Sprinkling Tarn wild camp

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Climbing up to the popular wild camping spot of Sprinkling Tarn from Seathwaite Farm in Borrowdale

Sprinkling Tarn on Seathwaite Fell

Sprinkling Tarn is a very popular wild camping spot which I have made use of a number of times. The picturesque, irregular-shaped tarn is surrounded by numerous places where its possible to pitch a tent. Its also useful as a backup should Plan A not turn out to be feasible, something I found out on this night out.

Into the fells from Seathwaite Farm

The weather forecast was a bit inconclusive but I thought I’d chance it and camp out somewhere. I wasn’t exactly sure where so Seathwaite Farm in the upper reaches of Borrowdale seemed like a good place to start as the options from there are numerous.

Having left my car on the road leading to the farm, I walked through the farmyard and through the gate leading onto the track towards the head of Borrowdale.

wooden gate across track from seathwaite farm leading towards seathwaite fell under cloudy skies
The start of the track at Seathwaite Farm

A mile up the track I crossed over Stockley Bridge and turned left up the valley of Grains. The sun kept on peeking out from behind clouds and when it did it was very warm. As it was late afternoon this route would give me the most shade.

I needn’t have worried though as the higher I got the greater the cloud cover was. Eventually the crags of Great End popped into view too meaning I was approaching the top of the first climb.

great end crag seen from the paved footpath leading up through ruddy gill
Great End from path at the foot of Ruddy Gill

Emerging from the top of Ruddy Gill, the ravine at the head of Grains, the wind picked up considerably. Which way to go?

Looking down towards Sprinkling Tarn I couldn’t see any tents but there probably would be some there even though it was midweek. There normally are during the summer.

sprinkling tarn from footpath at head of ruddy gill at dusk
Sprinkling Tarn from the head of Ruddy Gill

Instead I decided to turn left and head up to Esk Hause as I had plenty of time before sundown. Reaching the upper part of the pass I got a glimpse of what the weather looked like out to the west.

stone cairn at esk hause under dark foreboding skies at dusk
Looking west from a cairn at Esk Hause

And the answer was not very good! Obviously the wind can’t be seen in the photo but it was also quite gusty. That and the complete cloud cover helped make my mind up: I’d retreat back down to Sprinkling Tarn. It had been quite a few years since my last camp there so it’d be good to have a refresher.

Camping at Sprinkling Tarn

Having backtracked to the junction at the top of Ruddy Gill, I carried straight on and down to Sprinkling Tarn. There were three other tents already there but as it was very late in the day I was pretty confident that’s all there would be. It was midweek in the summer so thats not a bad result. At weekends in summer I’ve seen well over ten tents here before.

There are so many places to pitch a tent here, some pitches on the shore of the tarn, some nearer the summit of Seathwaite Fell to the north. As there were no tents on the grass between the main footpath and the tarn itself I made the easy decision to camp there.

terra nova tent pitched at sprinkling tarn at dusk
My tent overlooking the tarn

Tent pitched, I had time for a bit of a wander as dusk set in.

dusk over sprinkling tarn on seathwaite fell in summer
Dusk over Sprinkling Tarn

There had been a very dry spell recently so the tarn’s outlet flowing down to Styhead Tarn was very dry.

dusk over dry stream bed outlet of sprinkling tarn at blue hour
Bone dry outlet of the tarn
great gable and green gable silhouetted at sunset from shore of calm sprinkling tarn
Great Gable and Green Gable seen from the tarn

With the last of the light disappearing just after 10pm, it was time for a bit of sleep. And I knew it would only be a bit of sleep as dawn is very early at this time of year.

The night turned out to be very peaceful so maybe I could have got away with camping further up? Sod’s Law dictates that had I stayed up above Esk Hause a storm would have rolled in though so I wasn’t too disappointed.

As it was, I did manage to get some sleep and woke up at the first sign of light. And by 4am my tent was packed up so that it wouldn’t get in the way of any photos.

crescent moon in salmon coloured dawn sky over sprinkling tarn with camping gear
My kit all packed away

I wanted a decent view of the tarn under dawn skies so clambered up the slope leading to the foot of Great End Crag. While wandering I took a series of photos as the skies got lighter.

seathwaite fell and sprinkling tarn at dawn under red skies
Pre-dawn over the tarn
sheep grazing amongst boulders on the slope above sprinkling tarn
Early rising sheep above the tarn

Eventually, hunger got the better of me so I perched myself on a rock and had some breakfast. It was all the more tasty given that view.

Return back to Seathwaite Farm

It was barely 5am when I returned to the tarn shore and where I’d camped. I’d already packed everything up so after a quick scoot round to make sure I’d left nothing behind I set off back.

The downhill route back into Borrowdale first leads down to Styhead Pass and follows the beck flowing into Styhead Tarn.

great gable and green gable in profile from the footpath linking sprinkling tarn and styhead pass
The Gables from the footpath to Styhead Pass

It was getting warm quickly so I was grateful that Styhead Pass was still in shade and relatively cool. Time was on my side so I took plenty of breaks, the first being at the stretcher box at the top of Styhead Pass.

lingmell seen from metal stretcher box on styhead pass at dawn
Lingmell seen from the Stretcher Box on Styhead Pass

There were a few tents beside Styhead Tarn but there was no movement so I tiptoed past following Styhead Beck down into Borrowdale.

Following the beck of Styhead Gill I was soon out of the shade as the sun rose very quickly. Even though it was only 6am it was getting hot quickly. Time for another break by the stream.

rock bed of styhead gill stream flowing down towards borrowdale
Styhead Gill flowing down into Borrowdale

It was soon after this point that I met the first walkers of the day. They’d probably be grateful for starting so early while it was relatively cool.

At the foot of the descent I eventually joined the outward leg of my walk at Stockley Bridge. You guessed it: time for another break!

a very low stockley beck flowing under stockley bridge
A very low Stockley Beck and Stockley Bridge

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so little water in Grains Gill flowing under this footbridge. The stream was barely a trickle!

And then there was just the track to follow back to Seathwaite Farm. The straightforward mile-long walk was punctuated with greetings and brief chats with early risers heading into the fells. Oh, and one more stop for a photo near the farm.

track leading from seathwaite farm towards distant seathwaite fell under blue sky with valley in shade
Looking back up the track towards Seathwaite Fell

The valley was still mercifully in shade thanks to the early hour.

And that was that: another night out at Sprinkling Tarn but the first that I’ve written about. I’ll probably camp out there again, as will pretty much everyone else who goes wild camping!

My pictures from this area of the Lakes are all in my Scafell Pike and Borrowdale photo galleries.

Sprinkling Tarn wild camp was last modified: August 17th, 2023 by Gavin Dronfield

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3 comments on “Sprinkling Tarn wild camp”

  1. Hi me and a few buddy’s are hoping to go wild camping in the summer. Do you recommend this camp for beginners?

    1. Hi Lucy. It depends on where you start from and how quickly you walk! The shortest walk is from the farm at Seathwaite and it would take me just over an hour to get there with no messing around. If I allowed for two hours I’d be able to take my time and have a few breaks. I hope that helps.

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