Drawing 190: Millican Dalton’s Cave, Borrowdale

Direction of view: W

Notes: Turn off the track from Grange to Rosthwaite at its highest point, and take the track leading towards Castle Crag.  Millican Dalton’s cave is the second (higher) cave reached.  The inscription (“Don’t waste words, jump to conclusions”) is at the entrance to the “Attic” cave, which is much less prominent than Wainwright’s sketch would suggest.

This view also appears on page Castle Crag 3 in The North Western Fells.

Comments: First taken on 8th April 2015 – see drawing 184 .  Sketches taken that day were 228, 387, 275, 259, 184, 300, 57, 341 and 143, as well as this one.

Peter Messenger’s photo dates from August 1976, and shows one of the trees drawn by Wainwright still in place at that time.

My best picture of the cave was taken on 29th June 2018 (see 143 for an account of that day), when I arrived at the cave at about 9.30am, to catch any morning sunlight.  This was my first picture of nine taken that day, and I used a tripod for all of them. An ancient log lies on the ground outside the cave entrance: all that remains of the trees Wainwright drew.

In 1903, at the age of 36, Millican Dalton gave up his career as an insurance clerk in London and took up an outdoor life.  He was, as Wainwright puts it, “a mountain guide and philosopher; no hermit, but a learned man with many friends, during the years between the wars.  He died in 1947 at the age of 80.”  He was known as “Professor of Adventure”, and his stricture about wasted words didn’t prevent him discussing any subject for hours on end.  Smoke from his fire, rising through the trees, betrayed when he was in residence at his “cave hotel”; in winter he migrated south to Epping Forest, where he climbed the trees.

He took clients on all sorts of adventures: ascents of Napes Needle, exploring Doves Nest Caves, shooting the Derwent rapids on a home-made raft, sailing on Derwentwater, and climbing Lodore Falls in spate.  He never asked for a fee, just a contribution towards his camping expenses.

Vegetarian, teetotaller and pacifist, he said “I find that the simplest life is the happiest”.  Clients spoke of the sense of peace and relaxation they felt in his presence, and listening to his stories round the campfire.