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Seathwaite, Plumbago mines, Brandreth, Great Gable, Sty Head, Stockley Bridge, Cumbria.
[12.3 km]  Wed 15 Nov 2017

OS Grid ref: NY 23478 12267
Lat/Long: 54.499926, -03.183098


I reached Seathwaite after a clear drive and decided to use the farmerís car parking in the field adjacent to the road. Here were plenty of spaces along the lane but after a few hours there will be many more. The field was wet but I carefully reverse parked off the stoned access track and checked I could drive back out before leaving the car and setting off. I passed the honesty box and put the requested £3 in.

Seathwaite footpath through the barn
Through the farmyard the path I was taking goes through some farm buildings then to a footbridge over Grains Gill, the infant River Derwent. My first objective was to investigate the several Plumbago mines running up the side of Seathwaite Fell. They area also referred to as Black Lead and Graphite Mines and were the foundation of the pencil industry at Keswick. Some of the earliest records show large scale mining in 1555. In 1625 the lease was sold to Sir John Bankes (1589-1644).
Seathwaite & Gilbert's Level mine spoil heap

John Bankes boundary stone 1752
Thanks to Alfred Wainwright (image on right) for
this illustration of the boundary stone.

John Bankes boundary stone from the front

John Bankes boundary stone
Sir John Bankes (1589-1644) of the Bankes family of Keswick, Cumberland. Bankesís ancestors had for many generations held property in and near Keswick in Cumberland. The Title deeds and grants from the Crown of the black lead mine at Borrowdale date back as far as Henry VI, Edward IV and were again renewed under the seal of James I.
Sir John Bankes (1589-1644)
In 1752 Henry Bankes (a descendaant of John Bankes) organised an Act of Parliament which made theft of graphite a felony. At the mine he developed the guardhouse system, helping secure access both during mining operations and during periods when the mines were closed. He seems to have instigated the strip searching of miners in an attempt to minimise pilfering.
Mine entrance

Mine interior
In Seathwaite he had a stewardís house built.
Situated on the fell side is a copy of an 18th century boundary stone dedicated to John Bankes. It measures 1 x 0.5 metres and resembles a recumbent gravestone. Inscribed on the stone is "John Bankes Esq 1752. There is a similar stone nearby (22526*0). This stone replaces an exactly similar stone wilfully destroyed November 1887. The stone was replaced by the National Trust 1983. John Bankes was a graphite mine owner in the 18th century (Borrowdale, Note Book 1).

Looking out from the mine
There was so much to see up the hillside it needs its own day to investigate. I continued up the fell to where the mines cease and the ground levels off. The downside of this is the ground was horribly boggy. After several detours I reached the steep bit below Grey Knotts and headed up a gully. The earlier sun had gone and I became much colder but I still had clear views. Approaching a fence line I joined the main path coming up from Honister.
Ruin of one of the mine guardhouses
The temperature had now dropped to 2degC. I kept going as fast as I could to keep warm. Over Brandreth I descended to cross round the side of more waterlogged ground to start the long climb up Green Gable. A short loose descent and I reached Windy Gap.
Crossing Grey Knotts

Looking down towards Sourmilk Gill
My next objective was the summit of Great Gable so began the climb of the narrow path up the NE side. It soon steepened and became indistinct. Parts were scrambly before I reached a succession of cairns through rough ground to take me to the Fell & Rock Climbing Club memorial which commemorates their members who were killed during the 1914-18 War.
Great Gable

Summit view from Great Gable looking towards Wastwater

RAF over Sty Head Pass

Stretcher Box on Sty Head Pass

Styhead Tarn and Great End in the background
Remembrance Sunday was just 4 days ago and then a large group climbed the mountain to hold a service and place many small crosses and some wreathes. These were placed under the memorial plate but I wonder if they will be cleared before they get blown all over the mountain. As I was looking around a young lady climbed up the same way Iíd come. We chatted a while then I set off down to Sty Head and she stayed to eat her sandwiches.
Photographer at Stockley Bridge
The steep descent was fairly straightforward and a large part was stepped. I stopped briefly at the Stretcher Box at Sty Head to chat to a couple then set off down by Styhead Tarn. At Stockley Bridge there was a photographer photographing the bridge from tripod mounted camera on the south side. I spoke briefly but he didnít respond. I wandered down the track to Seathwaite and back to my car in the field. Two more vehicles had parked in the field but plenty had parked on the road.
Sheep shearing by hand at Seathwaite