One of our two main walks was around Tarn Hows. This relatively small body of water was actually created from three much smaller, separate tarns by Garth Marshall who owned the estate from the early 1800’s as part of a larger land improvement program. This 19th century history of the land is like a microcosm of the move from common land to enclosed land and large-scale agriculture and agribusiness. Wikipedia sums it up as follows:
“Until 1862 much of the Tarn Hows area was part of the open common grazing of Hawkshead parish. The remaining enclosed land and many of the local farms and quarries were owned by the Marshall family of Monk Coniston Hall (known as Waterhead House at the time). James Garth Marshall (1802–1873) who was the Member of Parliament for Leeds (1847–1852) and third son of the industrialist John Marshall, gained full possession of all the land after an enclosure act of 1862 and embarked on a series of landscape improvements in the area including expanding the spruce, larch and pine plantations around the tarns; demolition of the Water Head Inn at Coniston; and the construction of a dam at Low Tarn that created the larger tarn that is there today.”
It also throws an important spotlight on the efforts of Beatrix Potter to keep land in the Lake District for independent farming and the vital role that the National Trust has played in helping to preserve and keep open to the public not only a variety of historical properties but also many and varied landscapes. She had a special interest in the local breed of sheep known as Herdwick which are still bred here today.
“In 1930 the Marshall family sold 4,000 acres (16 km2) of their land to Beatrix Heelis of Sawrey (better known as Beatrix Potter) for £15000. She then sold the half of this land containing the tarn to the National Trust and bequeathed the other half to them in her will.”
In Grasmere there is a shop belonging to a design business called “Herdy” inspired by the Herdwick breed known colloquially as herdys.
The light on our arrival was pretty dull and overcast as you can see from the pictures above but by the time we had made our way around the tarn the sun was breaking through and the dark clouds receding, making for some quite dramatic views.
Early on in the walk we took a detour through the woodland following the course of the Tom Gill Beck as it leaves the Tarn. It was quite small that day and even dived underground for short stretches but after rainfall it can turn the falls into a gushing cascade.
Below I managed to capture some video of the very rare and shy, lesser spotted Katelope skipping from rock to rock by the falls.