Buttermere and Crummock Water

Buttermere and Crummock Water, Cumbria

After the last ice-age Buttermere and Crummock Water were one big lake. Over time the erosion of the fells and the action of the becks carrying loose material off the mountains built up the spit of land that now separates the two lakes.

This flat fertile land is where Buttermere village now sits. Both lakes have national (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and international (Special Area of Conservation) levels of protection because of their wildlife interest.

Ice-age fish

These lakes both have incredible water clarity, which results from the very low nutrient status of the water combined with great depth and low water temperature. In these rather special conditions lives a community of well-adapted species, reliant on chilly, clear water.
One of these, the Arctic Charr is a glacial relict fish which, in England, only lives in the Lake District. Brown trout also live in the lake and sea trout and salmon pass through to spawn in tributary becks.
Over the past decade otters have spread back up the River Cocker and now their signs (spraints) are regularly found in favoured spots around the shore, though the marvellous animals themselves are rarely seen.

Unusual plants

Along the gravely shoreline are carpets of shoreweed, whilst in deeper water are spiky rosettes of quillwort – most easily seen when washed up on the shore. Attached to the cliffs below the surface, divers see freshwater sponges. In sheltered bays the lilac flowers of water lobelia emerge out of deep water on long stems.

Protecting the lakes

To protect the ecosystems of these special lakes, it's vital to prevent excessive nutrients entering the water. The small number of people living within the catchment (all the land where water drains into the lake) has had a relatively low impact.
However the steady intensification of farming, particularly over the last 50 years with readily available and cheap chemical fertilizers, has become an issue. We work with our tenant farmers to restrict fertilizer usage to those areas where it is least likely to impact water quality. We encourage them to provide buffer strips to prevent fertilizer and sediments entering sensitive water courses.

Experience the serenity

Bring your camera to capture tranquillity of these clear waters, the reflections on a still day or the dramatic silhouettes of the line of Scots Pine.