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Eskdale, Duddon Valley & Ravenglass
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Photo Gallery: Esk
This region covers the southern part of Cumbrian Coastal strip from the former Roman Port of Ravenglass to the Duddon Estuary
It includes the pretty Eskdale and Duddon Valleys which flow from the highest fells.

West Cumbria: A Personal View
Through the photographs of Mike Morton

Follow the links to explore specific regions of Cumbria, and galleries of other images by Mike Morton

+44 (0)1900 824329
+44 (0)7812 210880

West Cumbria
Made Easy!
We have further subdivided West Cumbria following natural and political bondaries, mainly based on valleys radiating from rthe central massif of the Lake District. The subdivisions have been named according to the chief river into which the waters of that valley drain, for example the River Esk which rises below the summit of Scafell Pike and flows into the Ravenglass Estuary.

W1: Cocker Cockermouth, Buttermere & Crummock Water
W2: Ehen Whitehaven, Workington & Ennerdale
W3: Irt Wasdale, Gosforth & Seascale
W4: Esk: Ravenglass, Eskdale & Duddon Valley

Click on the links to the left to explore each o these regions through the lens and with additional notes and tips for visitors. These pages contain galleries and may take a moment to load.

To purchase photographs, greetings cards or large format images please contact Mike
Telephone: 01900 824329

+44 (0)1900 824329
+44 (0)7812 210880

UPDATED: 12/2013

The River Esk rises at Great Moss, a huge area of upland bog beneath some of the highest peaks of the Lake District: Scafell, Scafell Pike. Ill Crag and Bow Fell, the central massif forming a watershed here between Eskdale, Wasdale, Langdale, the Duddon Valley and Borrowdale. Eskdale is one of the prettiest valleys. The upper reaches are remote, and high between the mountains, the crystal clear stream forming deep splash pools as it cascades via a series of waterfalls to Brotherikeld farm at the foot of Hardknott Pass. The Romans built a fort here, on their route from Ambleside to the coast at Ravenglass. Iron ore deposits have been exploited since those times and the narrow guage Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway was built to transport the ore to the coast in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The railway was bankrupt, almost before it was opened but managed to limp on until it was taken over and converted into England's 'Smallest Railway' during the First World War. The 15-inch gauge miniature railway, known locally as the 'Ratty' is now a popular tourist attraction bringing tourists from the coast through the pretty Miterdale and Eskdale Valleys to Dalegarth, near Boot village. Eskdale is good centre for walking with popular trails from the top of the valley to Scafell and Bowfell. over the 'Corpse Road' past Burnmoor Tarn to Wasdale, or up Harter Fell, overlooking the Duddon Valley. There are more gentle walks too ... for example along the river to the High Stanley Ghyll Falls, St Catherine's Church and Penny Bridge, or up to bleak Blea Tarn (top of page), Burnmoor Tarn or Eel Tarn, or over Muncaster Fell from Irton Road station to Muncaster Gardens and Ravenglass. Other attractions include the old watermill at Boot village, the Japanese Gardens at Giggle Alley in Eskdale Green, and of course the old fishng village of Ravenglass with its Roman Baths, one of the highest standing Roman structures in the country. There are also some excellent pubs, serving real ales and good food, and top class restaurants such as the Pennington Arms at Ravenglass.


New Pages

West Cumbria:
Ehen / Esk / Irt

North Cumbria: Solway
South Lakes: Leven

Dorset, Skye:

Clouds gather over Eskdale as evening falls. This is the view from Hardknott Pass, the steepest road in England, with gradients of more than 1 in 3 on the inside curves, and not to be recommended on a busy summers day. This was the old route followed by the Romans between their fort at Ambleside (Galava) and the port of Ravenglass. They built an extensive fort at Hardknott overlooking the valley, a bleak place to be stationed in the winter. This view is westwards over the valley towards the Irish Sea, where the Isle of Man is visible on a clear day. To the left a picture of Bog Asphodels (Narthecium ossifragrum) a common flower of mountain bogs where it can form yellow carpets in the summer months. Like the familiar cotton grass, its presence warns climbers of the dangers of sinking into a peaty bog! Bottom left Is is a view over the Duddon Valley from Hardknott on a hazy day at the end of winter, dominated by Hardknott Forest which extends from the slopes of Harter Fell down to Birks Bridge where there is a picnic area provided by the Forestry Commission. To the right is another view of the pass dominated by the ruins of the Roman fort

The upper part of Eskdale can be reached by following the path upstream beside the river from Brotherikeld Farm at the foot of Hardknott Pass. There is no road so the only other people you will encounter will be walkers heading for Scafell or Bowfell, body surfers seeking the thrills of the Esk Falls, and perhaps local kids heading for one of the natural swimming pools. Top left is the view from above Brotherikeld towards Bow Fell. The path divides at the top of the main valley, the left fork crossing a packhorse bridge and climbing steeply past the Esk Falls to Great Moss and Scafell, the right ascending towards Bow Fell and Langdale. Top right is the high plateau below Great Moss. Scafell rises on the left, Scafell Pike in the centre of the frame. Bottom left is not for the faint of heart - the Tongue Pot pool, the ultimate way to cool down on a hot summer's day. I spent most of one the hottest days of the year in one of these splash pools a few years ago - the rocks were so hot that it never felt cold! Right, the upper part of the Esk Falls with Scafell Pike and Ill Crag.

Top left: River Irt at Dalegarth. This is the oldest working15 inch gauge locomotive in the world, having been rebuilt from the Heywood locomotive Muriel of 1894. Right, visiting locomotives Sian and Wroxham Broad, double-head a train out of Eskdale Green during a gala weekend. Bottom left: another visiting locomotive, this time Hurricane from the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway in Kent, hauls a train past the fomer Beckfoot Quarry. To the right, River Irt in the woods at Beckfoot crossing.

Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway opened in 1875 as a 3 foot gauge mineral line transporting iron ore from the Nab Gill mines above Boot village down the valley to Ravenglass where it could be transhipped onto the railway running aong the coast to iron and steel works at Barrow, Millom and Workington, or to the port of Whitehaven. Passenger services opened a year later but the line was never profitable. There was seasonal wool traffic but even this couldn't save the railway. It was reopened in 1915 as a miniature 15 inch gauge railway, partly as a testbed for the scale models of the engineer Bassett-Lowke. It continued to operate a passenger service. Over the years it also carried the post, wool, and substantial mineral traffic from teh granite quarry at Beckfoot near Boot to a crushing plant which was constructed at Murthwaite at the foot of Muncaster Fell. In 1960 the railway was divided into lots of land, buildings and rolling stock and put up for auction. It was saved at the eleventh hour by a group of enthusiasts, who formed a preservation society. It now provides an essential part of the Lake District experience, well worth the effort.

The middle and lower parts of the valleys of the Duddon, Esk and Mite havea great variety of woodlland including several public-owned forests managed by the Forestry Commission including Hardknott (Birks Bridge), MIterdale, Rainsbarrow, Cropple How, and the superbly names 'Giggle Alley'. There are also the forests of Irton Pike and Park Gate which form the divide between with Wasdale. Giggle Alley which is reached from the centre of Eskdale Green village, beside the Outward Bound School, is worth a walk at any time of the year. Despite being a small wood it boasts fantastic views over Miterdale and Eskdale, and a fascinating Japanese Garden which was 'saved from the undergrowth in the late 1990s and is now being restored by the Forestry Commission. Top left is a mossy corner of Miterdale, a wonderful forest due to its huge variety - from the dark conifers of it's upper reaches to some wonderful mixed woodland, then well-maintained coppice woodland in the lower reaches of the wood. Right is a view from Giggle Alley along Miterdale, a valley which is one of the Lake District's best kept secrets reached only on foot from Wasdale or Irton Pike or by a small, unmarked road from Eskdale. There are plans to regenerate the forest here as a mixed wilderness in the manner of the Wild Ennerdale project. Lower left is a nother view over Miterdale to the Scafell group. Right is a view over Eskdale from the slopes of Irton Pike.

Left is the River Duddon flowing beneath Birks Bridge. There is a picnic area nearby at the start of trails through Hardknott Forest and up to Harter Fell. The old packhorse bridge spans a waterfall and a tight gorge where the river forms a long deep pool of crystal clear water - perfect for a swim if you don't feel claustrophobic between the towering rocky cliffs! Right is a view over Miterdale Forest.

Muncaster Castle, home to the Pennington Family, stands overlooking the lower Esk Valley near Ravenglass. The gardens and castle are open to the public and are one of the most popular tourist attractions in West Cumbria. They are best known for their amazing Rhododendron displays during the Spring, their resident ghost, Tom Fool (and associated annual Jester contest), and for their owl centre. Top left is the beautiful terrace leading to the castle. In the opposite direction there are views up the valley to Scafell Pike. Right is the Castle overlooking the Eskdale valley with Corney Fell in the background. Below left is one of the Himalayan walks. Right: Common Blue butterfly on Hawthorn at Eskmeals.

Eskmeals nature reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest managed by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, lies to the south of Ravenglass estuary, It comprises saltmarshes along the tidal reaches of the Esk and a large sand dune system home to a fascinating variety of plants, and also to the rare Natterjack toad. Top left: River Esk curving northwards into the Estuary; Top Right: Railway viaduct carrying the Cumbrian Coast line over the Esk at Eskmeals. The marker shows the depth of water over the road at high tide. Bottom left: boat and saltmarsh with Eskmeals viaduct. To the left is the main channel of the estuary on the seaward side with Ravenglass in the background.

Wrought iron gates at Muncaster Castle. The crowds on the lawn are watching an owl and birds of prey demonstration.

Hawkweed at the Hodbarrow RSPB reserve. View over the inner lagoon, which covers old mine workings, towards the summit of Black Coombe.

Comfrey growing in a hedge. View over the town of Millom from Hodbarrow to the Duddon Valley and Lake District mountains.

Left: View from Hodbarrow over the Duddon Estuary towards the dunes at Sandscale and Walney Island. It is difficult to imagine the scene a few decades earlier when molten slag was tipped into the sea by trains from the ironfurnaces. Right: Black Coombe from Hodbarrow.

The RSPB nature reserve at
Hodbarrow occupies a landscape which was completely industrial until the 1970s. The Hodbarrow peninsula at Millom was the site of the largest and most productive of the West Cumbrian iron mining systems, in addition to the blast furnaces of Millom Ironworks. Sandwich terns now nest ad bee orchids flower where steam engines once shunted heavy chauldrons of slag from furnaces that lit up the night sky. In Victorian times an outer barrier was built around the site to prevent the sea from flooding the extensive tunnels and mine systems. When the mines closed the workings collapsed and filled with water to create a salt water lagoon. The RSPB now manage this reserve which is well-known for its diversity of flora, in particular orchids which thrive on the lime rich soil and the old workings. The islands in the lagoon are home to extensive breeding colonies of Common and Sandwich Terns while in winter, there are numerous migrants including wading birds, geese and ducks.

Left to right, top to bottom:

Flooded mine-workings and Black Coombe; Northern Marsh Orchids (Dactylorhiza purpurella) grow in profusuon; old iron lighthouse on the outer sea wall;
Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) ; the old beacon tower; Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) - a rarity that is a speciality of Hodbarrow. They are locally abundant here but t took me most of the day to track this one down for a photograph. Orchids like this were almost driven to extinction in Britan by over zealous collectors and gardeners. Hopefully people can now see that the best way to preserve a memory is a photograph in situ, rather than a faded dried, crushed specimen.

Other flowers that grow here include numerous members of the pea family including a wide variety of vetches and trefoils, restharrow and clovers, several speciaes of orchids, twayblades, wild strawberries, cinquefoils, buckthorn and bloody cranesbills.

The area around Millom, the Duddon Valley and the West Cumbria Coast has been beautifully described in the works of local poet and writer, Norman Nicholson. Following is an extract of 'On Duddon Marsh', describing the Spring high tide mark, so familiar to anybody taking a stroll along the saltmarsh or turf coastlines of the Cumbrian Coast, from Arnside north to the Solway.

This is the shore, the line dividing
The dry land from the waters, Europe
From the Atlantic; this is the mark
That God laid down on the third day
Twice a year the high tide sliding
Unwrapping like a roll of oilcloth, reaches
The curb of the mud, leaving a dark
Swipe of grease, a scaled-out hay
Of wrack and grass and gutterweed. Then
For full three hundred tides the bare
Turf is unwatered except for rain;
Blown wool is dry as baccy; tins
Glint in the sedge with not a sight of man
For two miles round to drop them there.
But once in spring, and once again
In autumn, here's where the sea begins.

On Duddon Marsh
Norman Nicholson

Left: Swinside (Sunkenkirk) Stone Circle shortly before sunset; Right: River Duddon near Duddon Bridge.

The southern part of this region is marked by the pretty
Duddon Valley and its long estuary which separates the otherwise nearby towns of Barrow-in-Furness and Millom. The Duddon rises high in the western Mountains and flows between Wrynose and Hardknott pass down to the sea near Broughton-in-Furness. The lower Duddon Valley contains some excellent deciduous woodland, formerly coppiced by charcoal burners. There is an old charcoal blast furnace close to Duddon Bridge, a reminder of times when this region was important for iron making due to its ready supply of suitable timber for charcoal, limestone and iron ore. Between the Duddon and the Esk are the high, bleak Birker and Corney Fells, crossed by small passes, and dominated to the south by the ancient mass of Black Coombe. This mountain is well worth the climb due to its far-reaching views over the coastal strip and also of the entire range of the Lake District mountains from which it is detached.

Another attraction well off the usual beaten track is
Swinside Stone Circle which is hidden away on a sunny plateau high above the Duddon Valley and overshadowed by Black Coombe and Corney Fell. It dates from the Stone Age and is one of the most impressive in the British Isles. It has a diameter of 29 metres and is almost complete with 55 of the original 60 stones surviving. It is aligned to the midwinter sunrise rather than the summer solstice, though it can be mysterious and atmospheric at any time. It is also called 'Sunkenkirk' as according to local tradition, the stones were intended for a church but the Devil caused them to sink into the ground.

Left: Wild Garlic (Ransoms) and Bluebells carpet the shady oak woods of the lower Duddon Valley; Middle: Welsh Poppy (Mecanopsis cambrica), a common sght along Lake District hedgerows and lanes; Right: telephone box at the foot of Hardknott Pass, near Brotherikeld Farrm.


Cockermouth, Cumbria CA13 0RA
Tel. +44 (0) 7812 210880; Email.

Copyright © 2013 Mike Morton