Monday 7 October 2013

Mardale Lives!

A grey and grizzly Haweswater
It was grey and grizzly in the Penrith area when I woke today.  The weather forecast, not good for the Lakes, was best for the east of the National Park.  So I packed my day sack and Hyperpup and I set off to drive down to Haweswater.  If the weather looked reasonable we would head up Kidsty Pike and High Street; if not we would pootle around low down.

The road from Penrith to Haweswater is a joy if you are not in a hurry.  I love the hamlets and villages along here – Askham, Helton,  Butterwick and Bampton.  Askham and Bampton still boast pubs, with the one at Bampton, the Mardale Inn proudly advertising “we never close”.  One day I may put that to the test.

It must be a year since I last drove along the valley.  The reservoir is quite low at the moment and the scarred, shingle banks seek, but fail, to detract from the hillsides above.  The golden fellsides at this time of year are just too overwhelmingly beautiful to be defeated by the insensitive work of those who planned the death of this valley.  The remains of the dry stone walls that enclosed the fields of Mardale, before the dam was built and the village drowned, were visible in places, a trigger for sadness and reflection of what this place must have been like 80 years ago.  If you want a flavour of the trauma and emotion that the coming of the dam caused you could do worse than read the lovely prizewinning novel ‘Haweswater’ by Sarah Hall.  It tells the story of a Mardale girl who fell in love with one of the engineers working on the dam.  That plot may sound a bit hackneyed but it really is a good read.

Looking back along the path by the western side of Haweswater

We arrived at the car park at the head of the lake.  Only the second car there today.  The wind had strengthened now and was very gusty; the rain, fortunately only drizzle, and not continuous, was near horizontal at times.  The cloud was very low and the base never rose above 400 or 500m.  This was a day for us to stay low.  I have had my share of clag and poor visibility on the hills, but I am now free from the pressures of peak bagging and my nearness to the fells mean that I can be more selective and less masochistic in my choice of routes.

Looking back to Rough Crag - a fine way up High Street. Note the old walls of Mardale disappearing into the reservoir

More drowned fields
So we took the path along the west side of the lake.  I have walked the first part of this shoreline many times on the way to High Street or Kidsty Pike.  Today was the first time I have gone further than Riggindale and the turn up to Kidsty.  It was wet.  It was muddy and stony.  It was boggy in places and Hyperpup learnt a messy lesson that bogs and small border collies don’t mix.  Mind you, he looked like a real rough, tough farm dog after that experience.  He also learnt that if you so much as look at a sheep you get nagged and bawled at but if you are quick you can still get a mouthful of sheep dung whilst the old git is taking a photograph.  We returned the way we came.  Not much more to say, other than here are some more photos taken with my very sophisticated Box Brownie.

A pristine Hyperpup before the incident with the bog

Muddied but undaunted

Haweswater with Harter Fell in the clag
Looking back to Mardale Waters