Our Lakes: Ennerdale
In the second installment of our western lakes, Craig Wishart lets us in on one the region’s best kept secrets, the magic of Ennerdale Water.
In a National Park filled with big names Ennerdale is the black sheep of the family. That’s because Ennerdale lacks the funfair that draws the big crowds. There’s no steamers plying the length of the lake, dropping off tourists by the score. I’ve never sat on its shores sipping a latte, taking some time to admire the stunning views. But that was only because I couldn’t find a cafe.
You can’t find a room in a fancy hotel with a perfect view of the lake, because there isn’t one. There’s no accommodation, no restaurants, no coach parking and no busy roads. There’s nothing but the lake and the timeless flow of nature. It is without doubt my favourite lake in the district.
Ennerdale is no less beautiful than its neighbours, the view up the lake is one of the finest in the Lakes. A walker would go weak at the knees at the mere mention of Great Gable, Green Gable, High Crag and Pillar. All of these well-known fells tower over the lake and the valley below.
It’s fed by the crystal clear waters of the River Liza and it flows out to the Irish Sea by the Ehen. The Ehen is a name that many in West Cumbria will recognise, but is relatively unknown outside of the area. And it’s the same with Ennerdale itself, like a secret known only to the locals.
Ennerdale is a lake that is a bit difficult to get to and that is what is magic about it. It keeps the crowds at bay. There’s a steady stream of coast to coast walkers who pass along its length but they’re all focused on reaching the remote bunkhouse of Black Sail which lies at the top of the valley.
Living nearby I’ve had a chance to see the many changing faces of Ennerdale. During the recent heatwave I swam with all the rest of the families who were cooling off once the working day was over.
On any given weekend I’ll take my dog and head off around the lake, half a day is all it takes to walk around it. The northern bank is an easy stroll along unsealed forestry roads but it’s a different story on the wild, untamed southern side. The path there meanders along the shore dipping and weaving across the rocks and through the heather.
Photo Credit: Kirst Roberts
It’s a lake for all seasons. When the sun shines it highlights the greens of the vegetation, at the right time of the year the heather will turn the surrounding fells purple. But when the rains come and the cloud level drops below the fell tops, then Ennerdale is quite possibly at its finest.
The water falls off the hills in great tumbling streams, the lake is mysterious and foreboding and because there are no roads, no boats and no crowds, the valley hums with the noise of landscape, the sounds of nature.
Ennerdale is a magic place, a secret. Let’s just keep it to ourselves.