Country walk around Haweswater reservoir

A view from the Haweswater reservoir walk

Mardale Beck

A view from the Haweswater reservoir walk

A view from the Haweswater reservoir walk

A view from the Haweswater reservoir walk

A view from the Haweswater reservoir walk

First published in Walks

VICTORIA ELLIS puts on her boots for this week’s walk after man flu fells this column’s usual incumbent.

IT SEEMS likely that the prospect of minding cats, chickens and a house in the Lake District brought on a severe bout of man flu for George Wilkinson. Also, he complained that he hadn’t read Haweswater, the novel by Sarah Hall that had inspired me to walk around the reservoir of this name.

I suppose the construction of all reservoirs leave a drowned story, but this one seems particularly intimate, to me and to the critics, and it is a grand landscape.

I already knew something about the lost village of Mardale and the flooding of one of the most picturesque valleys in Westmorland.

The novel connects with the fate of the residents who were few in number and mostly tenant farmers. They were not generously treated. It took an Act of Parliament to enable the reservoir and Manchester Corporation flooded the valley in 1935. These days it supplies water to the north west.

A lot of people who drink the water come to walk round Haweswater, and so to avoid the mid-August rush I arrived in good time at Burnbanks, a village of iron-framed houses built near the dam for the workers.

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I think the fact that I was the only visitor had something to do with the remnants of hurricane Bertha blowing over. My day was quiet, except for the Lakes’ weather of wind and rain, with the sun dancing over the high fells and catching the crags and streams and sometimes sparkling on the reservoir.

Here we have ‘Catchment Friendly Farming’ which is the planting of woodland, the control of sheep and the restoring of bogs; which sounds sensible, but new trees should leave sight lines for the views.

At the head of the reservoir is a small car park. At this end you can see field walls running into the water and, when there is a drought, more of the demolished and drowned village Nearby, near Eagle Crag, is a bird hide, for the viewing of England’s only resident golden eagle, a male who has been here since 2001. Apparently, from by his sky dancing this year, he needs a female.

The permissive footpath down the east shore of the reservoir was closed, not that I minded on the day and happily took the dead-end road, the wet wind behind me and hardly a car. And, halfway back, the walker friendly Haweswater Hotel served up a welcome cup of tea. The rest was rain, torrential rain.

When I phoned George to report my adventure, he seemed only concerned that I hadn’t photographed the golden eagle and offered me high altitude grid references so I could have another go, and added that he had recovered and was off on his bike.

Later, when I offered him my paperback copy of Haweswater, he declined and said he was with the people of Manchester on this one.


Directions

When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed. (wm=waymark).

1. From Burnbanks (Model Settlement info board), private road uphill (fp Fellside Track etc.), 200 yards, gates into wood and track right and uphill, gates out and left to fellside track. Track becomes path after about a mile from Bampton Common info board. Fords, footbridges, ignore side paths and gates to reservoir grounds.

2. Stone footbridge at waterfalls and immediately fork left, gates and footbridges. Path uphill via copse above end of reservoir, turn right downhill before conifer woods.

3. Left at wall corner (fp), 100 yards, gate to car park. Dead-end road. Left at triangular junction (Burnbanks sign)


Fact File

Distance: Ten miles. Car parking: At Burnbanks.

Right of way: Public.

Date walked: August 2014.

Tourist information: Penrith 01768 867466.

Refreshments: Haweswater Hotel.

Map: OS Explorer OL5 The English Lakes north-eastern area. Difficulty: Moderate.

Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.

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