An Elterwater Stroll

A gentle circular walk along the banks of the Great Langdale Beck to Oak Howe and back along the track below the crags and quarries on the flank of Lingmoor Fell.

The name Elterwater comes from the Old Norse elptr vatn for swan lake - the nearby lake of Elter Water is popular with Whooper Swans that migrate from Scandinavia in winter. Apparently it is pretty shallow and is gradually silting up. One of its feeds, the Great Langdale Beck flows along the valley which is thought to have once been a lake but silted up many thousands of years ago. Another source, the River Brathay's name also has Norse origins meaning 'broad river'.

On the outskirts of the village of Elterwater, where the Langdale Hotel now stands, was the site of a gunpowder factory. Elterwater Gunpowder Works operated from 1824 to 1930. Power for the mills was provided by Great Langdale Beck, Stickle Tarn high above the valley was dammed to ensure continuity during dry spells. Local wood, mainly juniper, silver birch and alder, was burned in large retorts to make the charcoal with other ingredients of saltpetre and sulphur being imported. Later owned by ICI its closure was due to poor transport links, and the discovery and taming of more powerful explosives like dynamite.

Parking in Elterwater is limited. There is the National Trust pay and display car park beside the bridge at the bottom of the village. Alternatively there is the rough car park just to the north of the village on the opposite side of the Langdale road, at Walthwaite Bottom. We have seen water lapping at the fringes of the the NT car park so be aware in particularly wet weather if you are intent on this walk, or leaving a car there for long.