Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Cathedral Quarry Walk | Short Family Walk from Little Langdale


A short easy family walk with a big surprise. 3 Kilometres round trip about 1 hour dependant on sight seeing or picnic.

Directions: From Ambleside take A593 Coniston/ Hawkshead, about 3 miles turn right Langdales, about 1/3 mile turn left Little Langdale. Around 15 minutes by car

Eating: Take food for a picnic, or The 3 Shires Inn offers good food and en-suite accommodation.
Little Langdale : Grid Reference NY 316034 is the starting point for an interesting walk around this once slate capital. The old slate mines and quarries provide a glimpse and in this case a very dramatic glimpse into an industry the once dominated this now quiet and secluded area of the South Lakes.

Parking can be a problem in Little Langdale but there are a few coveted roadside spots below the 3 Shires Inn or if dining the Inn may let you use the car park.

Three Shires Inn Little Langdale

Keith and I walked up the road with the Inn on our right and took the first left into the narrow lane. Just past the cottages we took the stile on the right signposted Slater Bridge and took the footpath over the fields.

View from footpath to Slater Bridge with Quarry Workings behind.

The view over Slater Bridge: Grid Reference NY 298031 to the old workings is a spectacular reminder of mans ability to move mountains or at least a good attempt. Spoil heaps climb from the valley floor to the heights of 397 metre Betsy Crag. Beyond these the summit of Wetherlam dominates particularly in snow. We crossed Slater Bridge probably after Ashness Bridge near Keswick the most photographed bridge in the Lakes. It originally did not have the iron handrail put there to stop fell walkers falling off it into the river. I have read that some people say the rail detracts the true photographic quality of the bridge, however having once or twice crossed the bridge with a covering of ice the handrail is welcome in my photographs. 

Slater Bridge

Once over the bridge the path brings you to a stile and into the main track. We turned left ignoring the spoil heap directly in front. This is the refuse from Black Hole Quarry itself an interesting place but one for future exploration. A short walk down the track a path leads diagonally steeply upward from the track through the lower spoil heap of Cathedral Quarry: Grid Reference NY 308028. We climbed to a point where the track doubles back and carries on up to an old climbing hut. Here a metal notice placed there by the National Trust, says entering the tunnel in front is done at the risk of the enterer. This notice was in common with thousands of other visitors to the tunnel noted briefly and in we went. It was worth it as it leads into the highlight of the Little Langdale area. Cathedral Quarry Cavern. 

Cathedral Quarry Cavern

Its immense, over forty feet to the roof, which is supported by a single pillar of slate, left by the miners who blasted this place from the mountain. Above a huge hole in the wall allows light to enter and a mirror still pool of water covers half the floor. According to legend there was once goldfish in the pool put there by a visitor who constantly left food for them. The only thing in the pool on our day was a big dog that disturbed the tranquillity by jumping in for a swim. It probably would have drowned as the pool edge is undercut so it could not get out again. Keith managed to drag it out and off it ran to now appearing owner. Thank you must be a word spoken on Mars as Keith’s efforts were roundly ignored.

The walls show evidence of its excavation. Bore holes used for explosives were drilled horizontally across the rock face. These are called cross holes and were used to separate the slate across its grain. Next bate holes were drilled which went in line with the grain. When both types were filled with explosive and detonated manageable blocks of slate could be produced and taken for processing.

This area must have been incredibly busy and noisy when all the quarries were in full production.

The walk is ideal for those wanting something short and interesting with a bit of drama and an excellent meal and pint in the 3 Shires Inn.

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