Windermere is Englands largest natural lake. It has been one of the country’s most notable places for holidays and summer homes since 1847, when the Kendal and Windermere Railway built a branch line to it. It is in the county of Cumbria and falls entirely within the Lake District National Park.
The word “Windermere” translates as “Vinandr’s lake”, coming from the Old Norse name Vinandr and Old English mere, signifying lake. It was always known as “Winander Mere” or “Winandermere” until at least the nineteenth century.
Windermere has a length of 10.5 miles (16.9 km) stretching from Newby Bridge To Ambleside and varies from a quarter of a mile (400m) to one mile (1.6 km) wide at Millerground. The lake has an area coverage of 14.7 square kilometres (5.7 sq mi). It reaches a depth of roughly 220 feet (67 m) near its northern end and has an elevation above sea level of 130 feet (40 m). The lake is drained at its southern point by the River Leven. It is replenished by the rivers Brathay, Rothay, Trout Beck, Cunsey Beck and various other lesser streams.
The two main towns on the lake are Ambleside and Bowness-on-Windermere.
The town of Windermere, somewhat confusingly, does not directly access the lake. Known as Birthwaite prior to the arrival of the railway, it is approximately fifteen minutes walk from the lakefront, and has now grown together with Bowness. Windermere railway station is the central hub for train and bus connections to the surrounding areas, Manchester, Manchester Airport and the West Coast Main Line. The lake was originally called Winandermere but the railway company thought this too long and called the station Windermere, which has since attached itself to both the town and the lake.
The lake is predominantly surrounded by foothills of the Lake District which provide pleasant and easy low-level walks; to the north and north-east the higher fells of central Lakeland commence.
Windermere is a rare lake in Britain in that it has a perceptible diurnal tide.
Windermere is a ribbon lake,similar to other Lake District lakes, which are long, narrow and finger-like. Ribbon lakes were formed many thousands of years ago during the ice age through glaciation: as the glacier bulldozed through a valley or glacial trough, it met bands of harder and softer rock. Erosion was greater at the softer rock than the hard rock and so a dip was created. When the glacier melted the lake filled with the meltwater, which was held in by moraine deposited by the glacier. A dam can also be formed by the bands of harder rock either side of the softer rock. There is normally a river at both ends of a ribbon lake.
The lake is home to 18 islands in total.
By far the biggest is the privately owned Belle Isle (40 acres (16 ha) lying opposite Bowness and approximately a kilometre in length.
The other islands are much smaller although one, Lady Holme, is named after the church that previously stood there. The remaining islands, by name, are Bee Holme, Blake Holme, Crow Holme, Fir Holme, Grass Holme, Lilies of the Valley (East, and West), Ling Holme, Hawes Holme, Hen Holme, Maiden Holme, Ramp Holme, Rough Holme, Snake Holme, Thompson Holme, Silver Holme.
The lake has an extremely high percentage of its drainage area under cultivation (29.4%), and a comparatively low percentage of lake bed above 9 metres (30 ft) in depth which is rocky (28%). This ensures that Windermere is a relatively rich habitat. The main types of fish to be found in the lake are trout, char, pike, and perch.
The north to south alignment of the lake, combined with its position between Morecambe Bay and the central fells, means that it forms what can essentially be called a migration highway. During winter months geese flying along this route are a common sight.
The Freshwater Biological Association was first formed on the shore of Windermere in 1929 and much of the early definitive work on lake ecology, freshwater biology and limnology was carried out here.
Prior to 1974 Windermere lay wholly within the county of Westmorland; however, the county boundary between Lancashire and Westmorland ran down the western shore of the lake and also along about three miles (5 km) of the southern section of the eastshore. Drivers crossing the lake via the Windermere Ferry thus travel from the historic county of Westmorland to that of Lancashire if they cross the lake in a westerly direction.
Following local government re-organisation in 1974, Windermere and its shores have been entirely within the non-metropolitan county of Cumbria and the district of South Lakeland. Most planning matters affecting the lake are, however, the responsibility of the Lake District National Park Authority.
The Windermere Ferry, a vehicle carrying cable ferry, operates across the lake from Ferry Nab on the east side of the lake to Far Sawrey on the westside of the lake. This service forms an integral part of the B5285.
In addition there are also several passenger services that serve the length of the lake. These go back to the railway era, providing connections at Lakeside with a former Furness Railway branch and were at once operated by British Rail, the former state-owned rail operator. Now privatised, three of the old railway boats are operated by Windermere Lake Cruises Ltd, along with a fleet of smaller and more modern launches. Although frequently described as steamers, the former railway boats are all in fact motor vessels, and are the MV Tern of 1891, the MV Teal of 1936, and the MV Swan of 1938.
Two large boating clubs are based around the lake; the Royal Windermere Yacht Club, and the Windermere Cruising Association. The Royal Windermere Yacht club maintains a set of turning marks on the lake, which the Windermere Cruising Association also are allowed to use. Most of the competitive sailing on the lake is co-ordinated by the Windermere Cruising Association and this includes the popular Winter Series which is not hindered by large gale formed waves that often cause racing on the sea to be cancelled.
Friday 13 June 1930 saw Sir Henry Segrave break the world water speed record on Windermere in his boat, Miss England II at an average speed of 158.94 kilometres per hour (98.76 mph). On its third run over the course, off Belle Grange, the boat capsized. Segrave’s mechanic Victor Helliwell drowned, but Segrave was fortunately rescued by support boats. He died however a short time later from his injuries. Segrave was one of the few people in history who has held the world land speed record and water speed record at the same time.
Racer Norman Buckley set various world water speed records on Windermere in the 1950s.
For years now, power-boating and water-skiing have been popular activities on the lake.
However, in March 2000, the Lake District National Park Authority controversially introduced a byelaw setting a 10 knots (12 mph/19 km/h)speed limit for all powered craft on the lake, in addition to three existing 6-mile-per-hour (5.2 kn) speed limits for all craft on the upper, lower, and middle sections of the lake. While the byelaw technically came into effect in 2000, there was a five year transition period and the new speed limits were only enforced from 29 March 2005. Regardless of the speed limits a significant number of people continue to use power-boats on the lake, both legally and illegally.
Various organisations support the move, mainly on the grounds of restoring the tranquil nature of the lake and making it safer and more accessible for all users. Opponents however, particularly those interested in the affected sports, are concerned by the lack of other suitable inland waters which can hold these activities, and the effect on many local businesses that reduced visitor numbers would have.
As with many bodies of water around the world, Windermere is reputed to contain one or more large, unusual fish or animals. The Centre for Fortean Zoology claims there have been many sightings of a giant eel-like creature in the lake going back as far as the 1950s. The monster first became news in 2006 after being spotted by university lecturer Steve Burnip and his wife Eileen, however it was a few months later when a local photographer, Linden Adams, caught sight of the monster that the media really caught attention, including the local Westmorland Gazette.
Reference: Wikipedia – under the GNU Free Doc Licence