Drawing 173: Seathwaite

Direction of view: ESE

Notes: The viewpoint is on the true left bank of Sour Milk Ghyll. The trees shown in the sketch could not be identified, and may no longer exist. The farm buildings have changed slightly, with a rather higher roof on one of the barns. This view does not appear in any of Wainwright’s other published works.

Comments: I first took this on slide film on 2nd July 1977, descending from a walk over Fleetwith Pike, Grey Knotts, Brandreth and Base Brown, at the end of a week’s walking holiday in Lakeland. There had been quite a bit of rain, and Sour Milk Gill was impressive.  The weather improved as the day went on, and I also got drawings 275 (Base Brown) and 279 (Keswick Moot Hall).

I took the picture again on slide film in late August / early September 1978, though I have no note of the precise date or circumstances: see drawing 170.

I first took this photo on digital on 31st March 2014, on a walk with Peter Watson.  We set out from Seathwaite about 9.45, and ascended the path on the right bank of the Ghyll, crossing it to find the location for the sketch.  The view was looking right into hazy sunshine, and not satisfactory (but see below).

We continued up by the cascades, into Gillercomb, and on up to Green Gable, where I took drawing 135 (Windy Gap).  Continuing to Great Gable, we examined the new war memorial plaque, had lunch, and descended to Westmorland Cairn for drawing 286 (the top of the Napes).  We then descended the Breast Route – now a properly constructed path, though it is becoming submerged beneath loose stones. We continued from Sty Head down to Stockley Bridge and Seathwaite, where I saw the light was much better for this sketch (it was now about 3pm), so I nipped back up by Sour Milk Ghyll and got a much better picture.

In the 16th century wadd (ie graphite) was discovered locally, and mining started. From these earliest times, Seathwaite Farm seems to have provided lodging for the miners, and for some quarrymen as well. They remained at Seathwaite during the week, spending Sundays with their families. Drinking and fighting seem to have been popular pastimes.  In later years, things became more respectable, and the families of the miners also stayed at Seathwaite; distant memories in the early 20th century were of there being 18 miners’ children at the farm at one time.  It is believed that the mine closed around 1865.  Apart from its use in making pencils, wadd was ground up and taken with wine as a medicine; it was also used for glazing and hardening vessels, and for preserving gunmetal from rust.