Once a part of Bassenthwaite, but now connected only by the River Derwent, oblong shaped Derwent Water lies south of Keswick. It is the Lake District's third largest lake, and its waters shelter five islands.
Lord's, Vicar's, and St Herbert's are the three main islands. Wooded Lord's island is five acres in size and once belonged to the Derwentwater family. Vicar's island is six acres and is so named because it was the property of Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire.
In the past a floating island has been seen in the south-east corner of the lake. Here the water is only about six feet deep. At times the island covered as much as half an acre, but only barely cleared the lake's surface. In the year 1831 the island was seen from June 10 through September 24.
On occasion a ‘bottom wind’ agitates the lake. During periods of heavy rainfall the water tumbling down from the steep mountains into the lake causes a rise in its level.
Watched over by the fells of Derwent, and Castlerigg, the lake was described by John Keats as being “shut in with rich-toned mountains”. Borrowdale's mountains are to the south; Newlands on the west; and Skiddaw to the north.
Just south of the town of Keswick, at Derwent Water's head, is Friar's Crag, a favourite childhood view of author John Ruskin. The spot is so named because of the four-acre island, St Herbert's, in the lake's centre. Pilgrims and monks once gathered here to honour the saint, and William Wordsworth wrote a poem about the hermitage:
“...then wilt thou reverence
This quiet spot; and, Stranger! not unmoved
Wilt thou behold this shapeless heap of stones,
The desolate ruins of St. Herbert's Cell...”
Derwent Water is on the B5289 by Keswick.
Photos courtesy of Tony Richards and Graeme Dougal
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