Thirlmere Dam from Raven Crag

Just to the north of Thirlmere, are a group of low level fells that are a joy to walk. High Rigg at 1171 feet, Great How at 1093 feet and Raven Crag at 1512 feet, are all popular and provide good viewpoints for Thirlmere to the south and Blencathra to the north. You can pick them out quite easily when heading south from Keswick on the A591. Once you descend Nest Brow into the Thirlmere Valley, High Rigg is the undulating fell on the left side as you drive down the dual carriage section, followed by Great How just beyond and to the right of the road and then Raven Crag further over to the right.

To get to the Raven Crag start point, leave the A591 at GR316194 to take the road that serves Bridge End Farm and Thirlmere Dam End to a small car park at the far end at GR 307189. From here, walk north for approximately 100 yards to a path signposted ‘Castle Crag’ which is situated opposite a layby. Follow the path through the woodland to meet a forest track, where a gate in a deer fence gives access to a path through the younger trees to another gate and then continue on the path to reach another forest track at the col between Raven Crag, Castle Crag and The Benn.




Return to the track at the col and follow the signs to Castle Crag Fort summit [1381’] – a good location to view Skiddaw, Lonscale Fell and Shoulthwaile Gill. From here return to the forest track again and turn left to descend through the forest – the track gradually descends northwards, alongside Shoulthwaite Gill. You may notice a faint path that heads off to the right after about a quarter of a mile – this is a route to the third summit which can be added to the walk – ‘The Benn’ [1463’]. This is certainly ‘off the beaten track’ but worth the effort – the path, meanders through the trees, boggy patches and heather and leads to the summit – great views again, particularly to look back to view Raven Crag summit.

Explore and Discover with Stan Leigh

Manchester Corporation Stone

In my Seat Sandal article, I wrote about the masterpiece of our engineering heritage – the Thirlmere reservoir’, including the dam and the 96- mile long aqueduct built between 1890 and 1925. On this walk, there is the opportunity to see the dam, close up and see the Memorial Stone dated 22nd August 1890 with great views to the south. It is difficult to believe that prior to the building of the reservoir were two small tarns, Leathes Water and Wythburn Water, connected by a stream with a small causeway bridge running over it. At the south end was a small hamlet with an inn.

I’ve been fascinated by the engineering that was required to provide water to our communities during in 19th century including a project closer to home. I frequently pass the former Maryport Pumping House in Papcastle Road without understanding the route or need for it. Built in 1810, water was pumped from a well, next to Low Gote Mill to reservoir tanks above Papcastle, then to sand filtering beds at Bridekirk and then to Hayborough Reservoir [above Maryport]. The recorded capacities of the reservoirs in 1910 were 850,000 gallons at Papcastle and 360,000 gallons at Hayborough.

Return to the track to continue the descent – look out for the Shoulthwaite Gill weir. At a junction of forest tracks, go left, taking the steeper downhill option to reach flatter ground. The track gradually heads east and then south to return to the start.

Castle Crag Fort

United Utilities, who own and manage the forest, have improved the signage to both Raven Crag and Castle Crag. The routes to these summits are clearly signposted from this forest track – the one to Raven Crag has been improved by constructing a new path to the summit with handrail additions in some places. The views of Blencathra, Helvellyn, Thirlmere and the dam below are spectacular.


Please note that at the time of writing, maintenance work on the dam wall is taking place. If you are unable to access via the suggested route, return to the A591 and head north for half a mile and then turn left on to the road that serves the west side of the reservoir.

For this walk [3.5 miles with 900’ of ascent], I suggest OS Explorer Maps OL4 [The English Lakes, North West Area], Alfred Wainwright’s Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland fells – Book 3 [The Central Fells] and Andrew Leaney’s website which contains photographs

and maps – view via

Thirlmere Dam andRaven Crag

My thanks to Bernard Bradbury’s ‘History of Cockermouth, and for helpful support of Sion and Elaine of Cockermouth Antiques, Eric Apperley, Ian Davidson and the local farming communities to discover this gem of our local history.

16 NOVEMBER 2017 ISSUE 420 PAGE 36 Stan

Raven Crag

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