BB2205 : A Tarn With No Name?

Wednesday 2nd February 2022

Who was the wag that named the tarn that they thought had no name "Innominate Tarn"?  Clearly someone quite erudite to choose such a word.  I thought it might have been Wainwright but I am told not so.  He just liked the name (presumably the humour of it).  He also liked the tarn so much that, at his request, his ashes were scattered there.

Anyway, today we visited a different tarn with no name.  Or at least, seemingly so.

We arranged to meet at Café Ambio at 9:30 , opening time.  Shortly after we gathered, a call came through on my mobile.  It was Tony asking where we were. We told him we were at Café Ambio.  He told us he was at Café Ambio but there was no sign of us.  This was potentially a crisis.  He had promised to buy us all drinks as it was his birthday this week.  Fortunately all soon became clear.  We were at the one at the Motor Museum at Backbarrow.  He was at the Junction 36 Auction Mart.  An easy mistake to make as that is where we met last week.  It’s a good job he wasn’t at the one down at Chorley!  As it was, he was able to reach us within 20 minutes, well before we were feeling ready to brave the drizzle outside.

The plan was to climb from Backbarrow.....

.....through Bishop’s Allotment.....

..... to Hoggarth’ s Plantation then turn south east to the aforementioned tarn that, instead of having a name on the OS map, simply has a blue fish leaping from the water.

Beyond the herd of Belted Galloways was the first sight of the tarn.  It made me wonder if, somehow, we had emerged at Tarn Howes.  It was obviously quite large and seemed a similar shape.  However, it was the intended Tarn With No Name.  Except that it does have one.  A man fishing insisted that it was called Bigland Tarn which we knew it definitely was not.

Conveniently situated around the tarn are benches which were ideal for us to use for our lunch stop, the drizzle now having stopped.  It certainly is attractive and one can understand why the owners have built some very upmarket "Grand Design" holiday homes with views over the tarn.  The sign explained all.  5 Star Lakeland Retreats.  Fishery.  Beachin Belted Galloways.  

Where?  Otter Tarn.

Our next target was what we knew definitely was Bigland Tarn.

Before reaching it, first we passed a new looking structure that was well fenced off, clearly not intended for the casual visitor.  

A closer inspection revealed that it was an "Unodourised Gas Installation", whatever that is.

Of more interest was a much older structure close by.

This seemed at first sight to be some sort of underground tank, now disused, with a couple of inspection hatches.

One was open and to my surprise revealed a metal ladder descending quite some depth to who knows what.

Could it be one of the secret nuclear war bunkers that Robin has told us about?

The OS map is as silent about that as it is about the name of Otter Tarn.

Bigland Tarn is on the Bigland estate, surprise, surprise.  It is reached by a drive that in May must form an impressive sight of rhododendron flowers.  What came next was less impressive.  In a very miserably muddy field were several very miserable looking horses.  They looked as if they were too old to be put to useful purpose but they deserve better than that.

I used to like Bigland Tarn.  However, since I was last there, the owners seem to have restricted access to the area as much as they legally can, given that there is public footpath next to the water about which they can do little.

The track descends steeply through Birk Dault Wood, sometimes partially blocked by recent storm debris, to the interesting hamlet, Low Wood with its converted clock tower mill.  However, it was starting to rain again so after taking a few photos of strange things in gardens.....

..... we took the path that climbs above the river before it eventually drops down into Backbarrow.

So now you now that the Tarn With No Name near Backbarrow is actually called Otter Tarn.  But did you know that the Tarn With No Name that Wainwright approved of being called Innominate Tarn used to have a perfectly normal sort of name?

Once upon a time it was known as Loaf Tarn.  Why?  Seemingly because the clumps of peat in it resemble risen bread.

It wasn’t bread but jars of ale that later were risen in the Derby Arms.  Why?  Have you forgotten?  It was to celebrate Tony’s birthday.  Cheers!

Don, Wednesday 2nd February 2022

Afternote:  I was curious to see if Otter Tarn was named on earlier maps.  I discovered that it didn't exist at all on any OS or Bartholmew map that I could find up to and including 1961.  However, it is shown but unnamed on the 1987 version of the OS 1 inch Lake District Tourist Map.  Clearly therefore it is artificial but none the less attractive for that.


 Comitibus: John, Terry, Martin, Mike, Tony, Don

Bonus Pictures from Tony


Alan: I suspect that un-odourised gas is gas that has not had the odour added to it to make it smell like gas. The original North Sea gas I believe is without the distinctive gas smell.

Don:   That makes sense but it is a strange place to keep it and why would you want to store it?

Robin: I have fished Otter Tarn on many a pleasant occasion and good fishing it is too (though Tony would disagree because it is designated a fly-fishing lake). It was known as the secret lake when I lived at Aynsome Mill. It is very marshy straying off the muddy path around much of the perimeter and I can well imagine that it was a bog which an enterprising land owner drained by forming the lake sometime in the ‘70s or ‘80s. The house you would have passed in the field between the lake and Bigland Tarn was for many years a derelict barn and to the best of my memory only converted in the late 80s / early 90s. The ‘Grand Design’ homes were controversial with planners when they were built around the turn of the century even though they cannot be seen until you come upon them – but that’s a familiar tale.

The lid to the shelter you discovered is similar to the ones in the sheepfold on Holker land up above the Hall, so in all probability it is a WW2 communications bunker. There are many dotted around the UK and I understand most are maintained in habitable condition.  The lid should have been securely locked – perhaps there was someone in!

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Map  OS 1:50k



BB2205 : A Tarn With No Name?.


Wednesday 2nd February 2022


Otter Tarn, Bigland Tarn

Distance in miles (Garmin):


Height climbed in feet (MM):



Don, John, Martin, Mike B, Terry, Tony


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