Hello, my name is Mal Tabb.
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Tuesday, 22 May 2012

An Evening of Exploratory Gill Scrambling: Grains Gill & Ruddy Gill

With: on my own
Weather: warm; fine & dry evening; blue sky; light breeze
Where: Seathwaite, Lake District

Stockley Bridge
Summer arrived in Cumbria today (Monday) from the word go the sun shone; the sky was blue; temperatures reached the high teens and there was just the lightest of breezes. Furthermore, after a difficult spell Kay received some slightly more positive news from her oncologist and some active treatment can once again be resumed, its a small step that we are immensley grateful for after a sequence of setbacks, sincere thanks to everybody who reads this blog for all the prayers & support you offer. Its all too likely a form of escapism but in recent weeks the odd few hours here and there that can be snatched in the fells have been times I have valued greatly, as such with Kay needing to rest and the Centre covered by activity staff working with the resident school I headed down to Seathwaite just after six o'clock.

The drive down the A591, with Bassenthwaite Lake shimmering to the right & the Skiddaw group bathed in evening sunshine, was a joy this must be one of Lakeland's most underrated car journeys. Through Keswick and down Borrowdale, Derwent Water looked just as spectacular as Bassenthwaite. There was no "Russian Roulette" with parking at Seathwaite tonight - straight to the farm & pole position! A couple who had enjoyed a big day on the Scafells had just returned to their car & we exchanged a few words about the weather - these were the last humans I was to see for the next three hours or so, a rare event in this part of the Lakes.

The aim of the evening was to explore some sections of the gills: Grains Gill & Ruddy Gill. They are all described in the very useful guide book "Scrambles in the Lake District Vol 2: Northern Lakes" by R. Brian Evans who defines the term "gill" as being of Scandanavian origin and as being generally associated with the Lake District and especially with the Borrowdale volcanic series where streams exploit its weaknesses - so I guess that tonight's venue could very much be regarded as the home of "Gill Scrambling".

On previous visits I have explored and had excellent sessions in Sour Milk Gill to the right of the valley, this evening it was a trip straight ahead in the direction of Stockley Bridge (photo above). I opted to join Grains Gill a little earlier than suggested in the guidebook for some rock hopping and very easy scrambling around pools. Ultimately I encountered the confluence of Grains Gill & Ruddy Gill where water cascades in from high on the right.

Ruddy Gill Confluence With Grains Gill

There is a bit of a grubby climb up the right hand side of these cascades described in the book as a rock staircase, in my opinion this is not woirth the effort and the start of a scramble in Ruddy Gill is probably best began by walking up to the footbridge which crosses the gill via the main path & then simply following the water course to the confluence and engaging the streambed from above these falls.

On this occassion I initially ommitted the climb up the falls and continued to ascend via Grains Gill completing the Grade 1 section described in the guide as the "first section". Despite the appearance of midges this was entertaining scrambling in a narrow "gorgelette" which culminates in a series of rock steps. Exiting the gill to my right a short descent across the open fell brought me to the footbridge mentioned above which spans Ruddy Gill. 

From this footbridge I did exactly what was described previously and descended alongside the gill before entering the streambed directly above the falls pictured above. The start to Ruddy Gill is the best bit with the so called "guardian pool" being deep both in its blue colour and physical depth! The traverse arounnd it to the right is easy enough but my bet is that many have got off to a watery start here! (Note: on reading the guide afterwards this pool is described as being traversed to its left wall)

Looking Back At the Guardian Pool From Above
The next pool is described as being more difficult and on this occassion being on my own; fading light (excuses, excuses!) I opted to climb out and omit it rather than attempting the traverse of the left wall (see photo below) the pool looked a good neck deep! The remainder of the"first section" is straightforward and pleasant scrambling culminating at the previously mentioned footbridge (photo at foot of this post).

A good three or more hours had passed by now so the other sections of Ruddy Gill (2 & 3) will have to wait for another day. With the light now dim and the time ticking on to something to ten I began the trek back down alongside the gills I'd just scrambled up.

At Seathwaite there were just a handful of vehicles left, wild campers? A quick change out of wet socks & soggy approach shoes and then reflecting on an eventful day and the first summers' evening of 2012 it was back to Blaithwaite.

Above: Traverse of the left wall above a deep pool close to the start of Ruddy Gill - I missed this out on this occassion

Right: The final section of straightforward but pleasant scrambling approaching the footbridge that marks the conclusion of the first section


  1. Wow, so beautiful. I miss inspiring landscape... Those pictures are great!!!

    1. Hello Running4him - good to hear from you & thanks for your comments. Its glorious in the Lake District at the moment & I'm hoping another opportunity to do something similar presents itself in the next few days.
      Take care & please keep in touch.
      Best Regards, Mal