Wast Water or Wastwater (/ˈwɒst wɔːtər/) is a lake located in Wasdale, a valley in the western part of the Lake District National Park, England. The lake is almost three miles (five kilometres) long and more than one-third mile (500 m) wide. It is a glacial lake, formed in a glacially 'over-deepened' valley. It is the deepest lake in England[2] at 258 feet (79 m). The surface of the lake is about 200 feet (60 m) above sea level, while its bottom is over 50 feet (15 m) below sea level. It is owned by the National Trust.

Wast Water
A lake surrounded by mountains
Looking towards Wasdale Head
Wast Water is located in the Lake District
Wast Water
Wast Water
Location in the Lake District
Wast Water is located in the former Borough of Copeland
Wast Water
Wast Water
Location in the former Copeland Borough
Map of 1925
Coordinates54°26′30″N 3°17′30″W / 54.44167°N 3.29167°W / 54.44167; -3.29167
TypeRibbon Lake
Primary inflowssee list
Primary outflowsRiver Irt
Basin countriesUnited Kingdom
Max. length3.03 miles (4.88 km)
Max. width0.49 miles (788.58 m)
Surface area1.08 sq mi (2.8 km2)
Max. depth243 feet (74 m)
Water volume0.110 cubic kilometres (0.026 cu mi)[1]
Shore length16.84 mi (11.01 km)
Surface elevation200 feet (61 m)
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.



The head of the Wasdale Valley is surrounded by some of the highest mountains in England, including Scafell Pike, Great Gable and Lingmell. The steep slopes on the southeastern side of the lake, leading up to the summits of Whin Rigg and Illgill Head, are known as the "Wastwater Screes" or on some maps as "The Screes". These screes formed as a result of ice and weathering erosion on the rocks of the Borrowdale Volcanic Group, that form the fells to the east of the lake, towards Eskdale. They are approximately 2,000 feet (600 m), from top to base, the base being about 200 feet (60 m) below the surface of the lake.

A path runs the length of the lake, through the boulders and scree fall at the base of the craggy fell-side. On the northwestern side are the cliffs of Buckbarrow (a part of Seatallan) and the upturned-boat shape of Yewbarrow. Wast Water is the source of the River Irt which flows into the Irish Sea near Ravenglass.

Both the lake and Wasdale Screes are protected as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and under European Union law as Special Areas of Conservation.

Name origin and pronunciation


"Wastwater" comes from "Wasdale" plus English "water". " 'Wasdale lake' or 'the lake of Vatnsá, lake river'. The present name rather curiously contains the reflexes of both Old Norse 'vatn' 'water', 'lake', and Old English 'wæter' 'water', with the meaning 'lake' probably influenced by the Old Norse 'vatn'.[3]

The valley is pronounced as in was, not with a hard a: the name of the lake similarly but with a soft "s" as in "thou wast". The lake is named "Wast Water" on Ordnance Survey maps but "Wastwater" is used with roughly equal frequency, including by its owner, the National Trust, along with the Cumbria Tourist Board, and the Lake District National Park Authority.

Points of interest


The Lady in the Lake


In 1976, The Wasdale Lady in the Lake, Margaret Hogg, was murdered by her husband and her body was disposed of in the lake. She was found after eight years, with her body preserved like wax due to the lack of oxygen in the water.[4]

Underwater gnomes


In February 2005 it was reported that a "gnome garden" complete with picket fence had been placed in the lake as a point of interest for divers to explore. It was removed from the bottom of Wastwater after three divers died in the late 1990s.[5][6] It is thought the divers spent too much time too deep searching for the ornaments. Police divers report a rumour that the garden had been replaced at a depth beyond the lowest the police were allowed to dive.

PC Kenny McMahon, a member of the North West Police Underwater Search Unit, said

Wastwater is quite clear at the bottom, but there's nothing to see. At a depth of about 48 m [157 ft], divers had taken gnomes down and put a picket fence around them. But several years ago there were a number of fatalities and the Lake District National Park Authority asked us to get rid of them. We went down there, put them in bags and removed the lot. But now there's a rumour about a new garden beyond the 50 m [160 ft] depth limit. As police divers we can't legally dive any deeper so, if it exists, the new garden could have been purposefully put out of our reach.[5]

Water extraction


Water was first pumped from the lake during World War II to supply the Royal Ordnance Factory at Drigg. It is pumped to the nearby Sellafield nuclear facility as an industrial water supply.[7] The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is allowed to extract from the lake a maximum of 4,000,000 imperial gallons (18,000 m3) a day to use on that site.

Favourite view


On 9 September 2007, Wast Water was announced as the winner of a vote to determine "Britain's Favourite View" by viewers of ITV.

Panorama of the Wasdale screes, Illgill Head in the centre, Whin Rigg on the right.



Clockwise from River Irt

In literature


In the book Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Mr Chipping meets his wife at Wasdale Head.


  1. ^ "UK Lakes Detail - Wast Water". UK Lakes Portal. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. Archived from the original on 11 June 2016. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  2. ^ "The Lake District National Park Authority". Archived from the original on 17 March 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
  3. ^ Whaley, Diana (2006). A dictionary of Lake District place-names. Nottingham: English Place-Name Society. pp. lx, 423 p.360. ISBN 0904889726.
  4. ^ Lakestay, Wasdale's Lady in the Lake Mystery
  5. ^ a b "Underwater gnome threat 'returns'". BBC News. 14 February 2005. Retrieved 17 October 2008.
  6. ^ Hartley, Emma (16 March 2007). "Bearded wonder". London: The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 22 March 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2008.
  7. ^ "Radioactivity in Food and the Environment, 2010" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 December 2014. Retrieved 28 December 2014.