photo by: Elin B
Haweswater is a reservoir in the Lake District built in the Mardale valley in the county of Cumbria. The controversial construction of the Haweswater dam was started in 1929 after Parliament passed an Act giving Manchester Corporation permission to build the reservoir to supply much needed water for the urban conurbations of north-west England. At the time there was a huge public outcry about the decision as the valley of Mardale was populated by the farming villages of Measand and Mardale Green and the construction of the reservoir would mean that these villages would be flooded and lost and the population would have to be relocated. Additionally the valley was considered one of the most picturesque in Westmorland and many people thought it should be left alone.
Originally Haweswater was a natural lake about 4 kilometres long, virtually divided in two by a tongue of land at Measand; the two reaches of the lake were known as High Water and Low Water. The building of the dam raised the water level by 29 metres (95 feet) and created a reservoir six kilometres (4 miles) long and around 600 metres (approximately half a mile) wide.
The dam wall measures 470 metres long and 27.5 metres high, and at the time of its construction was considered to be cutting-edge technology as it was the first hollow buttress dam in the world, constructed using 44 separate buttressed units joined by flexible joints. There is a parapet 1.4 metres (56 inches) wide running the length of the dam and from this, tunnelled supplies can be seen entering the reservoir from the adjacent valleys of Heltondale and Swindale. When the reservoir is full to capacity it holds 84 billion litres (18.6 billion gallons) of water. The reservoir is now owned by United Utilities plc.
In advance of the valley being flooded in 1935 all the farms and dwellings of the villages of Mardale Green and Measand were demolished as well as the centuries-old Dun Bull Inn at Mardale Green. The village church was demolished and the stone used in constructing the dam; all the bodies in the church yard were exhumed and re-buried nearby at Shap. Today when the water in the reservoir is at a low level, the remains of the submerged village of Mardale Green can still be seen as stone walls and the village bridge become visible as the water level goes down.
Manchester Corporation built a new road along the eastern side of the lake to act as replacement to the flooded highway lower in the valley, and the Haweswater Hotel was constructed midway down the length of the reservoir as a replacement for the Dun Bull. The road continues to the western end of Haweswater where a small car park has been built; this is a very popular starting point for walkers who wish to climb the surrounding fells of Harter Fell, Branstree and High Street.
The Haweswater valley is unique i that it is the only place in England where Golden eagles nest. There is a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) observation post in the remote valley of Riggindale where the nesting pair have their eyrie. A pair of eagles first nested in the valley in 1969 and the male and female of the pairing have changed several times over the years, with a total of sixteen chicks having been produced. The female bird disappeared in April 2004 leaving the male to live on its own. However, the RSPB are hoping a replacement female will eventually be drawn to the area.