Tuesday 1 June 2010

31st May 2010. Ghyll scrambling in The Lake District, Stoneycroft Gill, Keswick. Lake District.

On Monday morning, Iain travelled up to Keswick to meet Andy Oglesby and his partner Jane who wanted to go ghyll scrambling (otherwise known as gill scrambling or gorge walking)

One of the best venues for this in the Keswick area is Stoneycroft Gill; and it was there that Iain chose to take the pair.

Stoneycroft is a delightul gill suitable for people of all ages. Most groups do the gorge as a descent and it becomes more interesting as you go along.

Small pools give way to deeper ones as can be seen in the first photo here, the waterfalls get higher and eventually one finishes up in the lower ravine which is now bolted on the biggest waterfalls allowing Stoneycroft Gill to now be described as a canyoning trip in the Lake District.

The second photo of Andy & Jane is taken about a third of the way down the gill. Stoneycroft Gill is a place of significant history - being the site of one of the earliest Smelt mills in the Lake District (a place where the mineral ores from Lake District mines was brought to be reduced to pure metal) and one passes the slag heaps from these operations on your left during the descent.

Further down the gill a tunnel can be seen in the right bank - this is one of the entrances for the Stoneycroft Gill lead mine - a little more about that later!

Halfway down Stoneycroft Gill is a magnificent slide down a waterfall into a large pool and the stream continues on to another high waterfall which has to be avoided by climbing down on its left. In the pool at the foot of the waterfall is a large boulder with a gap underneath and here is an opportunity for people to challenge themselves further by taking the plunge (literally!) and swimming through the gap between the boulder and the wall of the pool to surface on the other side. Note - you are advised only to do this with a qualified instructor who knows the venue!

Further on, you come to what appears to be a path leading off from the left hand side of the gill and this is the point where many groups depart - the lower section of Stoneycroft Gill being considered too serious for most user groups.

The footpath actually used to be a channel which carried the flow of water away from the gill and there was once a dam at this point. Over 100 years ago, lead ore was discovered by prospectors in the bed of the gill below this point (at the end of this ravine in photo 3)

These prospectors sunk a vertical tunnel (shaft) into the bed of the gill over 100 feet deep and then commenced to excavate horizontal tunnels to extract the lead. This vertical shaft in the bed of the gill was the only way in or out for the miners. One day tragedy struck as the dam burst and a torrent of water swept down the gill - straight into the shaft drowning the miners working below and burying them under tons of stones.

The head of the shaft can still be seen today.

Anyway - below the site of the old dam, Stoneycroft Gill drops steeply down into the lower ravine over two high waterfalls. These are now bolted and this can now be included as a canyoning descent into the lower ravine - Kendal Mountaineering Services will provide the equipment necessary for this along with the wetsuits, cagoules, bouyancy aids, walking boots and helmets which are standard issue for any ghyll scrambling trips we run in the Lake District - and you even get a hot drink at the end of the session!

In this final photo Andy & Jane can be seen below the Stoneycroft Road bridge - carrying the road to the Newlands Valley & Buttermere. This marks the end of the lower ravine of Stoneycroft Gill and the end of the session.

Andy & Jane thoroughly enjoyed their session with us and please remember - Kendal Mountaineering Services run ghyll scrambling & canyoning half day sessions all over the Lake District at venues to suit you. Ghyll scrambling sessions are generally half day sessions and starting at only £45 per person (minimum group size of two persons) this makes sessions with us unbeatable value - contact us at info@kendalmountaineeringservices.co.uk to book yours.

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