For some, walkies is a dreaded word, which is often whispered, spelled out or even replaced with a completely different word. In this household, its a word I love. It brings about vigorous tail wagging and an eagerness to get outdoors, which I fully embrace. Yesterday, walkies was a 14 mile hike through glorious countryside, in amazing weather.
I’ve previously said that Ennerdale is my favourite place on earth. It is unspoiled, tranquil and is off the beaten track. And, more importantly for me, it doesn’t have many visitors as compared to other parts of the county. Perhaps it is the lack of roads that keeps people away – whatever it is, I hope it never changes!
Due to the remote location, Ennerdale has not been as spoiled as other parts of the National Park, which makes the place kind of unique – and wild.
In 2003 the valley’s three major landowners formed the Wild Ennerdale Partnership. Working with Natural England, the Government’s advisor on the environment, the project has a vision:
To allow the evolution of Ennerdale as a wild valley for the benefit of people, relying more on natural processes to shape its landscape and ecology.
Ennerdale Valley was carved out by glaciers millions of years ago. Its slopes are lined with mixed woodland, forest, open fell and scree. Dotted within the landscape are juniper shrubs, said to give the valley its name. ‘Ennerdale’ (or versions of that spelling) means juniper valley in the ancient Norse language.
The valley is home to more than 100 species of wildlife, with goosander, grebe and heron on the water and goldcrest, buzzard and redstart in the forests. Up on the mountain you’ll spot whinchat, meadow pipit and skylark. There are butterflies, deer, otter and one of the UK’s rare colonies of red squirrel.
In the valley bottom lies Ennerdale Water and the spectacular River Liza, a unique river in England which is dynamic, wilful and free to shift its course – something it often does in response to heavy rainfall. Here you’ll find England’s only migratory population of Arctic char. This fish dates back to the Ice Age and is now marooned in only a handful of the UK’s deepest and coldest lakes.
Alfred Wainwright: The fleeting hour of life of those who love the hills is quickly spent, but the hills are eternal. Always there will be the lonely ridge, the dancing beck, the silent forest; always there will be the exhilaration of the summits. These are for the seeking, and those who seek and find while there is still time will be blessed both in mind and body.
For this walk, I parked my car at the Bowness Knott car park, and headed alongside the lake, past the Gillerthwaite hostel, along the valley to the remote Black Sail. The return journey took me along the opposite side of the valley, alongside Pillar Rock, and back to my starting point. You can view the route in Google Earth via my downloadable KML file.