years ago. At that time, it was a heavy waterfall that we had to go through. Once down, however, it was an lovely walk back through the valley.
I'm not sure I need to walk along Ullscarf ever again (except it might be lovely on a sunny winter's day when there's a hard frost), but I'll definitely be coming back to Borrowdale; it truly is a lovely spot to spend a few days of peace and quiet with terrific walks in every direction. Highly recommended!