Up The Pipeline
The Thirlmere Way

It all started when Ian & Cynthia invited Margaret & me to a talk by John Butcher at Hutton Roof Village Hall.  The subject sounded a little dry, although at the same time being very wet.  It was the story of the creation of Thirlmere, the reservoir, and the construction of the pipeline to take drinkable water to Manchester.  Friends who had previously listened to the talk elsewhere enthused about what they had heard so we accepted the invitation with expectation.

We were not disappointed.  The speaker performed well in relating the difficulties of securing funding, the problems and triumphs of construction and the consequences of the achievement.

One of the many items on display was a book entitled The Thirlmere Way- a long distance walk devised by Tim Capelli and published in 1992.

This broadly follows the path of the pipeline from sink to source, starting at Heaton Park, Manchester and ending, not surprisingly, at Thirlmere. Although long out of print, it didn't take long to find a copy on the Internet.

At the same time, I discovered another walk around the Kendal's Three Aqueduct Crossings compiled by Peter Dobson in 2003 which the BOOTboys undertook in March 2013, recorded as BB1309.

It was resolved that the four of us would tackle the Thirlmere Way once the Miller's Way had been completed.

As we were no further than Shap Wells milling our infrequent way north to Carlisle, it was likely to be some time before the first step was taken.

Indeed, the overriding question was in which direction should the first step take?  
North or South.

My instincts were "to go with the flow"- i.e. southwards from the reservoir.

Margaret thought the opposite, partly for the purpose of "seeking the source"- a more adventurous concept (unless you already know its location).  The other, more persuasive, reason was that we would be starting in unfamiliar territory and thereby not only heading towards arguably the prettiest part of the Way but initially covering ground that was new to us.  "I've started so I'll finish" is easier if heading home rather than away.

A further, practical advantage was that this is the way the book is written so reinterpretation would not be necessary.

We were going Up The Pipeline.

The Thirlmere Pipeline

The pipleline was built by Manchester Corporation Water Works to relieve the problem of an ever growing need by industry and people in the Manchester area in the latter part of the 19th century.

The first job was to create the reservoir so a dam was constructed to convert two small tarns, Leaves Water and Whythburn Water, between Grasmere and Keswick into one large reservoir.

In fact there are now four pipelines lying alongside each other for nearly 100 miles. Construction of the first started in 1890.  It opened in 1894, water taking thirty hours to reach Manchester.

The fourth pipeline was competed in 1925.

The water is taken from Thirlmere to Manchester entirely by gravity, the pipes being mostly underground except where they cross the rivers.  Evidencing the route of the pipeline arre many inspection chambers and gates which are generally locked.  Some people are known to be gate spotters, seeking to locate each such item.  Not us!

It is believed that there is very high security on the piepline.  Let's hope so!

For further information see:

Up The Pipeline:

The Thirlmere Way

Caton to

to Dalton Crags

Dalton Crag
to Lupton

to Oxenholme

Beehive Bridge
to Spital

Dodding Green
to Staveley

to Windermere

to Ambleside

to Grasmere

to Thirlmere Dam


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