The Lake District’s ‘lost’ village 

Haweswater by Phil Rigby
Haweswater reservoir on Saturday, 7 July 2018 looking towards Harter Fell at the head of the valley

The ultimate test of a ‘hot, dry summer’ for many Cumbrians is the reappearance of Mardale, writes Claire Sherwen. 

The Lake District’s ‘lost’ village was famously dismantled during the 1930s to make way for the Haweswater reservoir when a dam was built and the valley flooded to provide water for Manchester. 

The recent spell of dry weather has seen lake levels drop and the reappearance of the ruined stone walls which once formed the field boundaries in the valley. 

Mardale has emerged from its depths before, most vividly in 1984 when I was taken as a seven year old to see it with my parents (along the rest of the county).  

More than 30 years later, Mardale continues to be the Cumbrian curiosity in which interest never seems to wane. 

Cumbrian author Sarah Hall’s novel, Haweswater, captures how the building of the dam and the flooding of the valley tore apart the tight-knit farming community which had lived and worked the land for centuries. It’s a sad tale which is made all the more melancholy because the tale is rooted in reality. 

Even the famous fell walker and Lake District sage Alfred Wainwright lamented the flooding of Mardale in his Pictorial Guide to the Lake District Fells.  

“But man works with such clumsy hands! Gone for ever are the quiet wooded bays and shingly shores that nature had fashioned so sweetly in the Haweswater of old; how aggressively ugly is the tidemark of the new Haweswater,” he wrote.  

Haweswater has not yet dropped to the same levels as the summer of ’84 when visitors stood on the old bridge – one of the few notable landmarks which wasn’t blown up as deomlition practice for the Royal Engineers or taken down brick-by-brick – but who knows what this unusually dry summer will hold?