A tale of two tarns: Country diary, 8 September 1969

The Lake District
Among the 500 mountain tarns in the Lake District – this number if you count every pool large and deep enough for a comfortable bathe – are two Angle Tarns, one under the northern crags of Bowfell, the other, 12 miles to the north-east, above the farmhouses of Patterdale. Few pairs of mountain pools have less in common.

How do fish get up a mountain?

The Bowfell tarn is higher, deeper, more often visited, and much smaller than the other, while its waters are colder, often dark and sunless and sometimes, under certain conditions of weather and lighting, almost frightening. But the Patterdale Angle Tarn, although less well known, has always seemed to me a particularly welcoming place, no matter what the weather – a straggly-shaped pool with islands, headlands, and little reedy bays dotted with water flowers and an indented shoreline patterned with miniature crags and grassy hummocks.

Bowfell’s tarn is a mountain pool, dramatically sited and fed by springs that seep out of the screes, but the Angle Tarn that lies within sight of the Roman’s way over High Street is a jewel of the lower fells left behind after the ice had scooped out the moraines in which it lies. Here is a place for whiling away a sunny afternoon or a haunt for adventurous children to act out their fantasies: If you sat long and still enough at the right time of day you might well see fell ponies and red deer or, if you were really quiet, perhaps a fox slinking round the outcrops in search of food or his bield on some distant crag. An always the sheep cropping the lush turf and the ravens quartering the sky.

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