‘Long, narrow, stern and desolate’ is the description Wordsworth used for Wast Water. Coleridge, on the other hand, thought it ‘a marvelous sight’.
The rugged and isolated Wasdale valley and its lake were formed by glaciation. At three miles in length and a half mile in width, Wast Water is England's deepest lake, reaching downward 260 feet. The lake is linked to the river Irt. The pure dark water of the lake provides little in the way of sustenance for freshwater life. However, trout and char inhabit the waters.
Ringing the lake is a panorama of majestic mountains that includes Sca Fell, England's highest mountain.
Of dramatic impact is the desolate Wast Water Screes, a crumbling 1500-foot high vertical wall of rock dropping straight into the lake's south-eastern shore. Red tinted bands of iron laden rock add colour to the unstable black rock. The red colouring was once used for marking sheep. A low level path runs along the lakeshore. Ilgill Head provides a high level ridge walk with views over the lake.
A narrow road on the lake's north shore leads to the valley head and the tiny hamlet of Wasdale Head, a climber's starting point for the many fell walks around Wast Water.
Cut off from the rest of Lakeland by its mountains, Wast Water and its valley are little changed by human habitation or tourism. Wordsworth must have had a change of heart about the lake after camping there in 1809. He described it then as
‘the placid lake that rested far below
Softly embosoming another sky.’
Wast Water is off the A595 from Gosforth and then left on a minor road.
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