The 'secret' Borrowdale Mill.
The old stone watermill tucked away in the Borrowdale Valley.
Tucked away in the Borrowdale Valley lies an old picturesque watermill. It was at one point considered a bit of a Lake District secret; hidden away from the nearby crowds in Keswick. In recent days, it has somewhat become a little more popular, especially amongst landscape photographers. However, on a quiet weekday morning, it’s still possible to have this beautiful location to yourself! If you find yourself here shooting with other photographers, it can be a little challenging trying to stay out of each others photographs but a bit of common courtesy and polite conversation will always save the day!
When To Shoot.
It’s not often I get to say this, but the Borrowdale Mill can work as an all year round location! Depending on the style you’re trying to achieve, it can also be shot at any time of the day. In the months of Autumn, the surrounding foliage explodes with stunning Autumnal colour and it comes as no surprise that this is when this location will see its heaviest footfall! At this time of year, the sun will rise behind the left side of the mill (if you’re stood in the same position as the image above) and will set way off to the right. The morning sunlight can really compliment the stunning colours but late evenings will really add a powerful sense of drama with the sun back lighting the scene; highlighting the bright green mosses. If you get your timing right, you can even catch a sunstar poking through the trees to your right! Winter is probably the quietest time to visit this location; the lack of foliage doesn't leave much to be desired but I have often wondered how this location would work after heavy snowfall/frozen!
Light Trickle at Borrowdale Mill.
A small cascade with a couple of fallen leaves scattered amongst the foreground rocks.
In terms of composition, you’re fairly limited here and you’ll more than likely be shooting an image that’s already been shot before, by someone else. That’s mainly because of the fact that this location only really works from one angle, in my opinion anyway. You’ll want to position yourself close enough to the mill so that you can make it a prominent subject and you’l certainly be needing your wide angle lens!
There’s a stream that runs past the watermill (obviously) and there’s quite a bit of foreground interest to work with; various moss covered rocks, pebbles etc. The foreground elements will change with the varying water levels. Being a watermill, it sort of makes sense that high water levels will go well at this location. However, when the water levels are low, you’ll find trickling cascades that can offer a more gentle feel to your image. What works best is all down to personal preference but the water levels are definitely something to be factored into consideration when visualising the type of image you’re wanting from here.
The final tip I have for this location is another one on composition; in particular, framing. If you’re shooting in a portrait orientation and you’re using a wide focal length; positioning the mill towards the top of your frame (as opposed to the middle) will make the subject appear bigger. This will help make the mill look dominant in your frame! If you’re shooting in a horizontal orientation, just pay attention to the branches and tree on the left side of the structure. Again, I think this comes down to personal preference as to you deciding if you want to use the branches for framing or not. There’s nothing worse than processing an image and finding something in one of your corners that wasn’t intentional. Also, there are two wires that run through the trees to the mill. I've left them on the top image if you look closely enough but I'm afraid the only way out of this is the beloved clone tool in photoshop.
Autumn at Borrowdale Mill.
Beautiful Autumn colours and bright green mosses at the Borrowdale Mill.
how to get here
Nearest postcode for car park: CA12 5XN
As mentioned previously, The Borrowdale Mill is tucked away and can be quite tricky to find. You'll find this 'secret' location at Coombe Gill, between Rosthwaite and Seatoller in Borrowdale, Keswick. There is a fairly decent sized National Trust car park behind Seatoller Farm which I would recommend using as a good starting point. From the car park, you'll want to take a left back onto the B5289 and walk in the direction of Keswick. After around 10 minutes walking time, you'll come to two blocks of white cottages on your left hand side. A little further around the left bend in the road (after you've past the cottages) you'll find a wooden gate on your right. Ignore this gate and take the next one which you'll find a few yards further up the road. Once through the gate, there are some faint tyre markings which will bend right towards a stone wall. Follow this path, keeping to the left side of the wall. Eventually, you'll walk past a stone structure which i think used to be an old power house. You'll then briefly walk through a small wooded area, followed by walking over the bridge which crosses Coombe Gill. Follow the path to your right and you will very shortly find yourself at the Borrowdale Mill!