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Photo Gallery: Irt
The River Irt flows from Wasdale, and the highest mountains in England, to the sea at the Ravenglass Estuary near Drigg and Holmrook.
This also includes rolling farmland, flower-filled country lanes and extensive sand dunes south of Seascale


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

Lakeland Beyond
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 the 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 Irt which drains from Wasdale into the Ravenglass Estuary, or the Ehen which drains from Ennerdale to the traditional iron-mining districts of Egremont and Cleator

WW1: Cocker Cockermouth, Buttermere & Crummock Water
WW2: Ehen Whitehaven, Workington & Ennerdale
WW3: Irt: Wasdale, Gosforth & Seascale
WW4: 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
Email:
mike@lakelandbeyond.com



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

info@lakelandbeyond.com



UPDATED: 12/2013

Wasdale & Wastwater: recently received (deservedly) the accolade of 'Britain's Favourite View'. One of the best climbing centres of the UK, comprising England's highest mountain, Scafell Pike, in addition to other familar peaks: Scafell, Great Gable, Yewbarrow, Lingmell, Pillar and Steeple. This ia a glaciated valley with mountains tumbling almost sheer into Wastwater, England's deepest lake, in a line of broken scree. The lake is three miles long and the valley ends at Sty Head Pass, the old packhorse trail to Borrowdale and Keswick. There is a small farming settlement at the top end of the valley, Wasdale Head, which also contains Englands 'smallest church', Wasdale Head campsite and the Wasdale Head Hotel which boasts an excellent microbrewery. There are also several high tarns in these mountains including Greendale, Burnmoor and Styhead Tarns. The annual Wasdale Show is one of the best places to see prize herdwick rams and sheepdog trials. Wasdale is also home to Jos Naylor, the legendary fell runner.

Strands Village (Netherwasdale): a pretty hamlet close to Wastwater with a recently refurbished church, campsite and two pubs - the Screes and the Strands. The latter now has its own micro-brewery. This is the closest settlement to the Wasdale Youth Hostel.

Santon Bridge: The Bridge Inn (good food and Jennings beers), craft shop with tea rooms, and walks up to Irton Pike. The Bridge Inn, which stands beside the River Irt, is the venue for the Annual greatest liar contest.


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West Cumbria:
Ehen / Esk / Irt

North Cumbria: Solway
South Lakes: Leven

Dorset, Skye:


Irton: Irton Hall, located on the main road into Eskdale, and reached by an avenue of horse chestnuts, has now been converted into apartments. St Pauls church which dominates the rolling landscape of the lower Irt Valley, is best known for the tall, carved, sandstone cross which stands in its churchyard and dates back more than 1000 years. The church is used for bell-ringing and contains two beautiful Arts & Crafts stained glass windows by Burne-Jones (William Morris company).

Holmrook: trout fishing on the Rver Irt (permits required). Lutwidge Arms.

Gosforth: large, attractive village just off the main A595 road. Good facilities including a post office, grocery store, a very good bakery (don't miss their pies) and a cluster of decent pubs - the Horse & Groom, Globe, Red Admiral (Boonwood), Lion & Lamb, Gosforth Hall and Wheatsheaf. The main attraction is Gosforth Cross, a tenth century carved, stone cross with Norse and Christian emblems, which stands in the churchyard. Above nearby Gosforth Hall there is a mystical spring known as the Holy Well.

Blengdale: the Bleng is a tributary of the Irt which rises behind Wasdale and descends through a heavily forested valley to Gosforth. There are good trails in this managed forest which is one of the last strongholds of the red squirrel in Cumbria,

Drigg: scattered farming village between Seascale and Holmrook. Extensive dune system and nature resrve embracing a sea bird colony at the mouth of the Irt on Ravenglass estuary. One of the few places where Natterjack Toads still breed - together with simsilar habitats near Seascale and at Eskmeals. across the Ravenglass estuary. There is also a very good crast shop and tearoom in the old railway station (Spindlecraft) - often has a nice selection of paintings and prints by the local artist, Ann Southward.

Seascale: the largest settlement in the area, and a dormitory village for nearby Sellafield. Attractions include the beach, an 18-hole links golf course and club, bronze age stone circlle (Greycroft) and the Hallsenna Moor, which is national nature reserve. Seascale is surrounded by a network of farm lanes which are ideal for walking (see below). The village has a post office, library and several shops. Also the excellent Cumbrian Lodge Hotel restaurant on Gosforth Road, and the Bailey Ground Hotel (Wansfell) which comprises an ice cream parlour with ice cream made with cream from their own dairy herd.



Britain's Favourite View: No matter how many times you visit Wasdale,you can never tire of the view. And every time you visit it is different - rain or snow, mist that obliterates the mountains or brilliant sunshine and blue skys. This valley which harbours England's deepest lake (Wastwater), highest mountain (Scafell Pike), smallest church and 'biggest liar' is a place of many moods and a paradise for photographers and climbers alike. Sometimes the water is as still as a mirror, other times it is grey and angry, but always it is cold and crystal clear. The photos above were all taken looking eastwards over Wastwater to the head of the valley. From left to right the mountains are Yewbarrow (almost conical from this angle), Kirk Fell just peeping behind it, Great Gable (brooding over the gap of Styhead Pass), then Lingmell stretching up to Scafell Pike, and then the Screes which hide England's second highest peak, Scafell, from this angle.



A WALKERS PARADISE

When it comes to walking, the Irt region of West Cumbria, has to be one of the most varied and interesting, not only in the Lake District, but also in Great Britain. The high fells around Wasdale are well known to fell-walkers and the campsite at Wasdale head, like that at Great Langdale, is one of the best known climbing bases throughout the year. This is the start of many of the high mountain walks: Scafell Pike, Great Gable, the Mosedale Horseshoe, the Styhead Pass route to Borrowdale, the Black Sail Pass to Ennerdale, and the easier Corpse Road via Burnmoor to Eskdale. All of these walks will be found in the relevant Wainwright Guides: The Western Fells (north side of Wasdale, extending to Ennerdale and Buttermere) and The Southern Fells which covers the south side including Scafell and Bow Fell, and extends towards Coniston.

However, there are also many other delightful walks in and around this region, from the country lanes which extend from Seascale to Blengdale Forest, and the lower fells such as Irton Pike with its extensive views over the coastal plain, or the bleak expanse of fells above the Calder Valley around Cold Fell. These are comfortable walks, and some suggestions may be found in the other Wainwright Guide, The Outlying Fells.



More of the same! The top left hand corner is the view along Wasdale from the Santon Bridge to Strands Village road. The sunbeams have caught the beautiful Scot's Pines at trhe bottom of the valley, and the dead, rust red fronds of the bracken that lines the road. In the photograph to the right, a man gazes over a mirror like Wastwater to the Wasdale Screes, illuminated by the late afternoon sunshine. His Border Collies seems more interested in the phoographer. The gorse is a familiar plant throughout this region and is as much at home here in Wasdale as it is in the dune slacks at Drigg where it carpets great swathes of land. According to legend, when the gorse no longer flowers, kissing is out of fashion. No fear of that in this part of the world. In the final picture in this group, storm clouds are gathering, and swirling around Great Gable on a summer's day.



The first three of these photos were both taken at different times from Irton Pike - a low fell at the west end of the Screes which marks the entrance to Wasdale. It is an easy walk, perfect when you have friends visiting from the city - the sort who moan when an escalator breaks down on the Underground! However, if you try to descend to Santon Bridge village you will soon flounder as there is no proper path, and the vegetation is very dense! Although it is only a small fell, the views to the west over the coastal strip are superb. In the first picture you can see the rolling farmland stretching to Seascale, Sellafield and the Irish Sea. On a good day the Isle of Man is very clear. Right is the view over Wasdale, a stunning panorama even on a hazy day. The lake is like a mirrow apart from a couple of gusts of wind which are stirring up the blue water. The mountains from the left are Yewbarrow, Kirk Fell, Great Gable and then the lower slopes of Lingmell and Scafell Pike. From Irton Pike it is also possible to descend to the lake where there are fantastic views from the boathouse, or southwards into Miterdale. The summit which protudes from dense woodland is covered in heather and gorse. The view here is down to Santon Bridge and the Bridge Inn which, despite becoming more upmarket in recent years, is still a good place for a pint of Jennings! The final view is a view up Wasdale from the Santon road, with Yewbarrow, Great Gable and Lingmell in the middle.



Thousands of years ago a huge forest extended over the fells between Wasdale and Ennerdale called the Copeland Forest. Much of the high ground nowadays is just moorland or bracken covered fell. However, the Forestry Commission planted large forests in this after the second world war including Blengdale, a long, narrow valley hidden behind the fells of Wasdale, and reached from Gosforth. Although predominantly a commercial conifer forest, Blengdale has some excellent tracks for walking and riding, while the river banks are perfect for a picnic. It is also a major stronghold of the red squirrel in Cumbria. Other significant woodlands in the region include Irton Pike and Parkgate. The photo above was taken from Irton Pike a magnificent panorama of Wastwater and the Wasdale fells, with Irton Pike forest in the foreground. The Lake Disterict fells and valleys are widely used by the air force for training flights and it is not unusual to look down from the high fells onto aircraft weaving up the valleys. Te picture on the right is a Chinook helicopter over Parkgate wood.



A CIRCULAR WALK from SEASCALE (Easy walk following the shore and farm lanes; approx. 7 miles))

Following is one of our own favourites, ideal for a late Spring or summer's day when the hedgerows are filled with wild flowers, or equally suitable in autumn when they are laden with blackberries. Strong shoes are recommended but wellingtons or boots would be useful when there has been a lot of rain as farm lanes become muddy. Take a picnic as there are no provisions beyond Drigg!

Start & Finish: Seascale Beach, in front of the Beach stores.

1. Follow the beach southwards towards Drigg. You can follow the sea defence wall which prevents the old smugglers cottage of Herding New from tumbing into the waves, or if the tide is out, you can walk across the sands beyond the rockpools (warning: the sea comes in quickly over the low sands). The dome of Black Combe dominates your view to the south. Beyond Seascale you pass dunes which extend as far as Drigg where there is small car park at the point where a stream and road reach the beach. The dunes extend southwards as a nature reserves along a spit of land into Ravenglass estuary. This is beautiful in the summer when the entire dunes and the slacks are ablaze with colour: bloody cranesbills, burnet roses, carmine thistles, sea holly, kidney vetch, wild pansies, and gorse to name just a few of the species. If you are very lucky you might spot a rare Natterjack Toad. There are also adders which you need to watch for in the early spring when they are emerging and are still sluggish. During the winter the estuary beyond here is excellent for birdwatching with many wading birds such as dunlin, redshank, curlew, lapwing, oystercatchers and also herons and shelduck. (45-60 minutes)



2. Turn inland where the stream reaches the sea and follow the small road eastwards to Drigg village. Ahead of you are the mountains of Wasdale and Eskdale, to the right the River Irt as it meanders into the Ravenglass estuary (just before Drigg a track leads down to a ford in the river), and to the left, between the conifers, are the low level storage compounds that belong to Sellafield). The road leads to a traditional level crossing with wooden gates and a signal box. This is the Cumbrian Coast line, built by the Furness Railway. The station building on the far platform is now an excellent craft shop which, conveniently sells tea, coffee and cakes. (20-30 minutes).

3. After refreshments continue over the old station yard and follow the road east into Drigg village where you reach the main Holmrook to Seascale Road (B5344) at a crossroads. Cross the road and continue eastwards following a farm lane set between high hedges which leads between the fields (mainly dairy farming) of Drigg and Holmrook Moors. There are two small spurs off the main lane to the right, one of them as you leave Drigg. Ignore both of them, but when you reach a third, turn left along it. This is a narrow track which leads out onto Hallsenna Moor, a remote area of floating mire. This is a rare habitat, comprising mosses, especially sphagnum, shrubs and heather, which are floating a layer of peat over a former glacial lake. It is also a Nature Reserve with information boards. Other interesting plants include Heath and Common spotted Orchids, Cross-leaved Heath and Bog Asphodel . To the east there are sand quarries and beyond that Muncaster Fell and Miterdale, You should not stray off the footpath which avoids the boggy areas and veers nothwards through a strip of woodland, as it cuts over the moor to reach a stile and another lane at Hallsenna Farm. (60 minutes)

4. Turn northwards along the lane, passing a white farmhouse on your right to reach a small junction in the lanes with a cluster of farms and cottages (Hallsenna). Turn left along the main lane which leads westwards. Thie lanes from here all the way back to Seascale harbour an astonishing diversity of flowers and birdlife - yellowhammers, reed buntings, goldfinches, and linnets for example. There are also hares and foxes in the fields, and it is not unusual to see kestrels or sparrowhawks, lapwings and curlews, or to hear skylarks singing.



The hedges are mainly hawthorn, but there are also willows and blackthorn, and plenty of brambles. Follow the lane slightly downhill passing Broom Farm on your right, and finally arriving at a T-junction with a large house set between tall trees on the left (Panope). Turn right here, crossing the stream which flows, over the lane, and follow the lane steeply up a long sandy bank. This is part of an old Roman Road. At the top there are more extensive views over Gosforth to the Wasdale Fells. The lane dips again, passing another area of mire entangled with osiers and Japanese Knotweed on your left, known locally as 'the Amazon'. The lane twists as it sinks between hedgerows in places and finally reaches a long straight section which takes you back towards Seascale. Bear right at the junction and follow the lane up to Cross Lanes where it meets the main road (B5344) on the edge of the village. The joiners workshop (Moffats) has quite a history and an excellent reputation. The sledges used by Shackleton in his expedition to the South Pole were made here, by Mr Moffat. (60 minutes)

5. Cross over the road and follow the footpath beside the road, which leads to Sellafield, as far as its junction with a lane leading off to the left (after approx. 250m). Follow this lane through a dip (sometimes floods). To the right you have views towards Sellafield and an old mill in the foreground. To the left there is the golfcourse and the village of Seascale. The lane leads you through How Farm where the hedgerows end. Here there is an excellent viewpoint overlooking the Irish Sea and the golf links which lead down towards a bronze age stone circle to the north (Greycroft), now overshadowed by the Sellafield complex and the tree-covered banks which partly landscape, but fail to hide the site! The lane runs along the edge of the golf course with a low bank to the left. At one point there is a stile where a path leads off over the fields into the village. From here you gain an excellent view over the entire village and to the mountain and fells from Cold Fell through Wasdale and Eskdale to Black Combe in the south. The village expanded considerably in the 1950s and 1960s with new estates stretching inland towards Gosforth, providing accommodation for the new factories at Windscale and Calder Hall (the current Sellafield complex). The older part of the village, overlooked by the church and the water tower, is the part nearest to the sea. There were spectacular plans for Seascale as a resort, put forward by the Furness Railway, in Victorian towns. Although, they were never fully realised the village was fashionable at one time as attested by huddle of sandstone mansions and villas which stretch beyond the other side of the golf course and overlook the sea. This area, known as The Banks, is where you head next. Ar the end of the golfcourse turn right and follow the road past the grandiose club house bearing right to reach the end of the houses at a sharp corner overlooking the golfcourse again. A path leads down to the left past a huge house, once part of famous Girl's School, which encompassed many of these imposing buildings, to meet a small path which leads steeply down to the footbridge over the railway. This leads you over to a cinder track which hugs the coast from Seascale to Sellafield. You can either follow this track back into the village centre or walk along the beach. (60 minutes)

The Ordnance Survey Explorer for South-west Lake District is recommended. MAP ref. OL6.



Three decades ago it was almost impossible to reach Ponsonby Tarn without battling through dense rhododendron thickets and brambles. Now, the rhododendrons have been cleared and a bridleway leads to the low dam seen above at the end of this secret tarn. Nevertheless, despite it being so close to Sellafield very few people venture here. It is an ornamental lake hidden in a steep-sided dell - supposedly created by Colonel Stanley on his return from Burma as a reminder of the jungle. The summer house and boat house that once stood on the shore have long disappeared, but this is still a tranquil place disturbed only by the cries of wheeling buzzards. On the evening when I took this photograph the entire lake was very still and covered with a fine layer of pollen. The second pictire is a view over the farming hamlet of Ponsonby towards Cold Fell.



Sellafield is perhaps one of the least understood places in the whole country, sinister, secretive and dangerous to those that don't live here, just a familiar, place of work for those that have grown up on the coastal strip, where it is estimated that 67% work or have worked at the plant. Nowadays the reactors and the infamous atomic piles lie silent while the site fcusses on reprocessing spent fuel. At the end of September 2007 I photographed a little piece of history, the demolition of the Calder Hall cooling towers. They had been a background to most of my life and when they were gone the place seemed rather strange. Calder Hall was the world's first peacetime nuclear power station. It generated electricity for the National Grid. Two of the reactor buildings can be seen in the bottom left hand view next to the last remaining Windscale Pile chimney which is still being decomissioned, a legacy of the fire in the 1950s. In the foreground is Seascale Hall Farm. The photograph on the bottom right was taken from Corney Fell, looking north-west along the Cumbrian Coast over Ravenglass Estuary and Sellafield to St Bees Head. It clearly shows the rivers Esk and Irt snaking into the estuary from south and north. The River Mite which jons the estuary between the other two is hidden by the fell in the centre of the shot. These three rivers that reach the Irish Sea here, also provided the names for three of the steam locoamotives on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway.




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