Tuesday, February 27, 2018

behold the LAKE OF DEATH

I'm sure you'll agree with me that there's pretty much nothing in life as fascinating as a partially-drained reservoir. I mean, yes, fine wine, ladies' bottoms, experimental Bulgarian cinema, free-form jazz, improvised contemporary dance, these all have their place. But there's a sort of illicit thrill in seeing stuff that's normally hidden under a featureless sheet of water, especially when you consider that it's a sort of unexpected reversal of the original reservoir creation process, whereby things that had been quite happily existing in the open air minding their own business for a substantial amount of time were inexorably consumed by the rising waters, never to be seen again, OR SO WE THOUGHT, etc.

Now of course most of the time what emerges when reservoirs get drained is mundane and unappealing stuff like shit-encrusted shopping trolleys, dead fish, rusting old car bodies and the like. But occasionally, when the original reservoir (the larger ones, typically) submerged human settlements, maybe even villages, these can occasionally emerge when the reservoir is either partly or completely drained for maintenance, or when drought conditions cause the water level to drop.

Here's a couple of good examples:
  • As linked before from this post, here's a tremendous resource about the drowned village of Mardale Green at the southern end of the Haweswater reservoir in the Lake District, which occasionally slurps clear of the water in exceptionally dry conditions. An exceptionally rich and comprehensive resource about the history of the place and its occasional re-emergence is here, although a word of warning must be issued about some exceptionally horrible 1990s website design. Top marks for sloppy hack journalism go to the Daily Mail for this tremendously badly-researched graphic from 2014 which misrepresents the location of the village by several miles.
  • When the Lac de Guerl├ędan in Brittany was drained for maintenance towards the end of 2015 the lake bed was opened up to tourists to come and have a look around. Not just the usual knackered old buildings this time but also the remains of some lock structures on the old Nantes-Brest canal, a significant section of which was submerged when the lake was filled in the 1920s. It seems to have been filled again by early 2016. 
Anyway, I mention all this because when we went up to Wentwood woods for a quick walk on Sunday we passed Wentwood reservoir on the way, and I couldn't help noticing that it is currently nearly empty - apparently for maintenance of one of the take-off towers. I took a photo (looking towards the dam), though inevitably I was constrained to standing in the worst possible position, looking right into the sun. This is a much better picture, although it seems to have been taken about a year ago, so the maintenance work is obviously taking a while.


Since Wentwood reservoir was opened in 1904 I don't have access to a map which shows the area before the reservoir existed, so I can't do the sort of illustrative thing I did here and here. There didn't appear to be any exciting submerged farms or villages to report, although that doesn't mean there was nothing exciting to be found by the sharp-eyed observer, unless you consider a headless, handless, footless corpse shackled to a ceramic kitchen sink to be perfectly commonplace, in which case remind me never to accompany you on a fishing trip. Let's just be thankful the killer didn't have access to a glory hole spillway, or the body may never have been found.

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