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Haweswater, Harper Hills, Tailbert Farm, Swindale, Corpse Road, Cumbria.
[ 17.7 km] Wed 04 Apr 2012

NY 47948 11949

It was cold and windy as I drove north along the M6. Overnight snow had closed some of the trans-Pennine routes south of Manchester so I was a bit apprehensive about what Iíd find on the approach to Haweswater. Things turned out OK and I reached the lay-bye on the road by the reservoir. I walked north along the road for a while to investigate the Whiteacre Crag area. Access was though a gate and the Crag gives nice views of the reservoir and surrounding mountains.

Haweswater from Mardale Banks

Across the road I took the other gate to start walking up Mardale Banks. The fells were covered with a thin layer of snow which was just enough to obliterate any small path. I didnít start on the path as I was trying to find the filming location of a scene from the film ĎWithnail and Ií. The picture I had for comparison was a poor quality b&w photo printed of paper and wasnít much use. Iíll need to reprint it in colour and try again at some future date. I traversed along the contour line and rejoined the path towards the Naddle Forest area. I crossed Guerness Gill by the bridge where the water pipeline crosses to the left. Above Pot Net I missed where the path goes through the wall and finished up following the higher wall to the correct gate. In the Naddle Forest area the correct line of the path vanishes completely so I crossed the flat bog to follow the south wall to where I could cross to the higher fell and a better track. Between High Goat Gill and Low Goat Gill the map marks a chimney.

Site of the old hut with chimney remaining

View NE to the Pennines from Harper Hills

Riggindale Crag from Harper Hills

I reached the site to find a tall stone chimney structure (approx 4m) and an adjacent flat concrete area which indicates that it was probably a shooting hut in the past. The track gradually improved as I continued over Harper Hills and the small open reservoir. I continued over Rosgill Moor then left the track to drop down to the road which I crossed to join the next road towards Tailbert. I wasnít concentrating as I crossed Tailbert Gill and missed the path. I soon realised my mistake and returned to head south high above the gill. There was no path marker at the road. The path levelled off and I reached Tailbert Farm but nobody was about.


I crossed the gill again and headed up the field to join the main path in to Swindale. The earlier 2degC cold wind was now behind me and some of the snow hade gone making rout finding easier. There was also a bit more sunshine about and I had a delightful view up the valley as I descended to Swindale Beck. There is no obvious path to the footbridge but the ford by Truss Gap has a good set of stepping stones by it which I used. Swindale Lane was a refreshingly easy walk and I continued to Swindale Head then turned right up the steep path that is the start of the old Corpse Road to Mardale. The first part is quite rough but after the last sharp bend it becomes easier up to the river crossing then gradually levels off as the summit is approached at around 512m (1680ft).

Desending to Swindale

Haweswater from the Corpse Road

Prior to 1736 this was the route taken as the dead of Mardale were taken to Shap Church for burial. But then they were coming the opposite way to me. The last corpse to come this way was John Holme on 17 June, 1736. After that the Church in Mardale was allowed to bury their own dead. However, the last Mardale Church service took place on 18 August 1935 when the Bishop of Carlisle spoke to the 72 people who could fit in the church while 1000 were outside. After that the church was dismantled before the rising waters of the Haweswater Reservoir flooded the valley. The bodies in the cemetery were disinterred and moved to Shap church. So they were the only bodies to by-pass the corpse road. The final part of the descent is a series of zigzags passing some old peat houses which are still in a good state of preservation except for the missing roofs. The reservoir spread out below me but prior to 1935 the view would have been down to the village of Mardale and the Dun Bull Hotel. Back at the road here were more vehicles about but I hadnít seen any other walkers on the trail, just a few walkers at a distance walking down Swindale.

Road along the Reservoir