After months of research, planning and designing the fabrication of the new ladder for what is probably the quirkiest landmark in the Lake District has began.  

The Bowder Stone is a large andesite lava boulder believed to have fallen 200 metres from the Bowder Crag on King How between 10,000 and 13,500 years ago.   Established as a tourist attraction by the eccentric wealthy off-comer Joseph Pocklington in 1798, it has been in the care of The National Trust since 1910.

As the old wooden ladder reached the end of its lifespan, the National Trust’s curator, Harvey Wilkinson has worked with the World Heritage Site Partnership and Chris to create a new design that will echo the ‘airy’ ladders of previous centuries, whilst still being stable and secure. 

Chris is thrilled to be involved with the project which involves the design, build and installation of the iconic ladder, “I think most of us from this part of the world can say we know of the Bowder Ladder and it’s definitely up there as being one of the most unusual projects we’ve worked on.  My design aims to bring some more excitement to the experience of getting on to the stone, the previous wooden ladders became very chunky and visually overpowered the stone so we have come up with a lighter more open feel to the piece which creates more exposure to the users, they are still safe though!! The lighter look also makes the stone more prominent and less like it is being propped up by the ladder”.

Chris has taken further inspiration from the composition and finer detail of the stone itself, “The balustrade is based on the fracture lines running through the stone and surrounding quarries and crags from which the stone would have originated from - the Bowder Stone is in essence a fractured piece of rock itself.  These natural fracture lines when looked at in detail are very architectural and when extracted as something three dimensional lend themselves to being used within the balustrades.  Another detail, intended to make the balustrade less conventional and add to the users experience, is the change in heights and direction of the handrail so although maintaining a continuous rail the user feels the fractures in the structure and hopefully the raw rugged nature on the Bowder Stone”.

Feedback was also incorporated from the local climbing community who like to warm up their muscles using the steps, Chris adds, “I have designed a subtle detail in to the treads - a smooth area for the climbers who use the stone for bouldering to hang from, so that they can warm up before venturing on the stone, this has been a bit of a tradition with the climbers that we wanted to maintain”.

The finished ladder is 9 metres long, weighing 1.85 tons, with a total of 30 treads; made from galvanised steel with a patinated lacquer to give a mottled grey appearance. Chris and his team will be installing the finished design in one piece in June (with the help of some wheels on it and a Land Rover to tow it up the track to its final position with the stone).

Watch interview with Chris and the ladder in fabrication aired on ITV Border 25 April 2019.  Watch again via the link below.