Borrowdale Hidden Water Mill

Borrowdale Hidden Water Mill (Persistence Pays)

Our landscape photographer gets lucky on his second visit to the hidden mill.
By Paul Thomson – subscribe to Paul’s YouTube channel

For a landscape photographer, I live a charmed life. My home is close to the Lake District on one side and the North Pennines on the other. So, I have no shortage of landscape subjects all around me.

I knew of an old mill, tucked away in the Borrowdale valley in the Lake District. I’m sure I’m not the only photographer who knows the location, but on the other hand, it’s not that popular yet.

So, I’ll show the mill, but not tell you exactly how to get there. I’ll leave that challenge to you.

Landscape Photographers Need to be Persistent

Sometimes I think studio photographers have it lucky. They control the lighting and the backdrop and they never have to worry about the weather.

And as I found out, they don’t have to worry about water levels either.

The first visit to the old mill wasn’t too successful. It hadn’t rained in ages, and water levels were low. I got some shots, which are nice enough, which you’ll see in the video, but I knew they could be better.

I think that with a mill as a subject, you want to see a bit more running water. It just makes sense to me.

The secret mill on the first visit

Photographing Two Weeks Later Was Much Better

I wasn’t ready to give up on the hidden mill, so I waited. The rain came, and two weeks later I was back, this time with much more water running in the stream.

The moss on the rocks was neon green, the light was reasonable (I ended up combining two images) and the dark stone and wheel of the old mill spoke to years of hard work. I was much more satisfied with the results the second time.

The second visit to the mill – more water in the stream

Why Photograph in the Borrowdale Valley?

There are so many fantastic locations to photograph in the Lake District. You’ll find compositions every time you turn around.

I’ve photographed many of them. But I can’t ignore Borrowdale. It’s just 45 minutes from my house and offers so much in a small area.

Borrowdale is easily accessible and has many different opportunities for images: from lakeside classics like the famous pier shot on Derwent Water to the iconic Ashness Bridge and then on to Surprise View for an awesome vista.

Ashness Bridge captures the essence of the valley

Carrying on along Derwent Water you reach Lodore Falls which is a spectacular waterfall situated just behind the hotel.

A bit further up the valley and out of the way of the main road is the hidden mill which is just the most beautiful old building.

Lodore Falls – not the biggest falls, but full of character

My Two Favourite Borrowdale Locations

  • Lodore Falls as I feel this location has so much to offer and is often overlooked as a photo location. With beautiful, lush, green mosses and crystal clear water when the water is running well, I don’t think it can be beaten. I find the more intimate shots work best here and not so much the overall “hero shot”.
  • The Hidden Mill is just stunning with lush, green mosses and clear water although it does need a lot of water in the stream to make the shot work. Ideally, the water needs to be high enough to use as foreground interest with a slow shutter speed to give leading lines and motion in the shot. And although I haven’t been when the autumn foliage is out, I think it will take the images to a whole new level.
The Borrowdale lone tree among the boulders

Best Time to Photograph Borrowdale Valley

Keep in mind that summer in Borrowdale valley can extremely busy. It’s peak season for tourism in the area. But even with that, if you are out and about early enough, you should be fine.

During the winter months it is nowhere near as busy so getting around is much easier.

For me, I enjoy the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. Spring rains mean plenty of water running and fresh green foliage, while the fall gives you the blazes of orange and red.

Parking in Borrowdale Valley

You’ll find parking in various spots throughout Borrowdale Valley. Just remember that most, if not all of the parking is controlled by the national park so be prepared to pay around £5 for parking at most locations.

My Current Equipment List

Below is a list of equipment I use for my photography:

  • Sony A7rii
  • Canon 17 – 40 mm L lens
  • Sony 28 – 70 mm lens
  • Breakthrough Photography Magnetic Filter holder
  • Breakthrough Photography x4 6 stop dark CPL
  • Breakthrough Photography x4 CPL
  • Vanguard Sedona Wanderlust Camera Backpack
  • 3LT Travis Tripod

Paul Thomson

Paul is a Cumbrian-based photographer living in Castle Carrock.

He has always had a love for the outdoors and is fortunate to be surrounded by the spectacular landscapes of the Lake District and the North Pennines. Paul’s goal is to capture these beautiful locations and share the magic of the area with everyone.

Paul is a Vanguard UK Ambassador and Breakthrough Photography Filters Ambassador. He has been published in Practical Photography Magazine as well as others.

Paul Thomson

Paul is a Cumbrian-based photographer living in Castle Carrock.

He has always had a love for the outdoors and is fortunate to be surrounded by the spectacular landscapes of the Lake District and the North Pennines. Paul’s goal is to capture these beautiful locations and share the magic of the area with everyone.

Paul is a Vanguard UK Ambassador and Breakthrough Photography Filters Ambassador. He has been published in Practical Photography Magazine as well as others.

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