Windermere and the Ice Age

by David Murray on 1 September 2008

in Books, History, Lakes

It was the year before I was married. (I’ll let you work out when that was; I’m just indicating that it was well within living memory). Windermere was frozen over for several weeks during that winter, and for the first time in many years it was safe to skate over large areas of its surface.

Going back a bit further – that is, a few thousand years – not only was the lake frozen, but it was under several hundred feet of ice as the glaciers of the most recent ice age (I won’t say “the last”, as it might not be, in spite of what we’re told about global warming) …. Anyway, as I was saying, just over ten thousand years ago Windermere was under a massive glacier.

Christopher Taylor - Portrait of Windermere - Robert Hall, London - ISBN 0-7090-0924-0Strictly speaking that isn’t true, for at that time there was no Windermere. There were two much smaller lakes, one up at the Ambleside end, and another down toward Newby Bridge. In between the two, Claife Heights (now on the western side of northern Windermere) and Cartmel Fell (now on the eastern side of southern Windermere) were joined together in one continuous belt of hills, and the two lakes were in totally separate valleys ….. although both valleys were invisible under the cold solid white stuff.

As the glacier crawled its way down toward the sea at Morecambe Bay it carved a swathe through the hillside and allowed the waters of the two lakes (once they’d thawed, centuries later) to run together and create a single lake, the longest in England, that we now know and love as Windermere.

My bookcases have for decades now carried a wide range of books about the Lake District. However, I have very few that focus on just a single lake … because there are very few such books in existence. There is, however, an excellent book about Windermere: Portrait of Windermere, by Christopher Taylor. I bought mine twenty-five years ago when it first came out and have dipped into it repeatedly down the years. The paragraphs above owe much to my most recent dipping.   Click on the title or the graphic above to find a copy through

Or click on this link for more on other Lake District Books

That’s all for now,

– David Murray –
England’s Lakes

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