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Lake District Rivers:
The Duddon

The source of the Duddon is a reminder of pre-1974 days. Cumberland and Westmorland were still separate counties and the southern end of the Lake District was in Lancashire. The first trickle of the Duddon is very close to the "Three Shires Stone", high up on Wrynose, marking the meeting point of the three historic Lakeland counties.

This is wonderful walking country. The Duddon Valley has been called the most beautiful river valley in the Lake District. On a bright day in late-Spring or early summer it seems difficult to disagree. It doesn't start out with such attractiveness. The Duddon's first few miles alongside Harter Fell and Greyfriars are pretty desolate, but it builds in beauty as it grows in strength. Leaving Seathwaite and Ulpha behind it continues along its increasingly lovely valley

Wordsworth thought highly of this area, as is expressed in his Duddon Sonnets. The river runs (Wordsworth says it "glides" but often it boils and storms) through its gorge, and emerging from woodland reaches the estuary at Duddon Bridge near Broughton-in-Furness, an ancient market town now the starting-point for many a visit to the area.

Near Broughton the Lake District National park Authority preserves the remains of a centuries old iron smelting furnace, the most complete preserved example of a traditional charcoal furnace in England. If you're interested in industrial archeology you should visit this site. Local iron mining goes back to before the Norman conquest, but the peak came in the 18th and 19th centuries. Up until the mid-20th century iron was still big business on both sides of the estuary, but it is now history. In 2000 English Heritage published a fascinating book on the history and physical remains of the local iron industry and its associated woodland industries: Furness Iron, by Mark Bowden

The Duddon estuary is sandy, and in places dangerous to those who are tempted on a fine day to try crossing it on foot. Back in the sixth century St. Patrick was shipwrecked here. The southern shore especially has some marvellous beaches although the sand dunes that were such a feature fifty years ago have eroded away in many places.

Before the estuary enters the sea, between Walney at the end of the Furness peninsula and Haverigg on the northern bank, it passes formerly industrialised areas which are now reverting to their ancient condition. Mining of haematite ore is a thing of the past, and the iron works of Millom on the north and Askam on the south are long gone. Dark evenings are no longer illuminated by the red glow of slag tippping. Black Combe looks down again on greenery.



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