Exploring the Wynlass Beck catchment

Elizabeth Y. Haworth

What does one do when in lockdown for Covid-19 without a microscope or even a hand lens for algae? Well I just explored the river itself and the setting.

I live in the Lake District and the dog needed local walks. In February, storm Ciara made the waterfall at Millerground spectacular. In April, May and early June the water levels in the beck dropped dramatically.

It drew me to look at the rest of Wynlass Beck and its catchment. There is an obvious delta on the Windermere shore but the source location is more difficult as water seeps from the rocks and the thin catchment soils.

Wynlass Beck has two main rivulets, one more obvious than the other, as it seeps through the fields. Even with the Ordnance Survey map and Google Maps, identifying the upper reaches needed more dog walks, especially in the dry weather. Although maps show one rivulet as beginning in some willows below a road and track junction, and one can clearly see the stream passing through the stony sheep fields with some boggy areas, a hole in the wall indicates the importance of a hollow in the field above the road. The second rivulet first becomes obvious after heavy rain, when it gurgles into the roadside drain from the hillside and seeps across the field, before forming a stream that is then channelled across a field.

Springs also appear elsewhere after very wet weather and a lake appears in that field which gives the name to Causeway Farm.

In July, the beck is edged in places with vegetation including mint and the colourful Mimulus and it passes through an unusual garden. When the fields and woodland of St Catherine’s were left to the National Trust, the previous owner also left a small area in the top corner to her gardener, who created a woodland garden with a series of small weirs.

Once in woodland the banks and stones become mossy; several small tributaries join from the hillsides mainly from the north side and there are several small waterfalls. During the dry period the stones were stained white, was it the remains of spring diatoms, fine clay or both? Now it’s too late to check.

Lower down, the beck runs beside ‘The Footprint’, which is the National Trust’s education centre which was built of straw bales.

‘The Footprint’ National Trust Education Centre‘The Footprint’ National Trust Education Centre

The beck now enters the area of houses and gardens, and is seen as accumulating some algal growth. It still has a story to tell – on the roadside there is a house built over the beck, originally providing a water-cooled cellar for a wine merchant!

Further downstream a grid covers an old weir; was this for the mill once at Millerground? The beck is now channelled beside a road before heading down to the lake over that noticeable fall, before the water reaches the Windermere lake shore.

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