We parked the car at the end of the tarmac road in the Miterdale Valley; in a place called Porterthwaite on the map. From here we began to climb up the valley; following a farm track to a farm and then a sodden path to a lush green valley. Keeping the stream to our left we ascended steadily towards Burnmoor Tarn. Our dog called Bonny; enjoyed splashing in the River Mite as we slowly climbed up on a gentle mossy carpet of grass.
After approximately two hours of gentle climbing we arrived at Burnmoor Tarn. This is one of the largest tarns in the Lake District; with the word ‘tarn’ coming from the Norse for pond: ‘Tjorn‘. A former Victorian fishing lodge stands on its southern shore; giving a sinister air from its drab colours and bordered windows. Yet to look past the man-made monument; I felt instantly relaxed by looking at the cast expanse of water. Dull reflections, a windless air and a deafening natural silence; could only make me feel at one with the natural world.
Stopping for a sandwich and a quick slurp of juice; we soon had to head down towards the Eskdale Valley and the hamlet of Boot to escape a persistent but light rain. The well worn track down was an old corpse road. This macabre necessity being caused by the need to bury souls from outlying houses in consecrated ground in the churchyard of the parish. Back then only the rich could afford a coffin; with common folk being carried on the shoulders of their grieving loved ones.
Boot, The Ravenglass to Eskdale Railway
The descent was to the south and west and towards the incoming rain; yet the mild temperatures and the gentle terrain made it seem easy to my mind. After descending for approximately one hour we arrived at the hamlet of Boot. It is here in yesteryear; they brought down Iron ore from higher quarries and loaded it onto a light railway that went to the coast and waiting ships. There are many ruined houses, parts of a disused railway; as well as two old pubs that gave sanctuary to the hardy workers.
It is here you can find the inland end of the Eskdale to Ravenglass Railway. Formerly used to carry Iron from the mines; it now makes money from carrying scores of tourists on many beautifully restored and maintained steam trains. You can find out more about this railway here:
As you walk along, appreciate mother nature; look out for anything unusual and find out about it! On this walk I saw this bright yellow fungus for the first time. It has the slightly gory name of Yellow Brain fungus! It feeds on fungi that is feeding on dead wood and is best seen in a wet early winter!
Returning in the dark
We did this walk the day after the winter solstice; so by this point we had run out of daylight and began walking in to the night. Using the railway line as a safer path than the road we walked west along the valley towards Fisherground Farm. From here we left the ‘iron’ road and headed north into forests. We turned on our head torches and carried on our merry gait. As we climbed a small rise; I caught many pairs of eyes staring at me in the darkness. No evil spirits or even wise old owls; simply the head torch reflecting in the eyes of the sheep that roam these valleys. After a short while we stepped on to Smithybrow Lane that took us back to the Miterdale Valley and the safety of our motorcar.
Parking, refreshments and other tips
We parked at the end of a long lane in the Miterdale Valley; yet it is possible to park in Boot or in places between the two. Here is a Google link to the parking place:
There are two decent pubs in Boot; the Boot Inn and the Brook House Inn. There is a cafe at the Dalegarth railway station when the trains are running from Ravenglass. As well as the most convivial: Woolpack Inn; a short walk away towards the Hardknott Pass.
As always check the weather forecast and carry enough clothes and provisions for the journey. There are no cairns near Burnmoor Tarn so take care in foggy weather. Do not rely on a mobile phone; as mine stopped working due to a thick blanket of cloud.
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