Date - 4th January 2009 Distance - 6 miles
Map - OL5 Start point - Burnbanks (NY 506161)


Summits Achieved

Name Height (ft) Height (m) Grid Ref
Pinnacle Howe 1257 383 NY 4970 1668
Four Stones Hill 1362 415 NY 4915 1627
Bampton Fell 1604 489 NY 4871 1648
Low Kop 1877 572 NY 4744 1647


The Walk

It was the 4th January and this was to be our first walk of 2009, so we were eager to be off to get those first miles of the New Year under our paws. Dad took us north on the M6 motorway, leaving it to drive to the village of Shap about 1000ft above sea level. From here we took a minor road, turning off this to come to the tiny village of Burnbanks. This nestles just a little way below the huge dam wall of Haweswater Reservoir built by Manchester Corporation.

The dam wall measures 1542 feet long and 90 feet high, and at the time of construction between 1929 and 1940 it was considered to be cutting-edge technology, as it was the first hollow buttress dam in the world, being constructed using 44 separate buttressed units joined by flexible joints. The Lord Mayor of Manchester set off the first explosion in 1930 to start the works the only casualty being one rabbit. When completed the reservoir took two years to fill and raised the height of the existing lake by 95ft. Its capacity is 18.6 billion gallons – that’s a heck of lot of baths!! Like Thirlmere the water is transported over 100 miles to Manchester using the force of gravity alone.

Burnbanks was originally built by Manchester Corporation to house the workers engaged on the construction of the dam. This was no "navvy" camp but a model village comprising 66 purpose built bungalows of sturdy cast iron construction with electricity, hot and cold running water, modern kitchen and bathrooms. They were the envy of many a local farmer. It was a true community, Manchester providing a mission, recreation hall, dispensary and shop, and paid for a policeman, nurse and shopkeeper. In the 1960s and 70s there was further work to expand the catchment area of the dam, but the population of Burnbanks started to dwindle. Some of the houses were dismantled and re-erected elsewhere. The village passed out of Manchester’s control with the reorganisation of local government. Much of Burnbanks became hidden under self seeded trees and shrubs. Uncertainty over its future was finally resolved by the granting of planning permission for the rebuilding of 18 surviving bungalows and a new village green. This is illustrated in the above photograph.

Well that’s the history lesson out of the way, now we had better get on with the walk. Here is the original signpost pointing our way past the bungalows and into the woods.

The path shortly reached a gate and the open fell. We walked right, on a rising path that rounded the shoulder of the hill and over towards the farm of Drybarrows, where a hill to its left rose above us.

This was Pinnacle Howe our first objective of the day. As you can see it was a cold day the frost lying on the ground. We soon reached the rising ridge to the right and Dad made short work of reaching the summit. "Photo time" we said.

A short descent followed before climbing over Little Birkhouse Hill to make the steepish ascent to Four Stones Hill. Dad kindly obliged and got the flag out for this photo.

This hill gets its name from the Bronze Age standing stones close by. There are now just two of the original four left. Here they are with the expanse of Haweswater behind. Don’t you think those high fells in the distance look cold with their frost covering?

On the slopes of the hill was this group of wild fell ponies.

"Where to now", said Grizzly, and Dad pointed to the steep slope on the other side of the path by the stones. Our little hearts sank a bit, but Dad’s stamina has returned and soon we were at the cairn on Bampton Fell. This done, Dad used his compass to get the bearing (no pun) to the final summit of Low Kop. Descending from Bampton Fell we joined a track that then wound up the hillside to reach another track. According to the map there should have been a track ahead that led to the summit, but this seemed to have disappeared. So we just walked on up and soon reached the flat top. No cairn here but Dad found the seemingly highest point and we sat on the map case to have our photos taken. Better than the frosty ground.

Now we descended to the track and walked left. Dad was looking for the path to the bridge over Measand Beck. Unbelievably it was the same path we had walked from Bampton Fell. It seems the map is not quite correct. Lower down we branched off to the right to find the correct path that led to the bridge.

It does not really show in the photograph but the "rock" in the centre of the stream under the bridge was actually a solid block of ice. There was a clear path was on the opposite side of the bridge. However according to the walk instructions we were not to cross but descend on the left side. This path is really not in general use now and was at times hard to follow, but it did afford us great views of the waterfalls called The Forces.

Further views of more falls were to be had standing on the edge of a rather large drop. We are always relieved that Dad is sure footed. Eventually the shore of Haweswater was reached. A wide track follows the shore. At times this was rather tricky to negotiate as the lying pools of water had formed into solid ice. Thankfully no mishaps occurred. Intermittently there were views along the lake towards the dam.

The stone "beach" in this photo is indicative of how dry it had been lately as the reservoir was not completely full. Actually a sturdy fence prevents access to the shoreline. The water is deep and people would be foolish to cross the fence. Soon we reached the gate into the wood that we had used at the start of the walk. We were very excited as we looked into the wood to see a red squirrel. They are in danger of extinction caused by the larger greys, and the Lake District is one of their few remaining strongholds. So we were privileged to see one.

The car was soon reached and once changed Dad set off for home, but first went to Junction 37 Services just off the M6. Here he enjoyed some delicious beef stew with new potatoes and vegetables. Quite a plateful it was too. Then it was an easy drive south on the motorway and home after a great walk to get our 2009 campaign underway.


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