13 July 2014

Upland Tarns.

The word ‘tarn’ is derived from the Old Norse ‘tjorn’, which was used to describe any small body of water. It means ‘a small lake’ or more poetically ‘a teardrop’.

Tarn is a regional term used largely, but not exclusively in the Lake District, which along with many other local names, originated with the Viking invaders who settled in Cumbria in the tenth century.
The tarns in Cumbria were formed as a result of glacial action, when the glaciers and ice sheets finally receded some 10,000 years ago, scouring the landscape, allowing water  to be trapped and contained. Many of the highest and most spectacular tarns occupy corries (from Scottish Gaelic coire meaning a pot or cauldron) scooped from the fells by ice, some are surprisingly deep.

Bleaberry Tarn.
Bleaberry tarn and Buttermere looking down from Red pike.

Lying south-west of lake Buttermere, Bleaberry Tarn (meaning blueberry tarn) is a fine example of hanging valley and corrie glacial scenery. The tarn lies between Chapel Crags, Red Pike and the tough scree of The Saddle. The outflow of the tarn flows into Buttermere via the quirkily-named Sour Milk Gill.

Grisedale Tarn.

Grisedale Tarn is surrounded by the high ground of the summit of Fairfield itself, Dollywaggon Pike and Seat Sandal. In the past, the tarn was a welcome watering hole for traders on the packhorse routes that used to move goods through the Lake District.
Grisedale tarn looking towards raise beck from Fairfield path, can you spot the shed!
There are a few other historical stories associated with it. Legend has it that the last king of Cumbria, King Dunmail, was killed in battle at Dunmail Raise and buried under the large stone pile at the top of the pass. The kings’s surviving warriors are said to have threw his crown into the waters of Grisedale Tarn.

Red Tarn.
Red tarn and striding edge looking down from Swirral edge.
A textbook glacial corrie tarn with surrounding back wall, lying beneath the summit of Helvellyn and surrounded by the southerly ridge of Striding Edge, the northerly Swirral Edge and Catstye Cam. Red Tarn is fed by a number of streams running down its back wall into the corrie and it flows outward down into Glenridding Beck. In the 1800s the Tarn was dammed with boulders, raising the level of water some eight or nine feet in order to supply power to the lead mines in Glenridding.

Blea Water reflecting the back wall.
Blea Water.
Remote Blea Water is one of two corrie tarns that lie beneath the eastern crags of High Street, the other being Small Water. Circular in shape, Blea Water bears the distinction of being the deepest tarn in the Lake District. In 1948 its depth was ascertained to be 63 metres, which is exceeded only by Windermere and Wastwater in the Lake District. The tarn occupies a dramatic setting, edged on three of its sides by an amphitheatre of towering cliffs and slopes of Riggindale Crag, Pilot Crag and High Street.

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