The stone bridge of Watendlath

Published 22 November 2020

Stone bridge at Watendlath

The road down the Watendlath valley starts near Derwent Water. It comes off the B5289, a road that itself heads to Borrowdale.

Not far along it is a rather attractive stone bridge called Ashness Bridge. It’s near the start of the path up High Seat. It’s famous. People flock there for the “perfect” bridge photograph. They set up tripods in the stream and stand there for ages waiting for exact conditions to make the greatest bridge photograph going. Ashness Bridge is one of those Instagramable moments, and no mistake.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a lovely bridge. But I think there’s a better one at the other end of the road. One far less photographed, but ever so lovely.

It’s Watlendath Packhorse Bridge. It is a listed structure. It became Grade II listed in 1967. It’s near the road end, round the back of the tea rooms at the end of the Watlendath valley.

Unlike Ashness Bridge, you can’t drive a car over it. And you probably don’t want to stand in the beck and take photographs of it. But you might want to play Poohsticks on it. In 2015 Visit England named it as one of the best bridges on which to play the game. (They also picked a bridge in London that wasn’t far from where I lived between 2004 and 2016. Just so you know.)

Some would say Ashness Bridge is better. Wiser hands would counsel that you can’t play poohsticks if someone’s standing in the middle of the water taking a photograph on their mobile phone.

Whatever. Watendlath Packhorse Bridge is a cracking bridge. But please don’t visit it. I’d rather like to keep it to myself if it’s all the same.

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