Wet Sleddale lived up to it’s name today as the paths were full of paddling opportunities, and yes, we came home filthy.
Made famous in the film ‘Withnail and I‘ this area is positioned about 5 miles from Jnct 39 on the M6 motorway and west of the village of Shap in Cumbria.
Just before we entered the village of Shap from the south, we turn left down a single track road.
After about 3 miles and passing a farm and a compound holding all sorts of weather monitoring devices, we arrive at the car park alongside the Wet Sleddale reservoir dam wall.
Space is available for about a dozen cars and at this time of year, we had no problem finding a space.
Coats, boots and rucksacks sorted we head off, firstly to explore the path towards the top of the dam wall.
Wet Sleddale Reservoir
Stretching out around 600m ahead of us and lined by concrete sides the top of the dam wall was about 2m wide. Safety notices and padlocked gates restricted access, so we take a good look and return to the path.
As dam walls go, this is quite small, only about 21m high but it does hold back 2,300 million litres of water. This is used as a top up service for the nearby Haweswater Reservoir.
Being so close to a reservoir and with ‘Wet’ in the name gives the visitor some clue as to conditions on this walk.
Wellies or proper walking boots are the order of the day for humans whilst no doubt a bath will await us upon our return home.
Puddles and marshland line our path and you just can not help getting your paws wet.
Many of the puddles that filled up the craters in the gravel road had frog or toad spawn in them. Mum didn’t know which, but suggested that it possibly could be toad spawn.
Sadly as the puddles dry out and farming vehicles access the area, much of this new life will be squished, but hopefully some will survive.
Sleddale Hall – Withnail and I
As we reached the narrow top part of the reservoir, up to our right could be seen the now famous Sleddale Hall.
Since its appearance in the 1986 film ‘Withnail and I’ it has become one of those places to visit for film buffs.
Starring Richard E Grant (Richard Grant Esterhuysen) and Paul McGann the film tells the story of two out of work actors in the 1960s who venture to the Lakes to escape London only to find themselves ill-equipped for the conditions.
The hall was originally acquired by the Manchester Corporation in the 1920s, which became part of North West Water and now United Utilities.
Before we can rise up the hillside towards Sleddale Hall we must first cross over the very picturesque pack horse bridge.
We stood on the bridge as we crossed and imagined a small pony all laid down with provisions keeping to the centre of the bridge to avoid damage to the precious cargo.
We then looked back at mum and thought – ‘what a recreation’ as she crossed over the bridge complete with backpack full of our provisions.
White arrows, nailed to wooden posts, indicated which way to follow up the gravel path worn down by thousands of visitors over the years.
Sheep guard Sleddale Hall
Our approach to the now derelict buildings that form Sleddale Hall was being closely watched by the guardians of the fells, the local sheep.
Looking out from their vantage point, our every move was being observed like a defending army protecting a hill fort.
United Utilities placed the property up for sale in 2009 with a guide price of £145,000.
Built from stone and Lake District slate, Sleddale Hall and its associated outbuildings were probably built in the mid 18th century.
It has been unoccupied for many years, and is accessible only via a dirt track or across the fells on foot.
Surrounding this side of the property is a wire and post fence. Blue and white United Utilities signs indicate that entering the area will put you at risk from asbestos.
Wooden boards cover where doors and windows once were, in the hope of stopping visitors entering the possibly unsafe buildings.
It is almost two miles from the nearest public road and a mile from the nearest inhabited house.
Not wishing to upset the local sheep, as many are possibly expecting lambs shortly, we keep our distance from the buildings and do not venture any closer.
After a quick sit down on a well positioned dry rock and a few crumbs of flapjack from dad, we head back towards the car and the prospect of a hot bath when we get home.
Until next time
Buster and Charlie
Wet Sleddale and I – The jottings of Alen McFadzean on his visit to the area