Walking to Bowscale Tarn – an easy morning’s walk from Mungrisdale, in glowering weather. Still a dry day in the north Lakes, but the knowledge that rain was on the way in. In fact, just now and again, you could feel the moisture in the air.
Very different from the warm day we recently spent on Bowscale Fell itself. We didn’t see the tarn that day, so we did this walk to include it, returning the same way.
We had a brief halt at Mungrisdale Church, dedicated to Saint Kentigern, or Mungo – hence the name of the village. A charming little building dating from 1756, though on the site of a much earlier church. Particularly outstanding is the three-decker pulpit, one of the best examples I’ve seen.
On along the lane then to the hamlet of Bowscale – or rather, as a sign indicates, a township, a reminder that this was once part of Scotland.
Then a rough track up to Bowscale Tarn itself, the path winding high above the valley of the River Caldew. This was a popular excursion in times past, the Victorians loved the wild aspects of Bowscale Tarn, the ladies making the journey on the back of ponies.
Not least, of course, because it’s a setting for a poem by Wordsworth “Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle”, where Lord Clifford comes here and lives in wildness:
To his side the Fallow-deer
Came, and rested without fear;
The Eagle, Lord of land and sea,
Stoop’d down to pay him fealty;
And both the undying Fish that swim
Through Bowscale-Tarn did wait on him,
The pair were Servants of his eye
In their immortality,
They moved about in open sight,
To and fro, for his delight.
The immortal fish are supposed to be there to this day, though some have commented that the tarn may be too cold. The suggestion has been made that the fish in the tarn is the Schelly, a rarity that leaves in just a few Lakeland waters, a relic left trapped after the ice age. They certainly exist in Red Tarn, by Helvellyn. If anyone has proof that they’re in Bowscale Tarn as well please do let us know.
The tarn is a dramatic place, the sort of water where you might expect a hand to arise bearing a sword. A place where the heroes of old come to die.