BB0840 : Breast High in Bretherdale
(and other roads less travelled)

Wednesday 17th December 2008

How can you live in a place for 39 years and have never heard of a road, only 7 miles away, called Breasthigh?

The forecast said stay low and finish early or you could get caught by some nasty wintry weather so I had scoured the map for something local that presented a fresh opportunity. And there I saw Breasthigh Road, rising out of Borrowdale (the Westmorland one) and crossing over to Bretherdale.

Such an unusual name must have an interesting story of origin, or so I thought.  

Might Big Josie have known?  Probably not; in her case "low" was the more apt word!  

Or maybe Benny Hill?  Do you remember Ernie and his lady love, Sue, who lived all alone in Linley Lane at number twenty two?

    She said she'd like to bathe in milk; he said “Alright, sweetheart“
    And when he finished work one night he loaded up the cart
    He said “You want it pasteurised ‘coz pasteurised is best”
    She said “Ernie, I'll be happy If it comes up to my breast!”

Well that tickled old Don but was not a very likely explanation.  I turned to the internet but all I could find was related to it being variously used by 4x4s, mountain bikes and the occasional walker.  

There was one interesting historical note.  Breasthigh Road was probably the common and ancient highway leading from the town of Selside to the market town of Orton on which, in 1754, a wall had been erected whereby the king's highway was totally obstructed so that the King's liege subjects could not go, return, pass, ride and labour as they ought. Thomas Wilson of Selside with force and arms unlawfully and obstinately did uphold and maintain the same. On 11th October 1754, Thomas Wilson pleaded guilty and produced a certificate to show that the obstruction was now removed and that the king's highway was now open unobstructed and free for all His Majesty's liege subjects.

None the wiser as to the etymology, we parked in the layby above Hucks Bridge.  I was all for heading back up the A6 to where the still open Breasthigh Road emerges but Bryan pointed out that to do so would involve having to ford a rather full Borrow Beck (but no, not breast high!)  An easier route was to cross over Hucks Bridge and go down Borrowdale to the north side of the ford.  Heavy wagons thundered by us whilst Tony reminisced about the farm by the bridge where, at the age of 12, he had ridden his first motorbike.

Hucks Bridge, A6

Breasthigh Road Ford

The day was fine, the sun had not yet got over the hill and it was colder than I had expected as we climbed up Breasthigh Road.  At the top, we took a detour to the radio mast on Dennison Hill.  Whoever owns this mast has made a poor job of removing the debris of its predecessor, something that would become a bit of a theme of the walk.

Breasthigh Road

Radio mast debris

There were, however, good views across Borrowdale to Whinfell Common.  

Borrowdale with Whinfell Common behind

We toyed with the idea of carrying on to Whinash but it was too cold so we decided to return to Breasthigh Road and head down towards Bretherdale.  The OS large scale map actually shows a place called Breast High.  All we found was an abandoned barn- another theme of the walk.

Breasthigh Road descends to Bretherdale

Was this Breast High?

The descent by a thinly wooded stream was very pleasant.  I was particularly excited by one tree that seemed to be full of birds’ nests but on closer examination, they proved to be natural twig formations.  But why only the one tree like that?

The nestless tree

Old van

Near the bottom of the path we came across a well rusted and rotted old van. We couldn’t determine what make it had been but it ought not have been left there!

Bretherdale Head is a sad place.  Clearly still farmed but the buildings are in poor repair and there are two derelict  houses. One a lovely old Westmorland long house, long abandoned, and one more recent, probably Victorian, with the remains of lace curtains fluttering in the broken windows.  However, unlike Monty’s country cottage (BB0831) this shown no signs of having been used for other purposes!

The "new" house .....

..... and its range

The "old" house

The slippery footbridge at Bretherdale Head

We crossed the beck by a slippery footbridge and climbed up a path that was in reality more like a ghyll, from which there was a fine view back over Bretherdale Head to Breast High.

Bretherdale Head in the foreground with the Breasthigh Road behind

We then skirted round North Side on an ancient lane before reaching a newly tarmacadamed road heading north to Eskew Beck House and Ewelock Bank.  The dwellings here showed much more sign of life and, evidenced it, with ample supplies of abandoned vehicles.

Normally (and Tony is excluded form this comment) we don’t like to eat until we have completed the bulk of the climbing but today was an exception.  Our route lay along the bridle path that crosses over Birkbeck Fells Common where shelter might be hard to find. So we dropped into a gully just below Ewelock Bank for lunch and team photo.

Team photo in the gully

Old Fordson- click for different view

Amongst the abandoned vehicles were a semi-restored old Fordson tractor, three fell ponies and three Shetland ponies.  

Another abandoned barn

As it happens, there was shelter to be found on the hill- yet more abandoned barns.  

We passed over Nan Hill and Crag Hill then dropped down past the inevitably rusting and rotting grouse butts to a brand new small building under the line of the pylons.  

Heavily padlocked and seemingly air conditioned, we thought it was connected to a microwave radio dish on a pylon but just why we could not tell.  

Shap Granite Quarry

From here onwards the road was very obvious, probably the line of the original one over to Shap, but the view, other than to Shap Granite Quarry, was compromised by the abundance of pylons.  

On reaching the A6, Tony would have preferred to head down the main road but Bryan and I insisted on crossing over to continue along the bridle path and probable original road.  Only it had sunken under bog.  Eventually we came to a gate and Stan, in his rather blunt and direct way, said “We have been on many attractive paths today but this isn’t one of them”.  Tony, on the other hand, in his gentler, more subtle manner, said “What the XXXX are we doing here?”

The ground improved as we dropped down to Hause Foot but the weather did not.  The wintry rain threatened to appear.  However, it wasn’t too bad.  In fact, the view was quite pleasant as we approached Hucks Bridge Farm and Tony again relived his old glories.

Approaching Hucks Bridge

Tony revs up!

That concluded what is probably our last pre-Christmas walk.  In finishing its report, I will repeat, in an updated context, what an old friend once told me. He (almost) said:

There are two types of fool in this world.
Those who write blogs and those who read them.

So from one fool to another, Happy Christmas!

Don, 17th December 2008



17th December 2008


11.0 miles

Height climbed:

1870 feet



Other Key Features:

Breasthigh Road, Bretherdale

If you have Memory Map on your computer, you can follow our route in detail by downloading BB0840.

For the latest totals of the mileages, heights and Lakeland Fells Books Wainwrights see: Wainwrights.

If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!


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BOOT boys

This page describes an adventure of BOOTboys, a loose group of friends of mature years who enjoy defying the aging process by getting out into the hills as often as possible!

As most live in South Lakeland, it is no surprise that our focus is on the Lakeland fells and the Yorkshire Dales.

As for the name, BOOTboys, it does not primarily derive from an item of footwear but is in memory of Big Josie, the erstwhile landlady of the erstwhile Burnmoor Inn at Boot in Eskdale, who enlivened Saint Patrick's Day 1973 and other odd evenings many years ago!

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2008 Outings

  • BB0801 :
    Avoiding the Graupel;  
    Wednesday 16 January
  • BB0802 :
    Lyth in the Old Dogs;
    Tuesday 22 January
  • BB0803 :
    That's Lyth;
    Sunday 27 January
  • BB0804 :
    Tony's Memory Lane;
    Wednesday 30th January
  • BB0805 :
    Fell's Belles!
    Thank You Mells
    Wednesday 6th February  
  • BB0806 :
    The Langdale Skyline
    and a Fell Race!
    Wednesday 13th February
  • BB0807a:
    An Outbreak of Common Sense;
    Thursday 21st February
  • BB0807b:
    Askham Fell and
    the Lowther Estate;
    Thursday 13th March
  • BB0808
    Thanks to the MWIS
    Wednesday 19th March
  • BB0809 :  
    High Street and Kidsty Pike
    but no Fairy
    Friday 28th March
  • BB0810 :  
    Prelude to Spring
    Wednesday 2nd April
  • BB0811 :  
    Spring in Lakeland
    Sunday 6th April
  • BB0812 :  
    Wet, Wet, Wet Sleddale to Mosedale Cottage
    Thursday 10th April
  • BB0813 :  
    What's It All About, Tony?
    Thursday 17th April
  • BB0814 :  
    The Hidden Mountain
    Tuesday 22nd April
  • BB0815 :  
    The Bowland CROW
    Thursday 1st May
  • BB0816 :  
    High Cup Nick:
    The Gurt La'al Canyon
    Wednesday 7th May
  • BB0817 :  
    Travelling Light
    Wednesday 14th May
  • BB0818 :  
    Pensioners’ Day Out
    Thursday 22nd May
  • BB0819 :  
    The Northern Tip
    Thursday 29th May
  • BB0820 :  
    The Bannisdale Horseshoe
    Wednesday 11th June
  • BB0821 :  
    Black, White or Grey Combe?
    Thursday 19th June
  • BB0822
    Thunder on the 555
    Thursday 3rd July
  • BB0823
    We'll Give It Five
    Thursday 10th July
  • BB0824 :
    Shelters from the Storm
    Thursday 17th July
  • BB0825 :
    The Big Wind-Up
    Wednesday 23rd July
  • BB0826 :
    Tony’s Third (and wettest) Alfie
    Wedmesday 30th July
  • BB0827 :
    A Visit to Mud Hall
    Tuesday 19th August
  • BB0828 :
    The Tale of Randy Gill
    Tuesday 27th August
  • BB0829 : Mosedale Cottage Revisited
    Wednesday 3rd September
  • BB0830 : Mist Over Pendle
    Wednesday 10th September
  • BB0831 : Luncheon Chez Monty
    Thursday 2nd October
  • BB0832 : Escape from the Madness
    Thursday 9th October
  • BB0833 : Only on a Thursday
    Thursday 16th October
  • BB0834 : YIFT
    Wednesday 29th October
  • BB0835 : Reflections on Thirlmere
    Thursday 6th November
  • BB0836 : Reet Grand Randonnées
    15th - 19th November
  • BB0837 : Back to Real8ty
    Wednesday 26th November
  • BB0838 : Ladies Invitation Day
    Thursday 4th December
  • BB0839 : Why Mungrisedale Common?
    Wednesday 10th December
  • BB0840 : Breast High in Bretherdale
    Wednesday 17th December


 The Comback Trail

  • CBT01 : Helm, direttissimo
    Monday 22nd September
  • CBT02 : Cunswick Fell and back in the dark!
    Monday 29th September



  • BskiB08 : Bootski Boys in the Sella Ronda  
    23rd February - 1st March


Click on the photos for an enlargement or related large picture.



To download a log of which Wainwrights have been done by which BOOTboy in the "modern" era, i.e. since the advent of BOOTboys click on Wainwrights

If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!



 BOOT boys