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More about the English Lakes


Hard to access for the motoring tourist and given a brooding atmosphere by the millions of conifers imposed in the 1930s Ennerdale is lucky in that it is not as frequently visited as busier Lakeland vales. I will describe some of its interests starting from its upland source. This long valley that was gouged deeper by an Ice Age glacier has its origins as a stream high beneath the severe crags of Great Gable. The head of the valley is at the well named Wind Gap between Green and Great Gables. Looking west the valley extends some eight miles to the western end of Ennerdale Water.
The head of the valley is clear of forest and the valley bottom is dotted with drumlins, remains of the glacliers retreat. Nestling amid these little hillocks is one of the most dramatic and evocative youth hostels in the entire Lakes, Black Sail.
I am loath to say too much as this former shepherd's bothey is a well kept secret for many.
Black Sail Hut is at the point where the Scarth Gap path comes over from Buttermere and the Black Sail pass comes over from Wasdale. The valley enjoys thrilling ridge walks on both its northern and southern flanks. This same pair of ridges are all taken in by the demanding Ennerdale Horseshoe fell race that sees runners take a 27 mile circuit along one side of the valley and back to the start-finish at the Ennerdale Scout Camp at Bleach Green (Just a mile from Ennerdale Bridge).
To return to the two ridges. The Southern ridge features the massif of Pillar and Steeple then descending onto more rounded flanks until the last rocky outcrops of Cragg Fell that peer down onto Ennerdale Water.
The Northern is a terrific aerial delight taking in High Stile and High Crag and Red Pike. This is wonderful fellwalk is further described here.
One accommodation option in Ennerdale is a Bunk House provided at Low Cockhow Farm, close to the Coast to Coast footpath. The farm also provides pony trekking on the low fells. Nearby larvae of the rare marsh fritillary have been released on to common land at Ennerdale as part of a conservation initiative.
The National Trust as landowner has been seeking official consent to introduce cattle grids and fencing to part enclose Longmoor Common and allow cattle grazing to resume.The moves to enclose some of the centuries old common are being made by the Trust partly to help restore habitat that has been home to a rare breed of butterfly, the marsh fritillary.

An interesting aside about Ennerdale was the Victorian fascination in Black Pearls. These commanded high prices and could be found, with diligent hunting, in the freshwater mussels that thrived ( and still do in places) in the River Ehen, which flows out of Ennerdale Water and through Egremont before emerging into the Irish Sea alongside the famous (or infamous) Sellafield nuclear plant.
Pictures of Ennerdale lake and suggestions of places to stay in
Ennerdale Bridge.

The Anglers Inn before demolition..
with Herdus in the distance

The Sad Loss of the Anglers Inn

Since 1864 Ennerdale Lake has been used as a water supply for West Cumbria and in 1902 a shallow weir was added to what is probably a glacial moraine to maintained the level at 112.3 metres AOD.
In 1960 it was planned (£700.000 scheme) to raise the lake level by 4.5 feet to get an extra six million gallons a day. This would have drowned the Anglers Inn that enjoyed a hauntingly atmospheric location right on the lake shore. The Anglers Hotel was owned by first Whitehaven Corporation and then South Cumberland Water Board. But it was an untidy aside from the business of piped water and everyone accepted In the sixties(including the nearby landowners,the National Trust) that it had to be demolished for the sake of "progress".
Thus it was that round 1961 the Anglers was demolished and now just the remnants of its jetty and discarded Victorian beer bottles can be seen at times of serious drought.

In 1980 North West Water again tried to raise the level of the lake by four feet , but after protests and what became known as The Two Lakes Inquiry in 1981 Michael Heseltine refuse planning consent. Fortunately a correct decision with hindsight because neither the chemical works at Whitehaven nor BNFL Sellafield really ended up needing the extra water justifying the bid.

So the Anglers Inn was demolished needlessly....still it would probably now have had a huge car park and chicken in the baskets by the cartload!
A new water treatment works was opened at Ennerdale in 1995 at cost of £13.5 million. It featured a six foot diameter tunnel dug out under the lake by divers tunneling from below in pressurised conditions.
Another valley that was flooded was Mardale

Cragg Fell above Ennerdale Water

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