Wet Sleddale. The name doesn’t sound too appealing does it? It immediately conjures up images of grey landscapes and a sense of being quite dull.
Type it into Google and you’ll find articles telling you it’s a ‘gem of a walk’. I suspect it features regularly as a weekend walk in the Sunday papers. Complete with a little map and description about points of interest en route. Using words like ‘bijou’ and ‘underrated’.
I hate to shatter this vision but they are all wrong. A walk around Wet Sleddale is as boring as its name suggests. It’s wet, boggy, not particularly interesting, the views aren’t great and the peace and quiet feels more sinister than relaxing somehow.
Before discovering this for myself, I liked the idea of knitting two reservoir walks together. It’s out on its own to the east of the Lakes, so unless you are travelling along the M6, there’s probably no reason to call off. I’d done Haweswater in the morning and was full of excitement about prolonging the day’s walking before heading back to reality.
I parked up by the dam and felt disappointed to see the water wasn’t overflowing down the wall, as in so many of the online photographs. I wandered over to the information board and learnt about all the wildlife that I was [unlikely] to see. If I’d have been more patient, I might have seen some interesting bird life but I could already tell this one was going to be a bit bland.
Skirting clockwise around the reservoir, the path soon fizzles out into a series of boggy sheep tracks. I managed to find some stepping stones to cross the river and take the short, steep climb towards Sleddale Hall.
Sleddale Hall was used in the cult film ‘Withnail & I’. I haven’t seen it so it didn’t hold too much appeal for me but I saw a dapper-looking chap in jeans and flat cap who was likely making a pilgrimage to see some locations from the film.
The paths aren’t clear to follow and you end up on a farm track which eventually takes you over a bridge back towards the start.
I stopped on a rock near the base of the dam wall to have my sandwich. Views of the M6 with Tata Steel and the railway line in the foreground was the panorama on offer. I’d hoped to peer in on the majesty of the Lakeland fells from the outside but this just wasn’t to be. Perhaps the mist didn’t help but I left feeling distinctly underwhelmed.
I’m tempted to cull Wet Sleddale from the list. It was a disappointment and I wouldn’t bother making the effort, even if you are passing. If you have a spare hour, stop for a coffee in Shap. Or drive to Haweswater to look at the view there before venturing back to the M6.
But, being a reservoir perhaps saves it from the chop as you can pair it with Haweswater, as I did. Do your walk around Wet Sleddale first, and let the despondency you’ll feel from this quick round augment your enjoyment of the loveliness of Haweswater later on!
Highs and Lowdown
Start / Finish: Reservoir car park
Distance: 3 miles (4.75 km)
Navigation: Moderate – paths can be unclear
Terrain: Boggy in parts
*These routes and descriptions are only ever intended to be a personal record of my adventures, which may inspire your own. Hillwalking involves a degree of risk, so please make sure you are properly equipped and prepared if you choose to follow them.