Pleased to welcome you back

Thanks to everyone who has stayed at home during the last few months. We are pleased that we are now able to welcome visitors back to the Ullswater Valley but to protect our countryside and those who live and work here we need everyone to follow some simple guidelines.

Countryside Code

Respect other people

  • Consider the local community and other people enjoying the outdoors
  • Park carefully – don’t park anywhere outside a car park space.
  • Leave gates and property as you find them
  • Follow paths but give way to others when it’s narrow

Protect the Natural Environment

  • Leave no trace – take all your litter home
  • Don’t have BBQs or fires
  • Dog poo – bag it and bin it
  • Keep dogs under control

Enjoy the Outdoors

  • Plan ahead, check what facilities are open
  • Follow advice and local signs and obey social distancing measures

Useful Links for Planning your Visit

Lake District National Park car park and toilet information: This site lists the main car parks in the valley and whether they have toilet facilities. It tells you how you will need to pay and how busy the car park is likely to be.

Ullswater Steamers: Check here for the Steamer timetable and to book your tickets online.

National Trust: Check here for information on opening times, facilities, car park charges.

Lowther Castle and Gardens: Information about which areas and facilities are open.

Dalemain Mansion and Historic Gardens: Information about which areas and facilities are open.

Stagecoach Bus 508: Timetable for the 508, which goes from Penrith Station to Patterdale.

Arragon Cycles: For information on bike hire.

Please be aware that in recent weeks blue-green algae that may be harmful to swimmers and pets has been reported in parts of Ullswater. For more information on algal blooms go to this Environment Agency Blog

 

Summer on the Ullswater Way

As you make your plans why not take a look at Summer on the Ullswater Way – a series of photos, most from previous summers, of the Ullswater Valley during the summer months.

Heritage Trail Leaflet

You may also like to download the Friends of the Ullswater Way Heritage Trail Leaflet which has a map of the Ullswater Way with the heritage installations marked on it.

Heritage Trail Leaflet

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How the Lake was saved

The Story of Lord Birkett and the Ullswater Preservation Society

by Miles MacInnes

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“So small, so lovely, so vulnerable”

“Go away. Come again another day if you will…”  With these words, Norman, Lord Birkett QC closed what is arguably one of the finest speeches in modern Parliamentary history.

Manchester’s need for water

But to start at the beginning.  In the early 1960’s Manchester was facing a serious water shortage. Their existing sources, including the reservoirs of Haweswater and Thirlmere, were insufficient to cater for a growing population and increasing industrial demand.

As a result, the Manchester Corporation Waterworks put forward a number of proposals for taking increased supplies from the Lake District, including Ullswater.  In September 1961, with very little notice and limited consultation, the Corporation announced its intentions which involved building a weir on the river Eamont at Pooley Bridge, effectively creating a reservoir and increasing the level of the lake by some 3ft (0.9m).   Extracted water would be pumped to Haweswater through a tunnel driven into the fellside.

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Raising the lake level by three feet may not seem much, but it would have affected roads round the lake and the many boathouses.  It would also have created an unsightly tide mark on the lake shore as water levels fluctuated.

The Corporation promoted a Bill to the 1961/62 Session of Parliament which included these proposals.

The Campaign

There was an immediate and vociferous public outcry – the ‘Ullswater Preservation Society’ (formed in the 1930’s to protect and preserve the Ullswater valley) quickly organized a petition of over 500,000 signatures – a remarkable achievement remembering that there was no social media, internet or emails.

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Public meetings were held under the banner of ‘Hands off Ullswater’.  Local politicians, councils, the ‘Cumberland & Westmorland Herald’ and the then Lake District Planning Board all lent their support.

Prominent in the campaign were Willie Vane MP (the first Lord Inglewood), James, 6th Earl of Lonsdale and Bishop Bloomer of Carlisle, all of whom spoke in the subsequent Lords debate. Another objector was Ted Short MP, a respected LabourMP, born in Warcop, who subsequently became Lord Glenamara of Glenridding, where he had a holiday home for many years.

The Bill was debated in the House of Lords on 8 February 1962. Passionate speeches from all sides of the House and most notably by Lord Birkett QC resulted in the approval, by 70 votes to 36, of a motion to exclude Ullswater from the Bill.

William Norman Birkett, 1stBaron Birkett of Ulverston, Kt, PC, QC

190801 Birkett photo 3William Norman Birkett was born in Ulverston on 6thSeptember 1883 and died in London on 10 February 1962 – a sadly relevant date.

Although Ulverston was then in Lancashire, he was certainly a passionate Lakelander who loved and cherished the Lakes -described in his famous speech as -‘so small, so lovely, so vulnerable’.

The son of drapers, with whom he worked initially, he left school at 16, was a Methodist Preacher, President of the Cambridge University Union, Liberal MP, Barrister, QC, and Court of Appeal Judge. He was ennobled in 1958.

He was described as “one of the most prominent liberal barristers in the first half of the 20th century”.

Lord Birkett’s powerful speech, “deeply felt and eloquent”, is rightly considered one of the finest in modern Parliamentary history and undoubtedly saved the lake “for all people for all time”.

He concluded – “Thus far and no farther. Go away. Come again another day, if you will. But in the meantime, do that which ought to have been done before. Produce the hydrological data on which the House can come to a proper decision. Until that is done, you have no right whatever to invade the sanctity of a National Park”.

Tragically, Lord Birkett died of a heart attack a few days later.  He is best remembered for this final triumph which is commemorated by the naming of Birkett Fell overlooking the west shore of the lake, a plaque on the lake shore below Hallin Fell and now the commemoration on the Ullswater Way by the Steamer pier house in Pooley Bridge.  In addition, each summer the Ullswater Yacht Club stages the Birkett Trophy – a ‘must do’ regatta.

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The conclusion

However, that is not the end of the story. Manchester’s reaction was typical of their arrogant attitude – a few days after the debate, an oddly named Councilor Onions commented: – “They can stop gloating down at Ullswater for we need that water and intend to get it”.

In 1965 a revised and much reduced scheme was proposed but again opposed by the Ullswater Preservation Society. However, following a lengthy Public Enquiry in the summer of 1965 and a further debate in the House of Lords in January 1967, these much watered down proposals were finally approved.

Water is now taken from Ullswater by tunnel to Haweswater under strictly controlled conditions which prevent abstraction when water levels fall.  A huge underground pumping station at Parkfoot Holiday Park, between Pooley Bridge and Howtown is largely unnoticed.

MMI June 2020

Based on an Understanding Ullswater Evening Talk