Haweswater

Haweswater is one of the wilder valleys in the Lakes with the road along the reservoir ending in a small car park amidst towering rocky peaks. There are no facilities other than a smart looking hotel half way along the reservoir, but for me that is part of the charm and it’s one of my favourite valleys.

The reservoir was created in 1935 when the old village of Mardale Green was flooded to provide the inhabitants of Manchester with water. Today the water level was low enough to see the stone walls of the old village, an eerie reminder of the lives changed forever by the building of the dam.

It was raining and misty when I arrived but it was forecast to improve and anyway, I don’t mind rain and mist. I was trying out my new summer Paramo jacket, so a bit of rain was good. The jacket is a windproof by itself but is allegedly fully waterproof if you wear a certain Paramo fleece under it. My brother has made the comment that anything is waterproof if you wear a sponge under it, but I will see how it does…..

My first hill was High Street and I was keen to try out a new route via Rough Crag which looked interesting on the map. I was not disappointed, with a narrow twisting path, some easy rocky steps and only sheep and skylarks for company. I was soon at the top of High Street in thick mist and complete solitude.

In fact I saw no-one until Nan Bield Pass where I met two men who had walked up from Kentmere and I stopped to have a long chat with them. The effect of solitude in the mountains is such that you feel inclined to say hello to everyone you meet and stop to chat with the friendlier ones. I have been known to walk for hours with complete strangers, never to see them again and never to even know their name.

I continued over Harter Fell, down to Gatesgarth Pass and up to Branstree. The mist had cleared by now and navigation was easier. I stopped half way up Branstree to help a sheep who had its horns caught in a fence. We both struggled for a while but it was freed in the end and it ran off, no doubt to do exactly the same thing again tomorrow.

From Branstree I headed east across wild and pathless country down to Mosedale. It was here last October that I saw the first wild deer I had seen in the Lakes for years and I was curious to see if they were still there. I rounded a corner and there were the deer, less than 20 metres away, eating grass and unaware of my presence.  I watched them for about 10 minutes before one of them turned and saw me and they all ran.

I returned to Haweswater via Swindale and the Old Corpse Road, so called because it was used to transport the dead from the village of Mardale, where there was no burial ground, to Shap. The last body was carried out in 1736 when Mardale was given its own burial ground. Ironically enough, when the reservoir was built in 1935 the bodies had to be removed from the burial ground at Mardale and taken to Shap to be reburied, but presumably not via the Old Corpse Road.

I drove back that evening at peace with the world. Next week I can get my tent out again and finally go home. Where shall I go?

Published by alpinejane

Explorer, hill walker, mountaineer, climber, backpacker, scrambler, fell runner and lover of wild places

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