The new ladder allows access to the top of the Bowder Stone. Photo: National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The new ladder allows access to the top of the Bowder Stone. Photo: National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

One of the Lake District’s strangest attractions will be back in action with the official opening of a newly installed ascent route.

A new metal ladder allows visitors a ‘bird’s nest view’ from the top of the Bowder Stone in Borrowdale.

The original ladder to the top of the huge boulder was described by its eccentric owner as a ‘gravity-defying’ tourist attraction in the 18th century.

Present owner the National Trust has installed a new metal ladder to the top of the 9m-high stone, which is believed to have been dislodged from the fell above during the last ice age. It is estimated to weigh 1,253 tonnes and is said to resemble, from certain angles, a ship’s keel.

The Bowder Stone became a famous stop-off for thrill-seeking Victorians after a flimsy wooden ladder was first installed by eccentric local landowner Joseph Pocklington in 1798.

Such was the fame of the giant boulder that John Atkinson Grimshaw, today recognised as one of the era’s most popular artists, painted it at some point between 1863 and 1868, standing prominently in the valley.

A Victorian postcard of the Bowder Stone. Image: National Trust

A Victorian postcard of the Bowder Stone. Image: National Trust

Two hundred years on, it is partially hidden by woodland which has grown around it.

National Trust curator Harvey Wilkinson said: “This is about restoring the excitement of a visit to one of the strangest and at one time, the most famous Lake District attraction.

“The Bowder Stone is a powerful reminder of change in the landscape, viewed through the eyes of the painters, poets and writers who portrayed it. In that sense it is something of a time machine, revealing changes in its setting, and also in peoples’ perception over time.

“The once visible landmark is now very much a hidden treasure, part of the evolving story of this landscape,”

The National Trust bought the Bowder Stone in 1910, as part of the purchase of 310 acres of Grange Fell and Borrowdale Birches. It has been in the care of the conservation charity since then.

Jessie Binns, National Trust visitor experience and engagement manager, said: “When the Victorians stood on the top of the stone they would have been able to clearly see the high and central fells.

Workers lift the new ladder into place. Photo: John Malley

Workers lift the new ladder into place. Photo: John Malley

“However, today’s visitor will instead find themselves surrounded by tree tops, mostly birch and oak. And, depending on the time of the year, they may also see and hear woodpeckers, tawny owls and large dragonflies like the spectacular golden-ringed dragonfly hunting for insects in the tree canopy.”

The new ladder will be officially opened at 10.30am on Monday. The Bowder Stone lies in woodland south of the Grange turn-off in Borrowdale, with parking a few hundred metres to the North.

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