Celebrating the wonders of Lake District tarns
PUBLISHED: 15:45 24 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:57 20 February 2013
Wordsworth recognised the wonders of Lakeland's tarns. Now writer Vivienne Crow follows in his steps with a pocket walking guide Photography by Carl Rogers
Beneath our feet, a little lowly vale...
A liquid pool that glittered in the sun,
...Ah! what a sweet Recess, thought I, is here!
William Wordsworths sweet Recess comes from The Excursion in 1814 and it refers to Blea Tarn above Little Langdale, one of hundreds of these beautiful bodies of water scattered throughout the Lake District.
The Norsemen who dominated the area 1,000 years ago gave them their name: coming across small pools in the mountains, they called them tjorns little lakes or, literally, teardrops. Most of them are remnants of the last glacial period when huge ice sheets scoured out hollows in the mountains that then filled with water. Today, becks pouring down from the surrounding fells continue to fill the tarns, many of which then feed into lakes and rivers in the valley bottoms.
It is hard to say exactly what a tarn looks like: it could be anything from a necklace of pools sparkling like blue jewels on high, lonely ridge tops to a small lake sitting cold and moody at the base of sombre cliffs. Each has its own special character. The ten featured in Walks to Tarns were chosen for their moody locations, their dramatic backdrops and the superb walks involved in reaching them.
The highest featured in the book is Red Tarn, spectacularly situated at 2,355ft above sea level at the base of the cliffs of Helvellyns east face.
Cradled between the mountains two famous artes, Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, it is perhaps the best example of a corrie tarn in the entire National Park although some might say lonely Bowscale Tarn, also featured in the book, holds this accolade. Taking in the impressive Grisedale and Glenridding valleys, the walk up to it is pure delight from beginning to end, making use of a little known trail on the ascent and returning via a delightful leat path hugging the side of the fell.
Innominate Tarn on Haystacks was a favourite with guidebook writer Alfred Wainwright, and it was here that his ashes were scattered after his death in 1991. This pretty, reedy tarn is one of many bodies of water hidden among the maze of crags and heathery knolls that make up this complex fell. Viewed from the west, it reflects the iconic Great Gable and, from the east, craggy Pillar.
Route number five in Walks to Tarns features two tarns - one popular with visitors, the other hidden away. These are, respectively, Easedale and Codale Tarns. Easedale Tarn has long been admired by visitors and, in Victorian times, there was even a refreshments hut at the waters edge.
Its popularity is hardly surprising as it is situated in a lovely location more than 650ft above Grasmere. Codale Tarn, tucked into a quiet hollow in the fells below Codale Head, is another story. Equally attractive, but another 590ft up the fells, theres a bit more effort required to reach it, and fewer people will venture this far.
Probably the best known isnt really a tarn at all. Tarn Hows, just north of Coniston, is man-made. There used to be three tiny tarns here, but the single body of water you see today was created when the 19th-century industrialist James Marshall dammed one of them. With plans based on ideas of the picturesque that were popular at the time, he wanted to create something beautiful and most would agree that he succeeded.
Others featured in Walks to Tarns include Angle, Blea, Styhead,
Sprinkling and Eel Tarns. Each will provide walkers with memories to cherish for a lifetime.
Upload photos of your favourite tarns by clicking the red button below
The book, priced 4.99, includes numbered directions, OS mapping, colour photographs and fascinating facts. (ISBN 978-0-9553557-9-0).
The print version of this article appeared in the February 2012 issue of Lancashire Life
We can deliver a copy direct to your door order online here