Up The Pipeline
TW10 : Wythburn to Thirlmere Dam

"Where's your rucksac?" asked Margaret as we headed towards the bus stop at Legburthwaite.

"Aaaagggghhhh!" I replied, "I must have left it at the Thirlmere dam monument when we took the team picture."

Twenty months after setting off on half of what the author, Tim Cappelli, calls a 10 day walk we finally reached the top of the pipeline and the Thirlmere dam.

Cappelli solved the problem of the lack of footpath going up Dunmail Raise by the energetic means of climbing 1,600 feet up Tongue Gill to Grisedale Tarn then descending the steep path alongside Raise Beck to King Domhnail's cairn (better known as Dunmail Raise) . Meanwhile the pipeline water flows deep below the road.

We, on the other hand, chose the more direct and less punishing option of driving up the A591 to the dam then catching the 555 bus back to Wythburn at the south end of the reservoir to resume our trek northwards and back to the dam.

It was on that first visit to the dam that I had left the rucksac.  Fortunately there was enough time to retrieve it and return to catch the 555, watching hang-gliders whilst we waited..

The weather was much sunnier than expected although the track from Wythburn was surprisingly muddy in parts.

Soon we reached the tiny Wythburn Church.  

Despite the drowning of the village when the reservoir was built, the lovely old church is still in regular use.

There is an interesting small book about it called Wythburn Church and the Valley of Thirlmere.

Nearby is a stone recording two walks undertaken by Matthew Arnold over Armboth Fell in 1833 & 43 which inspired the poem, if you want to read it, Resignation.  Perhaps its density, by modern standards, is a reflection of the fun that is not to be had on those intensely boggy hills to the west of Thirlmere. The Wayside Inn to which the inscription refers was the Nag's (or "Horse's", to give it its original name) Head, which stood opposite the church.

Worshippers would leave their horses at the inn before attending the service then pick them up again after a liquid lunch.  It survived the construction of the reservoir but it closed as an inn in 1930, then becoming workers' accommodation until 1966, subsequently being demolished.

Three quarters of a mile later we could see across the road some distance below us The Straining Well.  It is strange that Cappelli makes no mention of the Straining Well as this is really the start point of the pipeline and is quite a remarkable building. Seemingly it can be visited by appointment with United Utilities.  Not today.

However, Ann Bowker has a website Mad About Mountains where she has several interesting photos of it, inside and outside.  It is a pity we were not able to see it for ourselves but kindly Ann grants permission for others to use her photos provided they are attributed. Here are three:

Click on Straining Wells to see them all.  Thanks, Ann.

Sadly, and maybe this explains its omission from the guide book, there is no path along the busy A591 and the track along which we were travelling was some height above the road.  We did, however, have a glimpse of the Straining Well.

We reached a fence with a United Utilities footpath marker pointing right.  We did as we were told but soon we came across a gate saying that the path was closed due to tree felling.  What should we do?  There is no other path on this side of the lake. We thought that as it was Sunday there wouldn't be any tree felling taking place today so ignored the warning and pressed on.  Initially we were on a narrow path traversing a slope the steepness of which was obscured by bracken.  Then we met an area where felling had certainly taken place but not that recently.  It was an Armageddon field, very difficult to cross due to the depth of rotting tree branches and such debris.  Ian and Brora pressed on to see if there was a realistic way through then he signalled to me to go back and take the girls a different way round.

If only United Utilities had had the common sense to change the footpath sign to point left rather than right, there would have been no problem.  A new path exists and has done for some years judging by the memorial seat we encountered.

The path soon became a wide track used by forestry vehicles.  Views of the lake were infrequent.  Eventually we dropped down, crossed the road and saw a very welcome sight. An ice cream van.

Refuelled, we found the path that led down through the trees that skirt the lake. Sometimes with lake view, more often not.  Sometimes wide and easy, sometimes narrow and difficult. Eventually this emerged at the end of the dam wall.  Job done.  Another fine walk to end the book..  Thank you, Mr Cappelli.

We repaired to the King's Head at Thirlspot.  However, there was a strange smell as we entered, the beer was off and they had run out of scampi and chips so we thought better of it and moved on.  It's a pity that the old Nag's Head at Wythburn is no longer extant as we might have fared better there.  Fortunately The Traveller's Rest at Grasmere didn't let us down.  No nasty smells, beer in fine fettle and lovely scampi.  Just what was needed to celebrate completion of The Thirlmere Way.

Don, Sunday 6th September 2015







6.8 miles

63.3 miles

1,035 feet

8,302 feet


To see the index and other stages, click on:


The Thirlmere Way



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