#305 – Wet Sleddale – something in the air?

Geese in flight at Wet Sleddale

For the best viewing experience, left-click the images and maps to zoom in to a new window, then exit that window to go back – go on, it really does work!

On the track out to Mosedale with Sleddale Hall and Wet Sleddale reservoir behind

During our trips to and from Scotland, one location pops up in virtually all our routes – Wet Sleddale near Shap, on the eastern edge of the Lake District National Park.  It’s in just the right place to break the journey from Wales to Scotland, there are dog walking possibilities to suit Border Collie ‘Mist’, and almost always something of interest for the humans.

Trail Magazine
March 2015
Sleddale Hall, the location of the cult 1987 film ‘Withnail and I’

Chris and I have been coming here for years now.  There’s a cracking walk over the local hills that links the three valleys of Wet Sleddale, Swindale and Mosedale (see post #51).  This route was one of my early contributions to the Walking World website, and later recycled as a Trail Magazine route (see above).   A well known feature on the walk is Sleddale Hall, which provided the outdoor location shots for the cult 1987 film ‘Withnail and I’.

The fine old bridge leading to Sleddale Hall
Sleddale Hall, now standing empty

Sadly, the hall is deserted and unoccupied at present.  In recent years, a ‘pop up’ event ran themed weekends at the hall to view the ‘Withnail and I’ film, though the current covid problem has put an end to that for now.   Other than that, not a lot happens round here, though there is often ‘something in the air’.

Flight of three greylag geese at Wet Sleddale

I always carry a camera on the usual 5km dog-walk circuit, mostly in the hope of getting a photo of one of the red squirrels who live in a small stand of trees on the way out to Sleddale Hall, but they are shy and secretive and so far I’ve been out of luck.  Shy and secretive doesn’t describe the greylag geese who make their home on the Wet Sleddale reservoir – in May 2021 I was in the right place at the right time and managed to photograph a flight of three as they made their noisy progress up the valley. 

In August I had something far noisier than the geese to try to capture.

Something far noisier than the geese!  McDonnell Douglas F-15E strike aircraft
Quite close to the trees!
Birds flying near to the F15’s indicated by the small circles

Low flying military aircraft are not uncommon in this part of Cumbria, though it isn’t every day I get the chance to get a close photograph.   The first McDonnell-Douglas F-15E was almost past before I managed to get the camera into action – I expected a second aircraft to pass and sure enough it came close behind, quite near to the trees and very near to several birds (circled in the photo above) startled by the first aircraft.

Still close to those trees

Instead of the usual flight of two aircraft, we were treated to a fly past of a second pair, still flying close to those trees!  The F15’s would have been USAF aircraft on a training flight, probably from the US base at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk – some might object to the peace being disturbed by noisy warplanes, but training flights help preserve the peace in the greater sense. The mini air show added a bit of drama to our dog walk, though I think ‘Mist’ was happier for Wet Sleddale to return to being a quiet, deserted valley again.

Wet Sleddale on a quieter day

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

p.s. My aircraft recognition is probably better than my bird identification – I’m pretty sure those geese in the photos are greylags, but if I’m wrong I’m sure my old mate John Bamber will be along soon to put me right!

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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2 Responses to #305 – Wet Sleddale – something in the air?

  1. I did the Wet Sleddale Outlying Wainwrights last summer and can’t say I was all that impressed with the area – it was very hard to tell which lump was which as they were all fairly indistinct. I did like the actual valley though and the ‘tongue’ in the middle which I intend to go back and do sometime.

    I didn’t know F15s were still flying? They’re very, very old now. I put up an F15 pilot and his family in my caravan when they couldn’t get accommodation for the night – must have been 30 years ago now!


  2. I have to agree with you Carol, the tops are not all that interesting, but the three valleys walk (Sleddale, Swindale and Mosedale) is worth the trouble, especially if the Swindale Gill scramble is followed.

    As for the F15’s, if you zoom in on the cockpit you can see they are two-seat aircraft, which means they are F15e variants. Yep, they are still flying and due to remain in service until 2025, 50 years after the original F15 flew – mind you, they haven’t caught up yet with the venerable C130 Hercules, which entered service with the USAF in 1956 and the type is still flying after more than 60 years.


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