Glaciated valleys of the Lake District

in Valley

Of all the glaciated valleys of the Lake District, Ullswater is perhaps the least typical. It also has the reputation of providing fell and lake scenery for the con-noisseurWeekend breaks in the Lake District. One of its most distinctive features, that of the twisting outline of the lake itself, is perhaps best appreciated from a good all round viewpoint like Place Fell . With the possible exception of Windermere, it is perhaps the most landscaped of the lakes. Its relatively flat shore, at least in part, was flavored for big estates like Glencoyne, and Gowbarrow .

Exotic trees were introduced, and as they matured they gave the lakeside an artificial appearance, much appreciated by the romantics and their nineteenth century tourist suc¬cessors. And yet, in spite of all the landscaping, the Ulster valley still bears the clear imprint of glacial shaping. With icebrushed fell slopes, the shorn rock buttresses like those of Silver Crag and Kailpot Crag, an over deepened lake bed with a depth exceeding 250 ft in places, it is clear that a con¬siderable glacier formerly occupied the valley. Once away from the artificially landscaped shores of Ulster itself and into the remote and little known side valleys like Bore dale and Bannerdale, the effectiveness of glacial fashioning is even more apparent. The slopes of these two valleys are steep and extensive coverings of scree and drift occur towards the base.

Some of this material is still in active movement downslope and there is also evidence of con¬siderable gullying. On the east side of Martindale below Gowk Hill a recent gully has broken right through the stone wall marking the limit of the enclosed land of the valley floor. In nearby Boredale, the abrupt troughed is almost a textbook example of a glaciated valley feature. Ice must have lingered long in such northfacing situations and when it finally melted it left behind its characteristic spread of hummocky drift well seen from Dalehead Farm looking across towards the projecting spur of the Nab. In the main Ullswater valley a small moraine occurs on the eastern side of the lake opposite the delta of Castlehows Point. At its maximum the Ullswater glacier must have filled the valley floor up to a height of about 900 ft. Along the ice margin meltwater channels were cut similar to those of Borrowdale . A fine series occurs in the area between Priests Crag , near Watermillock Church, past Bennet¬head Farm and across the col near the earthwork of Maiden Castle .

Haweswater has taken on such an artificial appearance since the creation of the reservoir that it is difficult to realize that this was once a typical U shaped valley with an over deepened lake (Plate - The building of a dam at its lower end and the raising of the water level by about fifty feet completely transformed the natural setting. As with Thirlmere, it is the steep valley sides plunging without a break into the waters of the reservoir which stick out like a sore thumb to proclaim the artificiality of the whole scene. The valley is literally waistdeep in water, resembling a halffilled bath rather than anything nature could have devised. In its original state, the gentle curve of Mardale, as the valley was called, was not very different from other valleys on the eastern edge of the Lake District .

The feeding headwater valleys coming down from High Street  and Harter Fell  are still largely unaffected and the present marshy head to the reservoir is probably not very different in appearance from that of the original Haweswater though, of course, much higher up the valley. But many other features have gone, apart from the hamlet of Mardale and one or two farms. In its original state, the fine hanging valley of Measand Beck ended in a great torrent spread of gravel and boulders which projected well out into the lake. So large was the torrent fan that it effectively severed the lake almost in two. Now all this is submerged and there is no hint of it at the surface. Straight con¬tours of the water edge have replaced the irregularities of surprise which nature seemingly always seeks to contrive. Only a mile or so away across the fells, the valley of Wet Sleddale  has suffered the same fate, again in order to satisfy the almost insatiable demands of the urban conurbation for water.

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Adrian vultur writes for Weekend breaks in the Lake District

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Glaciated valleys of the Lake District

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This article was published on 2011/01/11