Close to the oak-fringed banks of the River Derwent in Borrowdale lies an enormous chunk of rock, balancing at an improbable angle and looking very much like it could topple over at any moment. This is the Bowder Stone, a magnet for tourists since at least 1798 when local landowner Joseph Pocklington installed a wooden ladder up the side of it. He also built a cottage nearby and stationed an old woman there to serve teas to visitors and “lend the place quaint atmosphere”. Visitors still flock to see this wonder of nature, and can still climb to the top of it – although the original ladder has long since been replaced, and the cottage is now a bothy managed by the Calvert Trust.
This 400-million-year-old boulder is more than 30ft high and about 90ft in circumference. Experts used to think it was an erratic, deposited here by a passing glacier, but current theories state that it is a chunk of volcanic andesite that fell from the crags above many millennia ago. There is a place at the base of the boulder where you can lie down and, with outstretched arm, reach through a small gap to join hands with someone on the far side.
Like much of Borrowdale, this is National Trust-owned land, and the charity has a pay-and-display car park about 500 yards away. There’s a good path linking the car park with the Bowder Stone, passing through beautiful woodland. Even at a sedate pace, it’s not much more than a 10-minute walk. The site is open at all times, and there is no admission charge.