Ennerdale Water

Dramaticus Prospectus

It is getting much colder in Cumbria as autumn begins to make way for winter. There is already a slight sprinkling of snow on some of the mountain tops. Soon, there will be much more.

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.

John Ruskin

Ruskin is wholly correct – the key to tackling weather is how you respond to it. I’ll admit, I’m not keen on bracing wind as it can cut straight through you on a winters day. But anything else – bring it on. Rain, Hail, Snow, Sunshine – it’s all good. Wrap up well; be dry on the inside, and enjoy the exhilarance of the countryside.

Whenever I visit Ennerdale Water, the steep mountains; the dramatic sky; the stunning lake; the tranquillity – the combination impresses me without fail, and brings about invigorated exuberance and thanksgiving to the lord above for his kindness in forging a truly natural wonder.

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Ennerdale Water
Ennerdale

The fleeting hour of life of those who love the hills is quickly spent, but the hills are eternal. Always there will be the lonely ridge, the dancing beck, the silent forest; always there will be the exhilaration of the summits. These are for the seeking, and those who seek and find while there is still time will be blessed both in mind and body.

Alfred Wainwright
Hawthorn Tree

Hawthorn Tree

This Hawthorn Tree, standing alone in the coast to coast valley of St Bees in West Cumbria almost looks like a Japanese Bonsai tree which has been carefully nurtured to mimic the size of a full sized tree.

A tilt shift depth of field, blurring effect, has been applied to the image, which has resulted in the slightly unusual, miniaturised view.

Crataegus, commonly called hawthorn, quickthorn, thornapple, May-tree, whitethorn, or hawberry, is a large genus of shrubs and trees in the family Rosaceae, native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in Europe, Asia and North America.

Hawthorns provide food and shelter for many species of birds and mammals, and the flowers are important for many nectar-feeding insects. Hawthorns are also used as food plants by the larvae of a large number of Lepidoptera species, such as the small eggar moth, E. lanestris. Haws are important for wildlife in winter, particularly thrushes and waxwings; these birds eat the haws and disperse the seeds in their droppings.

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Hawthorn Tree
Hawthorn Tree
Crummock Water

Crummock Water

Crummock Water is a lake in the Lake District in Cumbria, North West England situated between Buttermere to the south and Loweswater to the north. Crummock Water is 2.5 miles long, 0.75 mile wide and 140 feet deep.

The hill of Mellbreak runs the full length of the lake on its western side; as Alfred Wainwright described it “no pairing of hill and lake in Lakeland have a closer partnership than these”.

The meaning of ‘Crummock’ seems to be Crooked one. This may refer to the winding course of the River Cocker, which flows out of the lake, or refer to the bending nature of the lake itself.

The steep slopes of Melbreak look down on Crummock Water’s western shore. There are low level walks around the lake, but to view it in all its glory, climb the slopes of Rannerdale Knotts to its summit (1160 feet).

Crummock Water is owned by the National Trust and, due to its less accessible location, it remains a quiet, peaceful spot. This tranquillity is preserved by a ban on water-sports, and although small boats are permitted they must be carried to the shore by hand.

Crummock Water is around twice as long as Buttermere and much deeper, and it is very easy to spend an entire day soaking up Crummock Water’s beauty by simply relaxing on the shores. However, most visitors who come here do so in order to walk the surrounding fells, which include, on the western shore, the impressive Red Pike; the eastern shore rises sharply to the summit of Grasmoor.

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Crummock Water
Crummock Water
Nannycatch Skull

Nannycatch: Skull On A Fell

With Halloween around the corner, I thought I would share with you a photo of a sheep’s sun-bleached skull that I found on the fell-side, at Nannycatch (near Cleator Moor) in West Cumbria. Morbid, I know ☠️

Nannycatch is an interesting, and intriguing place name. The English Dialect Dictionary claims that Nanny means to catch an apparition – a mischievous sprite, or fairy. An old children’s playground rhyme goes,

“The moon shines bright, the stars give light, and little Nanny Button Cap will come tomorrow night.”

  • Nanny Button Cap was a fairy.
  • According to the author Ceasar Caine, There used to be a house in the Cleator Moor area called, Nannycatch House. It was probably a farm house.
  • If you’d like to hypothesise on the meaning of Nannycatch, please add your comment below.

The Nannycatch valley is quite a striking place, with a meandering stream. Alfred Wainwright waxed lyrical about walking in the area, and included a section about Nannycatch in his coast to coast book.

I’ve walked in the area numerous times, and perhaps I’ll share a photo or two with you in the not too distant future. It is a scenic walk, and probably doesn’t look too different to what it was, thousands of years ago. It is something to savour.

As a point of interest, in 2007 a local author called Lee Cox, published the book, The Witch Of Nannycatch (no affiliate link). I believe the book is now out of print, but if you are interested, there are second hand copies out there on the web.

In one Amazon review, the book was described as:

Set in the heart of West Cumbria, this book is an enthralling read with an ingenious plot. Bittersweet in parts, it kept me guessing right to the end what the outcome would be. A very good read.

When black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam, may luck be yours on Halloween…

  • Halloween or Hallowe’en (a contraction of Hallows’ Evening), also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is a celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It begins the three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.

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Nannycatch Skull
The Skull Is Natures Sculpture
River Liza, Ennerdale

The River Liza

I could sit for hours upon hours at the side of the River Liza. The roaring water; the nature; the tranquillity – they all add up to something special.

The meandering River Liza, flows through the wonderfully remote Ennerdale Valley. The river spawns Trout, Salmon, Charr, among others. The name of the Liza derives from old Norse, conferring a meaning of “light (or shining) river”.

River Liza, a unique river in England which is dynamic, wilful and free to shift its course – something it often does in response to heavy rainfall. Here you’ll find England’s only migratory population of Arctic char. This fish dates back to the Ice Age and is now marooned in only a handful of the UK’s deepest and coldest lakes.

The river is subject to the Wild Ennerdale Project which aims to introduce more wildlife to the Ennerdale Valley. The Wild Ennerdale Project uses a policy similar to managed retreat which means the river is subject to no human interference or maintenance such as dredging, straightening or even flood defences.

The aims of the project is conservation and protection of natural heritage.

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River Liza, Ennerdale
River Liza, Ennerdale
Devoke Water

Bronze Age Devoke Water

I’ve previously shared with you a photo of Devoke Water, and I thought I would share another with you. The tarn (a lake on a mountain) is off the beaten track, but is a wonder to behold, with much history.

Devoke Water can be reached via a bridle track from the fell road, off Birker Fell, in West Cumbria. There is a two-storey stone boathouse/refuge and a ruined stable. Devoke Water has an outlet in the northwest, via Black Beck, which, after a short distance, plunges over rocks down a 26ft cascade, towards the River Esk.

One of the chapters of Alfred Wainwright’s The Outlying Fells of Lakeland is a circular walk anticlockwise around Devoke Water, starting and finishing on the road to the east. He describes the summits Rough Crag at 1,049 feet (320 m), Water Crag at 997 feet (304 m), White Pike at 1,370 feet (420 m), Yoadcastle at 1,610 feet (490 m), Woodend Height at 1,597 feet (487 m) and Seat How at 1,020 feet (310 m), and notes that White Pike has a “splendid columnar cairn” and a view to Muncaster Castle.

The Cumbrian uplands comprise large areas of remote mountainous terrain, much of which is largely open fellside. On the open fells there is sufficient well preserved and understood evidence over extensive areas for human exploitation of these uplands from the Neolithic to the post- medieval period. On the enclosed land and within forestry the archaeological remains are fragmentary, but they survive sufficiently well to show that human activity extended beyond the confines of the open fells. Bronze Age activity accounts for the most extensive use of the area, and evidence for it includes some of the largest and best preserved field systems and cairn fields in England, as well as settlement sites, numerous burial monuments, stone circles and other ceremonial remains. 

Just west of Devoke Water, on Birkby Fell is a prehistoric cairnfield, hut circle settlement, field system, funerary cairn, and a medieval shieling.

They are located on a prominent low rise on Birkby Fell to the west of Devoke Water and represents evidence of the Bronze Age and medieval exploitation of this landscape. The prehistoric cairnfield is centred at approximately SD15029690 and includes over 140 circular and oval-shaped clearance cairns up to 0.7m high. The circular cairns measure between 1m to 7.8m in diameter while the oval-shaped cairns measure between 4.3m to 13m long by 2.2m to 8m wide.

Towards the south eastern end of the cairnfield, overlooking the western shore of Devoke Water, are the remains of the three stone hut cirles which collectively form the hut circle settlement. The southern of the three is built against a stone bank or wall and has an entrance in its eastern side, the western hut circle has an entrance in its north eastern side, whilst the entrance to the eastern hut circle is currently masked by tumble. A field system associated with the cairnfield and hut circle settlement is centred at approximately SD15039688 and consists of numerous short lengths of stone banking or wall and a number of cairn alignments which are interpreted as representing the line of old field boundaries in which sporadic patches of stone clearance were piled against a fence or hedge.

At SD15129689, at the highest point of the monument, there is a prehistoric funerary cairn measuring 14.7m in diameter and 0.9m high. The cairn is visible from a considerable distance and is defined by a stone kerb around its edge, but it has suffered minor disturbance by having a small modern shelter erected at its centre.

Medieval use of this area is attested by the remains of a shieling centred at SD15189694. It consists of the lower courses of a single-roomed stone-walled rectangular structure measuring approximately 12m long by 7m wide with an entrance at the centre of its western side. Pollen cores taken from the sediments of nearby Devoke Water have revealed the changing vegetational history of this area over the last 5000 years and show episodes of forest clearance and a development of grassland during the prehistoric period. During one of these episodes most trees were cut down and were soon replaced by extensive grassland. The clearance is associated with the Bronze Age.

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Devoke Water
Devoke Water
Cogra Moss

Cogra Moss

Cogra Moss is a wonderful enclosed forest surrounding a reservoir which is now used by the Cockermouth Angling Association. The walk up to the dam is along surfaced tracks. Beyond the dam a number of unsurfaced paths provide the visitor great access around the reservoir in a loop.

For the more adventurous the walk up onto the top of Blake fell is strenuous but provides fantastic views of the northern lake district fells, Scotland, the Solway Coast and Isle of Man.

Cogra Moss is an artificial water retained by a substantial dam across Rakegill Beck, created as a reservoir about 1880, and discontinued as a public water supply in 1975. It has a pleasant setting surrounded on three sides by Forestry Commission planting on Lamplugh Fell and Knock Murton.

Cogra Moss provides an opportunity to fly fish for trout from the bank and natural islands. There are a variety of lies, including gravel and stony beds, sand banks, shallow bays and deeper channels. Waders are recommended. There is a well-established Brown Trout population. Rainbow Trout are stocked monthly throughout the season. A permit is required for fishing on the reservoir, for details click here.

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Cogra Moss
Geese on Cogra Moss, with Blake Fell in the background
Braystones Memorial Tower

Braystones Memorial Tower

The Braystones Memorial tower was erected 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee. A First World War memorial was added in 1920.

The original commemorative tablet records the names of local worthies present at its unveiling (June 1897); another tablet records the names of those men of Braystone who served in the Great War. Braystone Tower is a prominent landmark from both the countryside around and the sea.

It is of sandstone rubble construction with roughly dressed quoins and tooled dressings. The tower was formerly floored though it has now been gutted internally and has three stages with a battlemented parapet and corner turret.

The tower is located on a distinct rise, which is possibly a medieval motte, on the south bank of a meander of the Rive Ehen, to the east of Braystones village. It overlooks the agricultural land of the River Ehen floodplain area to the south and east of the tower, with Home Farm also to the south.

The form of the tower and its position on a distinct rise in relation to the adjoining low-lying floodplain ensures that it is a prominent landmark locally and can be seen from the area surrounding the floodplain and on the approach from Beckermet.

This local prominence reflects its origins as a memorial tower. As it originally had floors, it is presumed that there was ready access to the upper parts of the tower and it may have served as a viewpoint, though this is no longer the case.

The tower was built by local squire William Henry Watson to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Watson had inherited his wealth from his father, William Hough Watson, who invented Sunlight Soap, the world’s first packaged, branded laundry soap.

Following its opening in 1897 an annual sports day was held at the tower each year on Empire Day, May 24, and in subsequent years, Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling competitions were also held there.

The 1920 war memorial commemorates ten local men who died in the First World War. It also honours local soldier Harry Christian, recipient of a Victoria Cross for the rescue of three comrades from a crater at the height of a ferocious bombardment at Cuinchy, France, in 1915.

As a Grade II listed building, the tower is of national importance and is therefore of High Heritage Importance, primarily for its historical value and through its association with a prominent local family.

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Braystones Memorial Tower
Braystones Memorial Tower
Bill The Bald Eagle, Taking A Bath

Bald Eagle Bath Time

This image of a Bald Eagle (called Bill) taking a bath, was captured at the Lake District Wildlife Park, at Keswick in Cumbria.

As the national emblem of the USA, the Bald Eagle is easily recognised in mature plumage. Although they can be observed stooping from heights of 100m in order to catch prey, their most frequent tactic is to sit on a branch and watch & wait.

They are a strong, bold bird who is not averse to mugging others in order to gain an easy meal. Bald means devoid of colour i.e. white.

Their wing span is approximately 5ft+.

The bald eagle is a powerful flier, and soars on thermal convection currents. It reaches speeds of 56–70 km/h (35–43 mph) when gliding and flapping, and about 48 km/h (30 mph) while carrying fish. Its dive speed is between 120–160 km/h (75–99 mph), though it seldom dives vertically.

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Bill The Bald Eagle, Taking A Bath
Bald Eagle