An invite to walk in the far eastern fells was offered by Angela
and John who were staying at the Haweswater Hotel.
The plan was a high level walk up Rough Crag Haweswater if fine,
the old Corpse Road to Swindale if wet.
On the day however, the weather tended to the latter and the
option of seeing nothing
and getting blown about in the rain was not an attractive one,
so Swindale it was.
Fine weather at the foot of the valley as I drove across to meet
up with Angela and John at Haweswater.
The choice of routes at the head of the Mardale Valley was still
In the 1930's the valley was flooded to provide water for Manchester
and the Midlands.
The road to the hotel follows the southern side of the lake above
water level, built to replace the flooded one in the bottom of
The signboard allows visitors to read the history and understand
the topography of the area.
In early1933 the new Haweswater Hotel was opened.
It was built in classic 1930's style, to replace the Dun Bull
Inn at the head of the valley which was destined for demolition.
After meeting Angela and John as arranged, we set off on foot
along the next section of the valley road.
We headed towards the top of the valley, John pictured here leading
The weather seems to be closing in and not only were the high
fells shrouded in mist and cloud, but the bad weather was spreading.
It now reached to low levels and was getting thicker as we progressed
up the road . . . the weather forecast was coming true !
You know there's moisture in the air when rainbows form.
A brief patch of sunshine formed a colourful arc between us and
Castle Crag on the other side of the reservoir.
Wood Howe Island and the tree covered Rigg, once referred to
as Chapel Hill, on the opposite side.
Our fall back route of Swindale was confirmed.
We departed the modern road and join the old corpse road that
set off left up the fellside in a series of zig-zags through the
Until 1728 the small church in the Mardale Valley
didn't have a graveyard and so the corpses of the dead we carried
to Shap Abbey using this track.
Beck seen from our ascent path.
The path climbs steeply,
we could soon be in the cloud ourselves.
The track climbs up alongside the river which
is fed by Hopegill Beck and the delightfully names Captain Whelter
both of which drain the slopes of Selside and
A brief patch of brightness highlights Dylan and
Dougal as they stand high above the valley.
The view however was virtually gone by the time
we reached the famous Peat Houses.
We could barely see the top end of the lake, let
alone the Nan Bield Pass and higher fells either side of it.
As we climbed the angle of the path began to ease.
The purpose of peat houses here was to store and
dry the peat turf, cut during the summer.
By the time it was needed it would be drier, burn
better and be lighter to carry down to the farm houses in the
valley for the winter.
Climbing further there were more old buildings
off to the side,
but nature was fast reclaiming them and reducing
them to little more than piles of stones.
Alan Cleaver / Lesley Park in their book "The
Corpse Roads of Cumbria 2019" warns of difficult navigation
across the top of the moors,
but the path is good and the weather was clearing
slightly so the suggested map and compass were not needed today.
Angela pauses to photograph another rainbow.
We've crossed the highest pont of the fell and
are now heading slightly down hill, following the ancient path
The old track was well marked by several large
[ This one would be a little more obvious from
a distance for a while as I had propped up the top stone to a
more vertical angle.]
As we approached
Thorny Knott we could see the path far below.
But before then there
were several zig-zags to negotiate.
We passed on having a swing on the rope that was
hanging from the tree.
We made a couple of damp stream crossings on the
way down . . .
. . . before passing through the gate in the out-take
Below it the converging stone walls forming a
simple gathering system for animals collected from the open fell
We reached valley level at Swindale Head Farm.
The tarmac road ends here at the farm, but the
byway continues on across the open fields towards the head of
There are delightful waterfalls at the head of
Swindale and hanging valleys beyond, but the weather today just
hid the detail.
[ I have linked to a previous walk up to the falls
and the views of the climb beyond, at the base of this page.]
After our brief diversion we retrace our steps
to pass the farm once more.
We were now to continue north east, along the
valley on the normal tarmac road.
The route passes through a short section of delightful
woodland, complete with suitable bird song accompaniment.
The coffin road continues on towards Shap and
the old Abbey burial ground.
It's exact route is unclear but probably crosses
this old ford and then turns left via the path that the red coated
walker has just reached.
A little further down the valley there's a substantial
weir and loads of health and safety railings.
This is the start of an aqueduct to carry some
of the Swindale water into Haweswater and so boost the potential
The railings protect daft and unobservant site
visitors from falling into the fish ladder !
Looking back as we reach the cattle grid.
This is the end of the road for fell walkers .
. . vehicle access beyond here is for farm visitors only.
There is however a large area for parking should
you need it. The car seen here is heading out of the
valley towards Shap or Bampton.
- - - o o o - - -
To complete our round walk
we now need to leave the Swindale Valley
and head north to regain our road back to the hotel.
To that end we take a clearly signposted footpath
heading off towards Naddle Farm.
- - - o o o - - -
It will climb through the bracken to the single
tree on the skyline
that is if we can still see it because the weather
is turning damp and misty again.
Having left the road we stop for refreshments
(late lunch) but the splodges on the lens hints at the changing
Fortunately the weather didn't close in and the
grey clouds stayed high above us as we drew level with Scalebarrow
I think Shap and the Lowther Castle area were
receiving the rain instead.
We had been entertained along this section of
the walk by a farmer trying to gather his sheep off the fell.
He had been driving around on his quad bike and
tooting his horn with little effect.
Suddenly he found success and a large flock of
sheep crossed behind us . . .
Followed by the modern petrol powered "horse"
he was using to round up the sheep.
As we started our descent from Scalebarrow we
saw our first glimpse of Haweswater ahead.
The route however was complicated by having to
cross the Naddle Beck Valley, lying hidden between here and there.
Nice views on this section however, as we look
across to Thornthwaite Hall.
That must be quite an old house with a long history,
as yet unknown to me.
We also saw views of Burnbank Village down in
Burnbank was the old construction workers village
built in the 1930's.
The Manchester Corporation was pursuaded to leave
it after the reservoir was complete, so that it could be used
as modern housing for the valley.
Not all the people displaced by the reservoir
chose to live here, many moved away to Shap or even further afield.
But I digress . . . as we drop down into Naddle
Beck Valley we reach another small collection of houses
and an aqueduct I first thought was carrying water
south for the Midlands.
It turns out it was a continuation of the aqueduct
we had first seen at the weir in Swindale, carrying water north
After fording the shallow Naddle Beck we passed
which now seems to be trying to make a living
as a plant nursery.
A turf covered outhouse appears to make a good
bird watching studio for the cottage.
We could have turned left and climbed up the path
alongside the wall, walking direct for the reservoir,
but instead we joined the farm road to the right
and followed an easier route to the same place.
We were soon back on familiar ground . . . though
the sunshine that I saw this morning was missing.
- - - o o o - - -
Just up from the dam was the outfall from the Swindale
/ Naddle Beck
aqueduct that we had seen on the way across.
The plaque informs us that this was a later addition
to the valley.
The project was only completed in 1957.
- - - o o o - - -
Across the other side of the reservoir was another major water
This was a second water aqueduct bringing supplies from Ullswater,
collected without the need to alter the natural appearance of
that iconic lake.
All that remained
was to walk the road back to the hotel . . .
. . . but it was a long
mile and a half before it came into view.
- - - - o o o - - -
Surrounded by the authentic furniture and accessories
of the 1930's style, almost Art Deco hotel,
we enjoyed our post-walk refreshments today
in the warmth of their rather nice hotel lounge.
- - - o o o - - -
I big thanks to Angela and John for their company
and for inviting me to re-visit a walk I hadn't done for many
Angela's pictures from today can be found on
- - - o o o - - -