Millican Daltons Cave – a necessary Spring clean.

I appreciate that there are probably more important things going on in the world to get animated about just now than the condition of a cave half way up a hill in the Lake District; but animated and annoyed i am.

Millican Dalton managed to spend most of the summers for forty odd years living in what he called his “Cave Hotel” in Borrowdale. Moreover, bar some quotable graffiti on the walls, he always left the cave as he had found it when he retired back to warmer places for the Winter months.

As mentioned previously, i spent the Summer months of ‘92 living in the cave, and nowadays, whenever I am working in the valley, i try to pop up to the cave and sit a while on the verandah and soak in the view and the sounds. When i got to the cave this week it was apparent that an individual or individuals had taken it upon themselves to leave the cave in a mess. The back left of the cave had a very large tent broken on the floor and sleeping mats, food waste, food packaging, tent bag, gas canisters and rubbish was spread out around it. Along with a wheelbarrow.

In addition to the waste, the rocks have been removed from the cave floor along the left hand side, and piled against the wall, presumably to make the access easier for the wheelbarrow. Despite the National Trust “No Fires” sign above the cave entrance, the barrow had been used to collect wood from the ancient and protected woodlands around the cave. There are branches of live wood in there.

Removing the stones from the floor will only lead to water pooling in the cave. Somebody, perhaps the same person(s) has been reading too many survival magazines and has teied to carpet a few square metres of the cave floor with sphagnum moss, presumably to make a comfortable bed area. The moss, wherever it came from outside the cave, has died and, again, will just hold moisture in the back of what is usually a quite dry cave.

After I had made amd drank my coffee and reminisced about a simpler life, i set about tidying the mess up. I only had a very small penknife to try and cut the (already ruined) tent and poles in to smaller bits. I managed to get every stinking bit of the mess in to the wheelbarrow. The contents of the rubble bag were not very nice.

As i was with clients who had paid for a walk around Borrowdale (and not keen to push and pull a wheelbarrow to Rosthwaite), I left the wheelbarrow in situ with the intention to go back in the next few days. When the walk finished and i was heading back along the Derwent to Longthwaite YHA i bumped in to a shepherds wife from Stonethwaite who, upon hearing my story, said that her husband was after a new wheelbarrow, and that she would persuade him to “gan up and tek it out”. Hopefully that will happen over the next few days. If it doesn’t and anyone is up there in the next few days, maybe you would consider taking the wheelbarrow down to Rosthwaite and disposing of the contents properly (a large knife will enable you to cut the tent small enough so that it all fits in the wheelbarrow okay.

There is an excellent play running at Theatre by the Lake in Keswick at the moment about Millican Dalton, and also the (made in Hong Kong) products of a posh bag company that have used his name, adorn the windows of many a shop in Keswick, along with his distinctive silhouette. The legacy and intrigue of a man who eschewed the trappings of material life to live an environmentally conscious, low-impact and simple exiatence, seem, in a bizarre twist of logic, to attract folk to his cave to consume, litter and make a mess.

“Use is everything. We dress too much, we eat too much, almost everything we do is too much. Put a man to it and see what he can come up with” – Millican Dalton

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