Friday, 3 July 2015

Wainwright and the secrets of the River Kent

Tracking the source of the River Kent may not sound quite as dramatic as finding the source of the Nile but, on the plus side, Cumbria is a lot easier to get to than Egypt.

Looking towards Kent Estuary from Grange-over-Sands
Working backwards the River Kent empties into Morecambe Bay between Arnside & Grange where, at especially high tides, a bore is created which impressively fills the bay with one wave.  The river then tracks back up the valley and is joined near Milnthorpe by the River Bela, fresh from Dallam Park.

Dallam deer

Dallam bridge
Heading towards Kendal the Kent swings under Hawes Bridge and past a Roman Fort at Watercrook Farm before hitting the town centre.  Back in the 1800's the river was hugely important to the wool trade and steps down to the river from the ends of the various yard are still in existence in a few places, showing the routes taken to wash the fleeces. (The river was, of course, used for other trades too - but washing wool is what they're best known for).

River Kent at Hawes Bridge
From Kendal the river continues back to Staveley and the Kentmere Valley.  Things may look picturesque between here and the source of the river, but don't be fooled, the history of this area is dominated by industry and mining.  There were paper mills, bobbin mills, lead mining and slate quarrying, all of which put demands on the river, but it was a combination of agriculture and the asbestos industry that threw up one of Kentmere's most intriguing secrets.

Kentmere valley
Kentmere Tarn is bypassed by many on their way to Kentmere Reservoir at the head of the valley (which was constructed to regulate the water supply for the industries relying on it) but the tarn holds a few secrets, some of which we haven't been fully unlocked yet.

What is now Kentmere Tarn was once a Diatomite mine supplying the asbestos industry (sorry, but you'll have to read our book for all the details - it's out in October :-) ) and as they were excavating they made a number of interesting finds.  Initially they came across a number of Roman artefacts, but as they dug deeper they found something far more interesting.


In 1955 a dugout boat was discovered which was displayed for many years by the National Maritime Museum and was carbon dated to the 14th Century.  Four years later, in 1959, another dugout was discovered, significantly deeper in the deposits.  Its location in relation to the previous find, plus its more simplistic design indicate it could be significantly older, possibly even Viking - which would make it an incredibly exciting find - but it needs to be carbon dated before we'll know for sure.


You can go and take a close look at this second dugout as it's on display at Kendal Museum.  While you're there you can also admire the many other wonderful exhibits on display and see if you spot some famous handwriting.  For nearly 30 years Wainwright was Honorary Clerk and Curator at the museum and many exhibits still carry labels written in his distinctive style.



Kendal Museum have been incredibly helpful to us as we've researched our book and by way of saying thank you we're trying to raise £350 to allow them to get the second dugout boat carbon dated.  We need to raise the whole amount by 5th July and we're well over halfway there BUT if we don't reach our target we lose every penny that has so far been pledged, 

EDIT - WE MADE IT!  HUGE thanks to everyone who donated - watch this space for news of the dating!

Please can you spare just a few pounds to help us reach our target - We thank you, Kendal Museum thank you and, if he were still around, I'm pretty sure Wainwright would thank you too!

Pretty, pretty, PRETTY please CLICK HERE to donate - Thank you!