Drawing 341: The Bowder Stone, Borrowdale
Direction of view: NNW
Notes: Unmistakeable! The tree in the foreground still existed in 2015, but by the end of 2018 it had fallen.
This scene does not appear elsewhere in Wainwright’s published works.
Comments: I first took this picture on slide film in late August / early September 1978, though I have no note of the precise date or circumstances. It seems that lots of other sketches around Borrowdale were taken on the same day.
In the Spring of 2015, I had another Borrowdale blitz, visiting the locations of 14 sketches over two days, with B&B at Seatoller Farm. This was the second last I got to, on the afternoon of 8th April, and the sunshine was rather hazy. Chalk marks on the rock, crash mats, and brightly-clothed youngsters testified that the Bowder Stone is still popular.
Wainwright notes that this is not the largest fallen boulder in the district, but the most spectacular and best known. It is a large lava boulder, that is believed to have fallen 200 metres from the Bowder Stone Crag on King’s How between 10,000 and 13,500 years ago. Photos from Victorian times show it standing isolated and much more prominent, with no trees nearby. The ladder shown by Wainwright is long gone; a new timber ladder was installed in the 1980s, and this itself was removed in 2018, to be replaced in 2019 by a metal ladder 9.3 metres high, made by sculptural metalworker Chris Brammall from Furness.
The next photo was taken on 30th December 2018, showing the Bowder Stone without its ladder.
Finally, here is a photo taken in the 1860s, and shows Victorian tourists visiting the Bowder Stone. It is very similar to a lithograph published in 1852.
In the early years of the 19th century Joseph Pocklington (the eccentric who organised the Derwentwater regattas) “erected an ugly house [by the stone] for an old woman to live in who is to show the rock, for fear travellers should pass under it without seeing it…[and] dug a hole underneath through which the curious may gratify themselves by shaking hands with the old woman” (Robert Southey).