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Rosthwaite is one of the string of popular little settlements along Borrowdale, with a general store in addition to the refreshment possibilities. Tucked away in a shallow valley over the hills, Watendlath is a lovely quiet place, set beside its jewel of a tarn.
Both are farming hamlets, associated with Walpole’s Herries’ novels. Hazel Bank, now a guest house was the Herries home, whilst Judith Paris lived at Watendlath. Dock Tarn sits at quite a high level in a shallow depression among the confused landscape which is so typical of the Borrowdale area.
The route includes a long, steady climb from the Stonethwaite area up to Dock Tarn, with a lesser climb along the well used bridleway from Watendlath back to Rosthwaite. Most paths are very good crossing the rocky/ boggy area around Dock Tarn is facilitated by well placed stones.
From the car park(s) walk back to the main road. Turn left for 10 yards then turn right at a signpost ‘public bridleway Stonethwaite and Watendlath’. Cross the bridge over Stonethwaite Beck. The house ahead is Hazel Bank.
Turn right immediately after the bridge, towards Stonethwaite. The excellent level path stays fairly close to the beck, through two farm gates before approaching Stonethwaite. At a junction close to Stonethwaite keep straight on following ‘Grasmere via Greenup Edge’. Go through a gate. Ahead, the great rocky mound of Eagle Crag guards the junction of Greenup Gill with the Langstrath Valley.
About 200 yards after the gate look for a gap in the old wall on the left. Turn left here along a grass terrace slanting up the hillside. Another minor path joins from the left. Cross a tiny stream and continue to rise through bracken, ignoring paths to left and right. Go over a stile in a wall, bearing left as the path becomes better defined. Carry on through oak woodland, some sections of the steeply rising path being engineered. Go over another stile in a wall. The route now stays fairly close to Willy Gras Gill, the outlet stream from Dock Tarn, tumbling over little falls and rapids on the right.
Pass the scant ruin of a small stone building. There are occasional cairns as the gradient eases and the countryside becomes more open, soon rich in heather. There is another stile over a wall before Dock Tarn comes into view over the lip of its basin.
Ignore the line shown on Ordance Survey. Keep to the left of the water, either hugging the shore over rocky outcrops or on a path a little higher up the hillside. The tarn is obviously shallow, with rushes and water lilies in profusion. After the tarn the path keeps the same line, twisting and turning over rock and stepping stones, marked by cairns, as it avoids the worst of an area of boggy ground. In less than 1/2 mile there is a steep descent as Watendlath comes into view. There is a kissing gate at the bottom. Follow the path marked by posts past an area of boggy ground, bear right at an arrow, go through a kissing gate, cross a stream and continue over grass to a farm gate/stile and a walled lane, leading, via another gate, straight into Watendlath.
Pass a junction with the return route and cross the charming (packhorse?) bridge to reach the tea gardens. Return over the bridge to the junction (4). Bear right for ‘bridleway to Rosthwaite’ and steady ascent. Descent into Rosthwaite starts at a farm gate/kissing gate. Cross a stream twice then go through a kissing gate which is a fine viewpoint for Rosthwaite and the upper reaches of Borrowdale before reaching a farm gate on the right.
Turn right here, leaving the path which has a (broken) ‘Stonethwaite’ sign. Go through a farm gate, into a lane with a raised pedestrian causeway. Rejoin the outward route by the bridge and return to the car park.