Day of Mountain Mists
BOOT & RATTY
2017 April 19
|The Day Eel Tarn Station Railway Path Church River Esk Walk Read Me|
On the first full day in Boot, I started from the hostel and after the Woolpack Inn turned north to Eel Tarn. The intention had been to get to Scafell. However, low cloud limited my walk to a modest 262 m (860 ft) albeit with a total ascent of 541 m (1775 ft). Lin Yutang described a visitor being taken by a local guide up a mountain in a mist; once arrived at the top, the visitor exclaimed, "I can't see anything"! "That's it", says the guide. "I have taken you up the mountain to see nothing!" However, today I felt that, despite the joy of philosophizing on the "Great Outdoors" in the mist, safety in the mountains was still a prime consideration. Still, I did get a feel for the landscape around Boot. I then descended into the village (or is Boot a hamlet?) to the west of Great Barrow, reaching the nicely restored Eskdale Corn Mill at about mid-day.
Next on the agenda was Dalegarth Station, today's eastern terminus of the Ravenglass and Eskdale. There I watched the comings and goings of tourists visiting from Ravenglass, about 7 miles distant to the west on the coast. In the afternoon I explored the now named railway path which originally took the 3 ft gauge Owd Ratty over the River Esk bridge to the Haematite mines in the Gill Force area on the south bank of the River. These mines were, of course, the original raison d'être for Owd Ratty.
Boot's 14th century Church is nearby on a parallel path. On the north side of the railway bridge, our path leads back along the River Esk to the "Doctor Bridge" and to the hostel.
After the Woolpack Inn a path turned north to Eel Tarn. Despite the low cloud I got as far as Eel Tarn and up to about 260 metres above it. This gave a good impression of the wide-open landscape in which Boot nestled. I then descended into Boot on the west side of Great Barrow and by about mid-day reached its old mill. The nicely restored Eskdale Mill is of course now a museum but was once of great practical and no doubt social importance in these erstwhile very rural parts.
Close by is Dalegarth Station, the furthest point by rail from Ravenglass - almost 7 miles. The line, in its 3ft gauge incarnation, originally continued beyond the turntable (green fence), across the field and along the "Railway Path", crossing the River Esk by the girder bridge to reach the mines at Gyll Force on the south bank of the River Esk.
Back to the present. After a short while, the Ravenglass train entered the station. In charge of the train was 2-8-2 "River Mite", celebrating its 50th Anniversary. For me there was also time for a short visit to the station café and for a short browse through the offerings of the bookshop, although I now try and store my souvenirs in my camera - kind of saves space!
The original purpose of the 3ft gauge Owd Ratty in 1875 was to access the Haematite Ore in the Gyll Force area just to the south of the River Esk. The track bed of the line continued from the present Dalegarth terminus across a field and along a path bordered by stone walls and now suitably called the "Railway Path". It then continued unfenced along the northern bank of the Esk until it reached the specially constructed Girder Bridge to reach the ore deposits on the other side of the river. There the track split two ways. Here you can see a few pictures I took of the "mortal remains" of Owd Ratty's track bed.
Boot's 14th century Church is nearby on a path roughly parallel to the railway path. Churches often document the history of a community, and here we can take a glimpse into the 1700s. Boot's church was built to withstand the harsh winters that one can associate with this part of the Lake District. Simple, but rugged, and in Lakeland tradition, with a gable-end bellcote.
From the Girder Bridge, our path follows the River Esk, leading on through the mists and bracken, with occasional glimpses of the mountains. There's lots of Gorse to brighten our way. Then we reach the "Doctor Bridge" and the "Woolpack Inn". Almost back to enjoy our evening!
The end of the day was spent meeting some of my walking colleagues at the "Woolpack". Two had reached the "Hardknott" Roman Fort. Some had apparently reached Scafell (not the Pike) which was shrouded - in "Lin Yutang" fashion - in the Lake Land mist, which said mist also visited their ascent. There was much to talk about. Tomorrow would be the day of departure for many in our group. For me a visit to the full length "Ratty" would be on the agenda.