One of my favourite pleasures of Lakeland is exploring the less frequented gills. These could be scrambles up raging cascades, or easier climbs over boulders with the odd splash and trickle of a beck. Tarncrag Gill above Easedale Tarn is the latter, but it’s still exhilarating in parts, and does reward with a great sense of being connected to the fell; a sense of escape, and embracing the landscape.
Please note the existence of another Tarn Crag and Tarncrag Gill not far away, near Stickle Tarn above Great Langdale. The gill above Easedale Tarn, according to where my research has taken me, is unnamed, however, I have taken the responsibility of naming it (in an aptly way) for the benefit of this route description only.
Route 21 – Tarn Crag via Tarncrag Gill – Map
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Broadgate Meadow car park, Grasmere
Being closer to the better walks, Broadgate car park at the north-end of Grasmere is a favourite of ours. Yes, there is free parking on the A591, but we prefer the convenience of this car park and not to unsightly clutter the grass verges; after all, the walk is free!
Gate leading to Butharlyp Howe
A short distance from the car park, cross the road (safely) to enter the National Trust grounds of Butharlyp Howe (Butterlip How). The summit, known as a ‘Tump’ to you hill baggers, is at a moderate height of 106 m. Butterlip How was a favourite local walk for Dorothy and William Wordsworth:
“A fine grey morning. I was baking bread & pies. After dinner I read German and a little before dinner – Wm also read. We walked on Butterlip How under the wind it rained all the while, but we had a pleasant walk. The mountains of Easedale, black or covered with snow at the tops, gave a peculiar softness to the valley.”
The Grasmere Journal, Tuesday 2nd March 1802
Tarn Crag (centre) appears from the roadside path of Easedale Road
Footbridge over Easedale Beck
We now leave Easedale Road, which continues to Lancrigg, and join the main track through Easedale. Just beyond this footbridge, many becks join Easedale Beck, including Coal Beck.
Tarn Crag from the old packhorse route and Easedale Beck
This old packhorse track along Easedale Beck fascinates me; check its construction of vertically laid slate (sections re-laid in recent years). This old route lead from Grasmere to Great Langdale via Easedale Tarn. It were tracks like these that connected the villages and valleys for medieval producers to form markets and exchange goods. These arteries were vital for the period.
In September, away from any pollution, blackberries are abundant and worth searching along Easedale Beck.
Looking across to Helm Crag over New Bridge
The earliest stone bridge dated from the 17th Century, and it survived here until at least 1936. It probably replaced an earlier wooden bridge, however, these had a tendency to be washed away in floods; local parishioners helped to maintain the tracks, and pay for replacement bridges. The name ‘New Bridge’ appears on Ordnance Survey County Series maps as far back as the 1860s. A plaque on the bridge suggests that the bridge was repaired in 1997; maybe sections of the old packhorse track were re-laid the same year?
Brinhowe Crag and Sourmilk Gill from the packhorse route
The wooden footbridge you can just see on the right spanning Easedale Beck, was built in April 2012 by a team of the National Trust Rangers, to provide access for a team of archaeologists and volunteers to survey a Medieval Fulling Mill. The mill dates from at least the 13th Century and are the remains of the first Fulling Mill in the Parish of Grasmere. This mill was strongly linked with the Fulling Mill at the aptly named Mill Gill (now Stickle Ghyll), at the end of the packhorse route in Great Langdale. We plan to have a closer look at the ruins of this one in Easedale, that include a wheel pit and other structures, when they are more visible and the bracken has died back.
Looking across to Horn Crag and Gibson Knott over the pastures of Easedale
Off to the left is the beginning of Far Easedale, and up on the right is the ridge leading to Helm Crag from Bracken Hause; you can see a path on the bracken slope ascending to the hause from Easedale.
Ecton Crag and waterfall in Sourmilk Gill
Due to its popularity, a small path diverts towards a better vantage point of this waterfall near Ecton Crag; it would be a rare moment not to see a photographer’s tripod stood here. There are many other waterfalls to explore in Sourmilk Gill, however, this one is the most impressive.
“There are three Sourmilk Gills in Lakeland. The others are on the Red Pike flank of Buttermere and the flank of Base Brown above Seathwaite.” Tarn Crag 5
Jaclyn above the waterfall
We had forgotten to pack our bathing costumes!
Tarn Crag from the top of Sourmilk Gill
Tarn Crag and Tarncrag Gill over the refreshment hut at Easdale Tarn (Abraham postcard c. 1908)
Known as the “tourist’s rest”, the refreshment hut at Easedale Tarn served visitors for many years. It was built in c. 1880 by Robert Hayton of Easedale Road, Grasmere, initially to shelter ponies and their riders who visited the tarn; it is believed that the hut was constructed on the site of an earlier shepherd’s shelter made of turf. It was very popular, especially with guide writers of the late 1800s, however, some were not so complimentary:
“Many persons will be annoyed on finding a small hut erected in this mountain nook, which retreat seems dedicated to solitary, pleasing reverie. Refreshments are provided by the person in charge of the hut, and a boat can be hired for a row, or a little trout fishing on the tarn. The charge for boat is 1s. per hour, and 5s. per day. From the shore of the tarn rises an amphitheatre of wild, rocky precipices, Tarn Crag lying on the right…..A large number of moraine heaps are on each side of the water, and the ground near the shore is rich in detached blocks.”
‘Tourists’ Guide to the English Lakes’ by Henry Irwin Jenkinson (1880)
By the end of the 1930s, through neglect and probably due to the outbreak of WW2, the refreshment hut began to deteriorate.
“With every passing year the hut loses a few more stones and slates (and gains more autographs) but it still provides a draughty shelter.” Blea Rigg 4
‘The Central Fells’ by Alfred Wainwright (1958)
At some point during the 1960s it was vandalised, so the National Park Wardens removed materials from the site. All that remained of the ruin was a heap of stones, but over time the trace of a cairn or foundations ever being there, are now long gone.
Tarn Crag and Tarncrag Gill over Easdale Tarn
We spent a few minutes to find the location where one of the Abraham brothers had taken the previous photo. The large boulder you can see formed part of the east wall of the refreshment hut, which was white-washed on the inside.
Blea Rigg over Easedale Tarn
Slapestone Edge and Tarn Crag from the north shoreline
The ascent of Tarn Crag via Tarncrag Gill
Tarncrag Gill consists of boulder scree and three notable ‘steps’ (short easy scrambles); it is a great beginner’s gill scramble, especially for children. During a dry spell you won’t get wet, but we still recommend wearing microspikes to make the ascent easier. The ravine is shallow so we didn’t use our helmets, but this is personal choice of course.
Jaclyn negotiating the ‘first step’
The author negotiating the ‘second step’
Looking down to Easedale Tarn from above the ‘second step’
Jaclyn and Frankie in the upper reaches of Tarncrag Gill
Jaclyn negotiating the ‘third step’
Note the waterfall cascading over the lodged boulder!
Looking down from above the ‘third step’
Jaclyn and Frankie at the head of Tarncrag Gill
Looking down to Easedale Tarn from the head of Tarncrag Gill
The twin summits of Tarn Crag
We’ve now joined the east ridge at the col just below the twin summits. The grassy shelf on the left is our choice of route to the ‘viewpoint’ summit.
The author on the ‘viewpoint’ summit
The eastern spine from the ‘viewpoint’ summit
Even though Alfred Wainwright mentioned: “Viewpoint for Easedale Tarn” on pages Tarn Crag 5 and 6, with an arrow pointing to a large cairn, the view of the tarn can only be gained from a grass terrace lower of this elevation. However, Wainwright mentions this on page 8:
“Easedale Tarn cannot be seen from the main cairn. Cross the grassy hollow to a big cairn 200 yards south and walk a few paces beyond for a striking bird’s eye view of the tarn.” Tarn Crag 8
AW (revised by CJ)
The Vale of Grasmere and Easedale Tarn from the ‘grass terrace’
An upright rock marks a great viewpoint, and lunch stop if you desire.
The ‘true’ summit of Tarn Crag (centre) from the ‘viewpoint’ summit
The Central Fells
Tarn Crag 7
“The summit crags”
“The cairn is reached, on grass, by rounding the pinnacle on the left.” Tarn Crag 7
A small boggy shelf, slightly above the col between the twin summits, is where Alfred Wainwright had taken his photo (Tarn Crag 7). There is a large flat-topped boulder which we believe is the place where he may have sat to take the shot; it’s a wonderful feeling to find these locations, which many hundreds of fellwalkers have done since the first publication of the guides between 1955 and 1966.
The Central Fells
Tarn Crag 7
“This is a beautiful little top, the highest point, a sharp peak, being just big enough to accommodate the neat cairn.” Tarn Crag 7
Looking down the east ridge from the summit of Tarn Crag
A striking view of Gibson Knott and Helm Crag over Far Easedale on the left, while Easedale on the right flows down to meet the Vale of Grasmere.
The Langdale Pikes, Codale Head and High Raise, from the summit of Tarn Crag
I noticed that Wainwright had made a mistake on page Tarn Crag 8, by stating that the summit of High Raise is: “not seen” from the summit of Tarn Crag. As you can see on the far right in the photo, the highest point of High Raise is clearly seen over the ‘old boundary’ ridge leading to Codale Head.
On our right, the ‘broad ridge’ connected to Tarn Crag leads its way up to Codale Head, and then beyond to Sergeant Man and High Raise. We, however, head slightly left of the ridge and descend into Codale (previously known as “Cold Dale”); you may just be able to see Codale Tarn up on the left of Jaclyn.
Codale Head from our descent into Codale
A thin path can be easily followed on the left of some peat hags and small tarns, that appear in a depression south of the ‘broad ridge’. I think Frankie is wondering why we’re not continuing to climb?
Looking down into Codale with Codale Head on the right
Halfway down a grass gully we join a path that has descended from Codale Head and the ‘broad ridge’. Follow this path to Codale Tarn that avoids the boggy basin. Note the large sheepfold on the right.
Looking back towards the sheepfold and the grass gully
“Very wild and very lonely are these two tarns; Codale the wilder of the two, because more rock-bound and of higher altitude than Easedale, but neither sparing much for softness or tenderness, neither borrowing of the Sybarite roses or eiderdown for the rugged Doric bonework beneath; true mountain tarns, both of them, born in the wilds where but little of pleasure and less of gain leads human footsteps – their only companions the free creatures of the air and the gracious throngings of the sky. Ah! if all men could be taught the deliciousness of a lonely mountain tarn, and a rough mountain scramble, where they would cut their feet, and graze their knees, and tear their hands, and get wet-footed in the bogs, and wet-backed in the mists, and meet with nothing more exciting than a flock of frightened mountain sheep or a noisy swoop of plovers screaming overhead! If they could but be all inoculated with the love of such joys as these, how much better it would be for the present world and for future generations!”
‘The Lake Country’ by E. Lynn Linton (1864)
Looking back towards Codale Head over the ‘pool’ in Codale Beck
Rather than continuing on the usual path to the back of Belles Knott, we descended via the cascades of Codale Beck; both routes are on page Sergeant Man 6 of the ‘Central Fells’.
“This beck has three interesting features: it suddenly and surprisingly widens in a deep pool at a point where on both sides its normal channel is only inches across;….”
“….it falls in a cleft over a vertical wall of rock;….”
Looking down into the upper Easedale basin from the dividing beck
“….it does a very unusual thing in dividing into two separate watercourses which reach the main stream 200 yards apart.” Sergeant Man 6
It really doesn’t matter which way you descend from here; it’s great fun, but pathless all the way down, with steep terraces and bracken to contend with. Microspikes are very handy on this section, especially when crisscrossing the cascades.
Jaclyn crossing the cascades above the upper ‘waterslide’
The upper ‘waterslide’
The beck turns into a series of slimy waterslides as it continues to cascade its way down into the upper Easedale basin.
Jaclyn negotiating the bracken clad terraces
Looking back at Belles Knott and the ‘divided watercourses’
Approaching Easedale Tarn in upper Easedale
Looking back towards Eagle Crag and Belles Knott
Our descent route via the cascades can be seen on the right of Belles Knott.
Tarn Crag over Easedale Tarn
A better view of Slapestone Edge, Tarn Crag and Tarncrag Gill
Helm Crag from the head of Sourmilk Gill
After crossing the outlet of Easedale Tarn, we now descend into Far Easedale on the opposite side of Sourmilk Gill; our ascent path from the morning can be seen on the right.
Stepping stones at the base of Tarn Crag’s east ridge
Gibson Knott, Bracken Hause and Helm Crag, on the approach to the ‘interesting boulders’
The Central Fells
Tarn Crag 6
(Wig and Twig)
“The two boulders illustrated above still have foliage (heather and tree) and are a destination popular enough to have encouraged the creation of a path.” Tarn Crag 6
The quote above is one my favourite additions from Clive Hutchby in the ‘Walkers Editions’ of the Wainwright guides. The fact that the “foliage”, especially the tree, haven’t changed in over 60 years. I find that remarkable.
Moment Crag and Horn Crag over Far Easedale
After visiting the ‘interesting boulders’ we now descend into Far Easedale.
Footbridge over Far Easedale Beck
Stythwaite Steps (stepping stones) can be seen just beyond the footbridge.
Looking back towards Tarn Crag and Sourmilk Gill from lower Easedale
Heron Pike and Nab Scar from Easedale Road
The village of Grasmere
Thank you for visiting.