Whereas Eskdale's grandeur is softened by the wooded slopes and lush valley floor, Wasdale is wild and unrelentingly dramatic. Here is England's deepest lake with the steep screes of Illgill Head plunging 900 feet beneath the jet black surface. In the distance the fine silhouettes of Yewbarrow, Great Gable and Scafell combine to create the most distinctive mountain skyline in Britain. But what characterises Wasdale more than any other valley is its sheer repertoire of moods - a magical display of light, cloud and reflection. Wastwater is the place where every car manufacturer, since the advent of four-wheel drive, has chosen to photograph their commercials, much to the amusement of four-legged sheep. The backdrop of high fells is quite stunning, and the further up the valley you progress the more the landscape expands. First of all the shadowed crags of Scafell appear; then the broad, side valley of Mosedale, with Pillar at its head; and, finally, the dark, towering bastion of Great End. Rugged indeed, and pure, unreserved Wainwright country. But there are also plenty of walks, of a far more modest scale, that are overlooked in all the excitement of these surrounding giants. The climb up Buckbarrow, with its grand castellated top, rewards the visitor with lovely views of Nether Wasdale and out to the coast. Middle Fell may have come last when the names were being handed out, but offers one of the best panoramas of Wastwater, and the return, by Greendale Tarn, is a delight.

From Eskdale there are also several fine walks over the low fells to Wasdale. The best known of these is the old 'corpse road' which starts at Boot and skirts past the stone circles and Burnmoor Tarn before dropping down into Wasdale. Less frequented is the old bridleway starting at the packhorse bridge in Miterdale. The path climbs up through the woods to the breezy ridge of Irton Fell and then descends to Flass in Nether Wasdale. However you approach the valley there are three must do's - swim, or at least waggle your toes, in the clear pools of Lingmell Beck; visit the Wasdale Head Inn, once home to Will Ritson, The World's Greatest Liar, and now brewing their own superb ales; and, lastly, as you are leaving, stop to look back at the reddening shadows on the crags of Gable.


Miterdale is a quiet, secretive valley, which, with little indication of its presence at either end, is likely to remain so for generations to come. It has all the qualities of every Lakeland valley but almost in miniature. It is a place where children are happy to paddle or follow the meandering course of its gentle river, and where the rest of us can take some time out from the high ridges or the rigours of life. The source of the River Mite is a surprise in itself - a large amphitheatre of rock, hidden even from walkers a few yards away, at Burnmoor Tarn. It soon enters a steep V-shaped valley, reminiscent of Dovedale, except that here there is hardly sufficient space for a footpath. After a mile or so, the valley takes on a different character with the fell slopes of the ruined Miterdale Head farm now swathed in dark forest. As the valley opens out around Low Place farm, so the landscape softens, with the gentle flanks of Whin Rigg quite at odds with its soaring Wasdale face. The valley closes in again on reaching the ancient oak woods of Porterthwaite and the impressive castle of rock, rather pedestrianly named Great Bank. The woods have a maze of walks with bilberry carpets, ferny becks and the overhead antics of red squirrels. Passing the packhorse bridge, the ancient bridleway to Wasdale, you come to the old bobbin mill with its now lazy race. A further half mile and all those centuries of peace are shattered - Josh has taken a scything tackle from Victoria and parents are baying for blood. Yes, its St Bega's School seven-and-a-half-a-side football practice.