Haweswater – Burnbanks to Bampton Common round

YouTube Preview Image

Cumbria is a large county in North West England and contains the Lake District and Lake District National Park. It is bounded to the north by the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, to the west by the Irish Sea, to the south by Lancashire, to the south east by North Yorkshire, and to the east by County Durham and Northumberland. Cumbria is very mountainous containing every peak in England over 3,000ft above sea level with Scafell Pike being England’s highest mountain at 978 m (3,209ft). Cumbria is also one of England’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty attracting mountain climbers, hikers and walkers, cyclists, runners and tourists and holds a source of inspiration for artists, writers and musicians. Cumbria consists of six districts Eden, Carlisle, Allerdale, Copeland, South Lakeland and Barrow-in-Furness.

The Lake District is an area with stunning scenery located within in the County of Cumbria. Commonly known as The Lakes or Lakeland it was granted National Park status on 9th May 1951 less than a month after the first UK designated National Park, The Peak District.  It is the largest of thirteen National Parks in England and Wales and the largest in the UK after the Cairngorms. The Lake District National Park itself covers an area of 885 square miles and stretches 30 miles from Ravenglass in the west to Shap in the east and 35 miles from Caldbeck in the north to Lindale in the south. Crammed with so much natural beauty the Lakes attract visitors, tourists and holiday makers from all over the world. As the name suggests there are many lakes each with their own uniqueness, amenities and activities such as lakeside walks, sailing, waterskiing, boat trips and ferries. All of the lakes except Bassenthwaite Lake are named by water, tarn or mere and are surrounded by stunning scenery and magnificent fells. There are some wonderful towns to explore such as Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, Kendal, Hawkshead, Grasmere and Cockermouth all with a splendid mixture of shops, cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants. There are also many museums, theatres, historic homes, gardens and many easy walks for the not so energetic visitor wishing not to climb the fells. William Wordsworth the famous British poet was born in Cockermouth and later lived in Grasmere where he wrote some of his best works before moving to Rydal Mount near Ambleside for his last 37 years. Both places are open to visitors and so is Brantwood home to John Ruskin until his death. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and Thomas de Quincey all followed Wordsworth to the Lake District. Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons, also grew to love the lakes and settled in the Winster Valley near Windermere. The painters Thomas Gainsborough, JMW Turner and John Constable were early visitors to the lakes but it was John Ruskin who settled here at Brantwood on the shore of Coniston Water. Farming and especially sheep farming has been historically and still is the main industry of the Lake District. The tough Herdwick breed with their stocky build and distinctive grey coat are especially hardy for the Lakeland fells and its weather. Sheep farming has probably been here since Viking times and is an important factor both to the economy of the lakes as well as in preserving the stunning landscape which attracts visitors and hence income to the region. Walking is a big attraction in the Lake District whether strolling around the low lying lakes or climbing up into the mountainous fells whichever is undertaken the scenery is magnificent. Alfred Wainwright’s famous hand written book, The Pictorial Guide to the Lake District, published in 1955 is a collection of seven books each illustrated with his unique style and charm of the 214 fells inspiring many visitors and tourists from all over the world.

Haweswater converted to a reservoir is a very pretty reservoir in the beautiful valley of Mardale and is the most easterly of the lakes with no villages on its shores. The controversial construction of its dam was started in 1929 after Parliament passed an act giving Manchester Corporation permission to build the reservoir to supply water for Manchester. This decision caused a public outcry because the farming villages of Measand and Mardale Green would have to be flood therefore the population of the Mardale valley being relocated. Also the valley was considered one of the most picturesque in Westmorland and many people wanted it to be kept in its existing state. Before the valley was flooded in 1935 all the farms and dwellings of the villages were demolished as well as the centuries old Dun Bull Inn. The church was dismantled and the stone used in building the dam, all the coffins in the churchyard were removed and re-buried at nearby Shap. Manchester Corporation built a new road along the eastern side of the lake to replace the flooded road lower in the valley and the Haweswater Hotel was built midway down the length of the lake as a replacement for the Dun Bull Inn. The building of the dam, 470 metres long and 27.5 metres high, raised the water level by 95 feet and when the reservoir is full it holds 18.6 billion gallons of water. Haweswater is now one of the largest lakes at 4 miles long and half a mile wide and has a maximum depth of 200 feet. The reservoir now owned by United Utilities supplies about 25% of the North West’s water supply. It is one of the lesser visited lakes in the Lake District due to the lack of facilities and access via a single track road leading south from the village of Bampton. Mardale is also one of the more tranquil valley’s offering a number of walking routes with spectacular scenery. There is a United Utilities car park located at Mardale Head at the southern end of Haweswater a popular starting point for a path to the surrounding fells of Harter Fell, Branstree and High Street. A walk around Haweswater is about 10 miles and during periods of drought you may be able to see the buildings of Mardale Green, including stone walls and the village bridge that was flooded to construct the reservoir. A direct path from Mardale Head up to Blea Water, the deepest tarn in the Lake District, is a shorter walk but a lot steeper, is a fantastic place for a picnic. Until 2015 Haweswater was the only place in England where a golden eagle was resident. A pair first nested in the valley of Riggindale in 1969 and the male and female of the pairing changed several times over the years during which sixteen chicks were produced. The female disappeared in 2004. The RSPB erected an observation post in the valley for people to see the lone male eagle which was last sighted in late 2015. The 20 year old eagle may have died of natural causes. Since 2012 the RSPB has leased two farms from United Utilities to be able to combine the improvement of wildlife habitats and water quality with running a viable sheep farm. Moorland and woodland habitats are also being improved for birds as well as the rare small mountain ringlet butterfly.

Burnbanks is a very small village built to accommodate the men and their families who were employed in building the dam at the southern end of Haweswater. Sixty-six bungalows were built, with a mission room, recreation hall and large huts for single workmen. Today the village contains only about 20 houses some of which have been built on the original foundations of the former homes of the men who built the dam in the 1930’s. At near-by Naddlegate there are six bungalows which were built for the engineers and managers who came to work on the dam.

Bampton Common lies to the west of Haweswater and below the 2,000 year old Roman Road, High Street, built by the Romans to connect their forts at Brougham near Penrith and Ambleside. The road includes the peaks of Wether Fell, Red Crag, High Raise, the highest peak High Street named after the road and Park Fell.

The Walk

As we enter the village we bear to the right past the telephone box and an information board. We go through a gate and turn right then bearing left on a broad track. We are soon in to Open Access Land and we keep bearing left following the trees. We start to head downhill slightly to the lake. At the lake we keep heading forwards following the wall on our left. We go through a gate, pass an information board, and keep heading forward. We cross the bridge over The Forces (waterfalls) and head forward starting to go uphill. We soon bear right and start to climb steeply with the waterfall on our right. At the top of the falls we go through a gate then head forward to cross over the bridge. We keep following the path bearing slightly left steeply uphill through the fern. At the brow we cross a tiny stream and bear left. We head forward and then bear right to pass below the cairn we can see in the distance on the right. We keep heading forwards following the path through the dip and the end of the lake soon comes into view again. We start to steadily drop downhill and as the path splits we keep heading downhill bearing left to a ford. We cross the ford and bear right through the depression between the two hills heading towards some trees in the distance. We soon pass a farm on our left and drop down into the dip. We pass a gate on the left and keep heading forward up the other side following the footpath sign with the wall and trees on our left. We head forward through the ferns ignoring a gate and a stile down below on our left and keep heading forward with the wall on our left. When we see a track going off to the right between two hills we turn sharp left down to a gate in the wall. We do not go through the gate but turn right staying on the Open Access Land following close the wall on a narrow path. We cross over a tiny stream and keeping the wall and stream on our left we start to go downhill. As we drop down we bear off slightly right still with the wall on our left through the field towards the trees in front of us. At the trees and the end of the Open Access Land we go through a gate and turn left along the lane then retrace our steps back to our car.


This is an easy to moderate walk on gravel/grass paths and tracks. There is a steep incline alongside The Forces (Waterfalls) and after crossing the bridge at the top of the falls.

Elevation: approx lowest point 205.40m (673.88ft) approx highest point 549.70m (1803.48ft) approx ascent 418.10m (1371.72ft).

Distance and Start Point

Approx 3.5 miles allow 3 hours using OS Explorer Map OL5, The English Lakes North-eastern area, Penrith, Patterdale and Caldbeck. This walk is done clockwise.

Start point: At the side of the main road near the right turn into the village of Burnbanks.


Haweswater is south of Penrith in the north-eastern area of the Lake District.

Directions and Parking

From the A66 at Penrith take the A6, Kendal road, and take the first right at Eamont Bridge to cross over the M6. Take the first left and follow this road through Asklam, Helton and Bampton then take the small road on the right into Burnbanks.

Parking: Free parking at the side of the main road near the small road on the right into the village of Burnbanks or in the village itself.

Toilets and Refreshments

There no public toilets or refreshments en-route but the Haweswater Hotel, located half way along the lakeside road, has a walkers bar serving refreshments.  The next nearest pubs are at the villages of Bampton and Bampton Grange, a shop at Bampton and a post office/shop at Askham. There is also a pub at Yanwath and a pub and shops at Eamont Bridge near Penrith. Penrith provides the nearest public toilets and many shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants etc to choose from.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.