Force Crag Mine at the head of Coledale, above the village of Braithwaite near Keswick, is a now a Scheduled Monument and Site of Special Scientific Interest. At various times galena (lead), sphalerite (zinc), and barytes (barium) were mined from deep within the fellside below Grisedale Pike and Force Crag. Closing in 1990 after a roof collapse, the last mineral mine in the Lake District, it is now owned by the National Trust. The Trust opens the mine buildings a few times a year for guided tours.
Baryte was particularly sought after during the Second World War as it was used in the manufacture of explosives. Later it became useful as part of the "mud" lubricant for drill tips on oil rigs. Other uses include medical imaging.
At some point when you are in the valley look up to the headland of Scott Crag and Eel Crag. High on the slopes of scree Halifax JP182 crashed in January 1944 with the loss of two lives. It took some months to complete the recovery and some small bits of debris remain to this day.
This walk to the mine is a circular from Braithwaite along both sides of the valley. The outward journey is on a sometimes poorly defined path which could be a little boggy during wet conditions. It is also on a side-slope, a longer right leg may help here! The return is mostly on the wide and graded mine access track and finishes with a narrow footpath quite high above Coledale Beck.
Walk height profile
note that gradients are usually grossly exaggerated
Take the road signposted to "Newlands" from the centre of the village, cross the bridge over Coledale Beck to the village shop - which is open every day except Christmas day and sells bacon butties to passing walkers. Bear right into the 'dead-end' lane alongside the shop, not the one alongside the beck.
Follow this tarmac lane as it starts to climb and bears right. At the junction turn sharp left and continue climbing past the cottages on your right. Go through the gate at the end of the tarmac.
Continue on the rough lane. It passes a small covered reservoir and ends at the ruins of High Coledale. As the track turns right to the gate go straight ahead onto the grass, and bear slightly right to follow an initially faint path and then track in the grass close to the wall. Approaching the isolated tree, bear left slightly away from the wall, the path here is grass and reasonably clear to follow.
Traverse along the fell side. Sometimes the path is on grass with the occasional gravel patch, and soft wet sections. It never really climbs or drops down the slopes. It joins a higher path coming in from the left and continues along a line of sedge grass.
Approaching Birkthwaite Beck, maps show the path as continuing straight ahead and then drops down alongside the beck, without crossing it until the ford. However, it isn't clear and during wet conditions looks quite boggy. Instead follow the obvious path which crosses the boggy stream and bears left slightly to climb gently towards Birkthwaite Beck. Cross the beck and climb the bank. Cross the mossy patch and head for the track dropping down the fellside.
Bear right at the track, and at the junction turn right to drop down to the ford.
Cross the ford. In winter beware of ice on the stepping stones, an improvised crossing slightly upstream may allow you to keep dry feet. Climb up to the track and turn left to the mine.
Once you have explored the mine, return to Braithwaite on the gravel mine access track. Approaching the village, just beyond where the track clings to the side of a ghyll, bear off the track on to the way marked path dropping gently to the fence line. Turn left to follow the fence through the woods, and then to the Whinlatter road.
Turn right and continue along the road for 20m (22 yards). Turn sharply right onto a little path down to and across the wooden footbridge. Bear left into the village.
If you like this walk then why not try one of our other nearby walks:
|A Shorter Coledale Round||22m (24 yards) away|
|The Coledale Horseshoe||230m (253 yards) away|
|Grisedale Pike and Hopegill Head||456m (502 yards) away|
|Force Crag Mine||460m (506 yards) away|
|Words In The Woods||1.2km (0.8 miles) away|
|Whinlatter Forest - Heavy Sides Walk||1.2km (0.8 miles) away|
|Causey Pike and Scar Crag||1.9km (1.2 miles) away|
|Catbells and the Newlands valley||2.9km (1.8 miles) away|
|Catbells||2.9km (1.8 miles) away|
|Catbells, Maiden Moor, High Spy - A Half Newlands||2.9km (1.8 miles) away|
|Whinlatter||2.9km (1.8 miles) away|
|Barf, Lord's Seat, Ullister Hill and Seat How||3.1km (1.9 miles) away|
|Cumbria Way - Keswick to Caldbeck||3.5km (2.2 miles) away|
|The National Trust Centenary Stone from Keswick||3.5km (2.2 miles) away|
|A short walk to Friar's Crag from the Moot Hall, Keswick||3.5km (2.2 miles) away|
|Castlehead Viewpoint from the Moot Hall, Keswick||3.5km (2.2 miles) away|
|Around Derwent Water||3.5km (2.2 miles) away|
|The Old Keswick Railway Line and Latrigg||3.9km (2.4 miles) away|
|Robinson, Hindscarth and Dale Head - A Half Newlands||4.2km (2.6 miles) away|
|Robinson and Hindscarth from Little Town||4.2km (2.6 miles) away|
|Walla Crag and Bleaberry Fell from Great Wood||4.6km (2.8 miles) away|
|Walla Crag and the Great Wood||4.6km (2.8 miles) away|
|Skiddaw - Dodd||4.6km (2.9 miles) away|
|Ullock Pike, Longside Edge, Carl Side||4.6km (2.9 miles) away|
Unless otherwise stated the text in this walk is the copyright of Hug Solutions Ltd trading as The Hug and the photographs are the copyright of Elizabeth Oldham. Hill data is derived from Database of British and Irish hills which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Maps contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011 and paths © OpenStreetMap Contributors,CC-BY-SA, 2011