Autumn and Winter are surely the best times of the year to appreciate beautiful Derwent Water and its surrounding scenery. Visitors to Derwent Water tend to find it still, its surface broken only by the occasional yacht, canoe or launch that links the east and west shores. Brandelhow, on the lake’s secluded south-western shores, is the quietest part of all. This is a magical place to take in much of what the Lake District has to offer.
It is a landscape of water, yes, but also of woods, high fells, valleys and an extraordinary history. The woods you go through on this walk were among the first acquired by the National Trust in 1902, making Brandelhow the birthplace of the trust in the Lake District.
Look out for the striking wood carving of a pair of hands, created to mark the 100 anniversary of the National Trust. Keep your eyes peeled and you may glimpse a roe deer or red squirrels, and, perhaps, otters which have bred here for 13 years.
“It is just beautiful and it is not as busy as the south lakes,” said Rory Henderson, a ranger with the National Trust who has worked in Borrowdale since he was 16. “Even though it is man-made it has an unspoilt feel to it. The western shores of Derwent Water are even quieter but you have lots of opportunities for walking for all levels and abilities.”
Brandelhow comprises mixed woodland, a mixture of semi-ancient trees above which rise Douglas firs, 150 years old, which are the result of the exotic tastes of some of the woods’ many historic owners. Above the woods stands Cat Bells, among the most popular of walks in the Lakes.
The geology at Brandelhow is mindboggling: what you are looking at is a huge and deeply ancient collision of major valleys. Two kinds of rock bump up against one another here, with a dividing line half-way up Derwent Water, where a hanging valley ploughs through from the east.
To the south are the softer Skiddaw slates, which are most conspicuous in the form of Cat Bells and Skiddaw itself. Then, further up the valley are the much harder Borrowdale volcanic rocks. As the glaciers retreated after the last ice age, they scraped and gouged the landscape. In the case of the more malleable Skiddaw slates, the retreating ice moulded softer, smoother shapes such as Cat Bells.
But south, through the jaws of Borrowdale, it’s clear that the harder volcanic rocks were more resistant, and the jagged, angled landscape was formed when the glaciers knocked off random chunks of the rocks.
In his tour journals, the artist and writer William Gilpin, an 18th-Century native of Cumberland, depicted the jaws of Borrowdale as guarding the lair of the devil, where evil lurked. “It is very forbidding but the overall panorama is phenomenal,” said Maurice Pankhurst, the Trust’s head ranger for the Lakes.
This landscape is also home, a little further up the valley from this walk, to the Borrowdale yews, dating back 1,700 years. They inspired Wordsworth’s poem “Yew Trees”, in which he wrote of the “fraternal four”, though there are now just three remaining. They are thought to be the only yew trees marked on an OS map (they lie five miles up the Borrowdale valley from this walk).
As Autumn draws in take the opportunity to escape to beautiful Keswick with a 4 night stay at the Borrowdale Gates Hotel for the price of 3, based on 2 people sharing a twin/double room, subject to availability. From Sunday 13th November until Thursday 1st December 2016 for direct bookings only, subject to availability. We have many more offers which will run through to January and February, not forgetting our Christmas Party night on December 10th. Call 017687 77204 or email [email protected] for more details