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Thirlmere Reservoir and drought.

July 7, 2010

After an exceptionally dry summer, it was announced today that we will be having a hose pipe ban from Friday. Some people may find this hard to believe and wonder why.

Thirlmere Reservoir June 2010

Recently we went for a walk around Thirlmere and were amazed to see how low it was. We knew it had been dry as our own private water supply which comes from a stream on the hillside had dried up a few weeks previously. Now seemed a good time to write a little bit about the history of Thirlmere with a few photos of the the recent drought conditions.

A very dry Thirlmere.

In the mid 19th Century Thirlmere was not like it is today. Originally there were two tarns in the valley called Leathes Water and Wythburn and a small pub and hamlet at the south end. Thirlmere is a glacial valley which usually has a good water catchment from streams on the fells surrounding it. The valley was flooded and Manchester Corporation started their great engineering feat of tunnelling through the hillside and laying their pipeline from Thirlmere to Manchester from 1885 -1893. “Turning shapely Thirlmere into tanks” as J.K.Stephen said at the time.

Drought hit Thirlmere Reservoir.

3.5 miles long, 1,2miles wide, and usually 158 feet deep, Thirlmere supplies water to Manchester and the North West travelling from the Lake District to Manchester by gravity. Local men were employed by Manchester Corporation along with “strangers” and little colonies of wooden huts sprang up, most notably at the top of Dunmail Raise. Another settlement was at White Moss and traces can still be found of the remains of cottage gardens, where watercress and mint are growing.

Line showing how far the water level has dropped. Thirlmere.

Some people benefited from all the activity. George Armer was the carrier in those days and he would purchase a huge variety of goods in Kendal on a Saturday morning and work his way along the pipe track selling his wares. The Ambleside company called Bennett were responsible for all the carting to and fro and had as many as seventy horses on the job.The first water arrived in Manchester on 13th October 1894.

Walking to the Island on Thirlmere.

Nowadays the area surrounding the reservoir with woodlands and open fells that extend to the summit of Helvellyn, is a popular place for walking with trails like Swirls, Launchy Gill and Harrop. The area is also a red squirrel protection area. There are plans afoot at the moment to stop cars driving round the West side of Thirlmere and to make it a dedicated cycle route, causing a great deal of discussion with locals.

Thirlmere Reservoir June 2010.

As I said at the beginning, our private water supply has dried up. How ironic then that the Manchester pipeline runs about 5 yards to the left of our own empty tank!

3 Comments
  1. Shocking pictures of Thirlmere! Haweswater is looking just as bad! Lets hope we get some rain soon!

  2. Paul Williams permalink

    After much rain in the last few days it looks like rivers and lakes are well up, do think the hosepipe should now be lifted

    • Yes, since the hosepipe ban came in it has rained continuously. Yesterday in Grasmere we had a flood warning out. The river had burst it’s banks at Rydal, and our water tanks are full to overflowing.

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