Sunday, July 30, 2006

Cooling off at Wast Water!

Last Friday, we decided to visit Wast Water. This lake is in the south-west part of the Lake District National Park and is England's deepest lake at 78.6 m. It lies over igneous rocks at the bottom of a valley surrounded by the slopes of Yewbarrow, Great Gable, Scafell Pike (England's highest mountain at 977 m) and the Wasdale Screes.

Instead of taking the circuitous route around the National Park, we decided to drive through the Park and negotiate three mountain passes: Kirkstone Pass, Wrynose Pass and Hardknott Pass. This, of course, took longer than going around, but the scenery was more impressive.

Wast Water is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and lies adjacent to two other SSSIs: Greendale Mires and Wasdale Screes. In addition to this, Wast Water and The Screes form a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Wast Water is special as a prime example of an oligotrophic (nutrient-poor) lake. Being nutrient-poor, it doesn't support a lot of plants and animals - it is naturally unproductive. Its water is very clear and soft, and lies over a rocky substrate.

However, there are plants and animals (including uncommon species), and the lake is home to a nationally rare fish: the Arctic charr. The charr are abundant in the lake and share the habitat with eels, minnows, three-spined sticklebacks and salmon. In the margins and around the shore can be found rushes, water-starwort, stonewort, water-milfoil, sedges, mosses, grasses, gorse, bracken and, my favourite, sundews (and other carnivorous plants such as butterwort).

In the hot weather the cool, clear, soft water of the lake (warm in the shallows) was too inviting. And... I must get a canoe!