The North, South and Long Pond Lakes are former gravel pits in Northern Cumbria and are situated within easy reach of the Border City of Carlisle.
The Lakes are located on the Netherby Estate near Crofthead; in fact you have to drive past the Estate Office and houses through the farm buildings and down the farm track to reach them. The surrounding land is used by a local farmer for growing arable crops, silage for animal feed and as pasture for his stock which graze the fields.
Information about the waters has been difficult to ascertain, but we think works to extract gravel from the site began in the late 60’s or early 1970’s forming three Lakes during the course of the excavations, which ceased when the workings were completed later in the same decade.
During the intervening 40 years or so the ponds have been left to mature and flourish under Mother Nature’s care. Other than the Estate’s organised wildfowling shoots (the remnants of hides can still be found) as far as we can tell the site has remained pretty much unused with no formal coarse fishing or stocking of coarse fish having taken place, although there may have been some fishing for brown trout in years gone by.
There are no streams or surface water supplies feeding in to the Lakes, it appears that the consistent water levels of the venues are maintained by the local aquifer and water table. Chemical water analysis shows a slightly alkaline environment and very good water quality, biological indicators also confirm this, and the Lakes should provide superb conditions for the carp to grow in.
During the winter of 2011 local angler, fully qualified Angling Coach and Fishery Management Consultant Chris Bowman along with his friend and colleague Steve Jackson obtained the fishing rights to the Lakes which will now be operated as Private Members Only Carp Fishing Syndicates with Chris and Steve as Joint Syndicate Controllers.
Our Syndicate waters are situated in a region with a rich and colourful history, whilst fishing at Kingfisher Lakes we hope you will enjoy the peace and tranquillity that exists around the waters today.
In bygone days the Esk valley had a turbulent and troubled past, for almost 2000 years its lands, waters and even its fish have been fought over and contested, battles and feuds have been waged, and lives, property and reputations have been ruined and lost.
For hundreds of years the river Esk was traditionally considered the Border between England and Scotland, even before Scotland as we know it today existed the lands bordering the river Esk were considered to be dangerous and debatable.
Romans, Reivers, Pagans, Saints, Bonnie Prince Charlie and World War I have all impacted on the terrain the Lakes are located in, read on to discover more.
The Roman Campaign to conquer Britain was met by increasing resistance from the northern tribes. To secure the frontier, Hadrian’s Wall was built from the Solway Firth to Wallsend-on-Tyne. This 75 mile long fortification was supplemented by forts, mile castles and turrets at regular intervals. An outpost fort was sited at Netherby less than a mile from the North Lake the Romans named it Castra Exploratorum; the Fort or Camp of the Exploratores. The garrison occupying the fort consisted of part-mounted auxiliary units recruited from among tribes noted for their tracking and hunting skills, they were used primarily to reconnoitre enemy territory.
The site of the Netherby Roman fort is now completely hidden by the living-quarters and landscaped gardens of Netherby Hall, a 15th century Tower House which is built directly upon the site of the fort’s principal buildings. The Hall was constructed re-using a large quantity of Roman building material within the fabric of its own seven-feet-thick stone walls.
Over the years, extensions to the original mansion house and additional outbuildings such as the coach-house, stables, ice-house, coop-house and outlying gardens and orchards, have gradually removed all trace of Roman occupation.
Recovered Roman inscriptions indicate that the site must have seen at least two military encampments and possibly two others.
The first recorded garrison was a five-hundred strong regiment of foot-soldiers which was probably stationed here c.AD125 and would have required a fort of about 3 to 4 acres; the later resident unit, comprised a nominal one-thousand men and about three-hundred horses, which would have occupied an area of between 6 to 9 acres.
It is thought that the Hadrianic occupation of the site was preceded by an earlier establishment during the Agricolan Campaigns c.AD80, but the strength of the garrison is unknown. The location of the associated settlement, in the area to the north-west of the fort, implies that the original camp probably faced in this direction, looking across the Esk into Dumfries & Galloway.
It should be noted that the Roman name for the site, ‘The Fort of the Scouts’, itself implies a very small mounted garrison unit were stationed here, and points to another earlier and much smaller fort on the site. It is also believed that there may have been a civilian settlement outside the camp.
The site has been visited over the years by several antiquarians, historians and amateur archaeologists who recorded a number of Roman features in the area which included, buildings of a Roman fort; a Roman vicus settlement outside the north-west defences of the fort extending down towards the River Esk, monumental buildings and evidence of a river port, now silted-up, and a Roman cemetery outside the fort.
A Roman bath-house lying on one of the side-streets was discovered and investigated by antiquarians in 1732 but the exact location was not recorded.
On the gradual withdrawal of the Roman army around 400 AD, the land was left in the hands of various Romano-British chieftains, each vying for supremacy. The stories of King Arthur date from this era, and Longtown has several associations with the legendary king. The town is in the parish of Arthuret (derived from the Welsh ‘Arderryd’). Arthur supposedly trained at one of the Roman forts on the Wall and his final battle took place at Camlann (or Camboglanna), which many think is either Birdoswald or Castlesteads.
In 573 AD the battle of Ardderyd took place between pagan and Christian forces, with the loss of over 80,000 men. The victor, Rhydderch, is credited with introducing Christianity to the Longtown area, and shortly afterwards St Kentigern, or St Mungo, first appears in this area. St Michael’s Well at Arthuret some 1¼ miles south of the Lakes is one of many baptismal springs likely to have been used by the saint.
Unfortunately, the great battles and loss of life did not end here.
This northern fringe of Cumbria was at the centre of Anglo-Scottish disputes for centuries. Years of skirmishing over possession of this area engendered a pattern of lawlessness that became endemic. After the Scots victory at Bannockburn in 1314 the English found it impossible to police the Border area. People from both sides of the Border fought and stole from each other and became known as Reivers, they introduced new words to the English language; blackmail and bereaved.
The area around Longtown was the territory of the Graham clan one of the most notorious reiving families. Netherby Hall belonged to the Grahams, as did Kirkandrews Tower and Brackenhill Tower. Other areas were controlled by Armstrong’s, Elliot’s and Bells, surnames that once struck fear into the hearts of ordinary people.
The Reivers antics were enough to make even the Arch Bishop of Glasgow curse (one of the longest curses on record amounting to over 1,500 words). The regions to the north of Carlisle and beyond Hadrian’s Wall became known as the ‘Debatable Lands’. The Border clans persistently defied authority and swore allegiance only to members of their family. A regime of theft, extortion, kidnapping and persecution was relentlessly pursued in this area. Houses and barns were repeatedly burned and looted, and livestock driven off by the raiders. Within a few days or weeks a revenge attack would bring back the plundered goods or rustled livestock, treachery, murder, arson, and raiding became a way of life that continued unabated for 300 chaotic and lawless years.
In 1542 an English force penetrated into Scotland and torched the Border towns of Kelso and Roxburgh. In retaliation a huge 15,000-strong Scottish army swept down from Edinburgh seeking revenge. The English commander, Thomas Wharton, mobilised several hundred men in readiness near Arthuret Church and waited for the Scots to cross the Esk, where they became trapped by marshland and the rising river. With panic setting in, the Scots retreated across the marshy land; many drowning or trampled to death in their haste to escape. Both Scottish commanders and several members of the nobility were captured and huge sums of money raised through their subsequent ransom. The Battle of Solway Moss was a humiliating defeat for the Scots, and was a defining moment in Anglo-Scottish history.
Following the battle, a treaty between England and
Scotland finally agreed where the boundary should lie. A line was drawn between the Rivers Sark and Esk; demarcated by an earthwork, the Scots Dyke, constructed in 1552 and lying some 1½ miles north of the North Lake. After the union of the English and Scottish crowns in 1603, James I stamped out the practice of reiving, summarily executing many of the main protagonists and deporting others to Ireland.
But the area was still not trouble free, some years after the treaty was signed Prince Charles Edward Stuart, grandson of James II of England and VII of Scotland, accompanied by his followers, “The Seven Men of Moidart,” landed on the island of Eriskay, on the N.W. coast of Scotland. On the 8th November 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie crossed the River Esk at the head of some 8,000 Highlanders and first set foot on English ground. That night the Prince slept in the cottage of Mr. David Murray at Riddings, just North of where the present day Lakes are situated before marching on Carlisle.
After taking the City of Carlisle the Prince penetrated as far south as Derby before retreating, reaching Carlisle again on the 19th December.
On the 21st, Prince Charles set out from Carlisle, his army now divided – the Prince with the main body, about 4,000, took the westerly route by Annan and Dumfries. Lord George Murray, with the remainder of the force, about 2,000 in number, marched by way of Longtown. At that time there was no bridge across the Esk. The river, swollen by rain, was in flood, but, grasping each other by the shoulders, the men stemmed the current and waded across without the loss of a man.
Arrived on terra-firma the Pipers struck up a reel, and with many a “hech” and “whoop” the gallant fellows danced themselves dry again. Lady Nairne immortalised the crossing in her song, “The Hundred Pipers,” but either in error, or with poetic licence, she places the anecdote on the Scot’s advance into England, and not their retreat from it.
“The Esk was swollen sacred and sae deep,
But shoulder to shoulder the brave lads keep;
Twa thousand swam o’er to fell English ground,
And danced themselves dry to the pibroch’s sound.
Dumfoundered the English saw, they saw,
Dumfoundered they heard the blaw, the blaw –
Dumfoundered they a’ ran awa, awa,
Frae the hundred pipers an’ a’, an’ a’.”
Longtown developed at a ford over the river Esk and consisted of a few hovels strung out along the drovers’ road. Every week consignments of sheep, cattle and other livestock passed through en route to markets further south. With the constant passage of trade, the town expanded to provide services for the drovers and carriers and by the 18th century had its own cattle market to rival that of Carlisle and a great trade in horses, bacon and bilberries!
Surprisingly, it was a descendant of the notorious reiving Grahams who sought to improve Longtown’s appearance.
In the 1750s Dr Robert Graham of Netherby Hall drew up plans for the spacious town we see today, with wide tree-lined streets fronted by well-proportioned Georgian buildings. A graceful five-arch bridge was built to span the Esk and a new coaching inn (Graham Arms Hotel) provided overnight accommodation for travellers. In addition, vast sums of money were spent on transforming the barren moor lands and boggy marshlands into productive farmland.
As you prepare to do battle with Kingfisher’s carp spare a thought for the battles that have been fought over salmon in the Esk valley during years gone by.
The possession of salmon has caused considerable acrimony between England and Scotland in times past, probably the biggest bone of contention being the fish garth the English built across the River Esk just a short distance upstream of the present day Lakes, sometime before 1474. This salmon trap denied upstream communities fish, then, an important source of food. The English claimed that, “such right belonged to the King of England and his subjects by law and custom”. The Scots disagreed and pulled the fish garth down. By 1485, the Esk fish trap had been rebuilt, but every time the English completed the trap it was quickly destroyed again by the Scots. Between 1487 – 1491 various attempts were made to find a solution to the dispute to no avail.
By 1513, the dispute had grown to such proportions that, before the Battle of Flodden, when James IV challenged the Earl of Surrey to single-handed combat to decide their two nations’ grievances, the rewards to the victor were to include the return of the town of Berwick to Scotland, and the removal of the Esk fish garth. The fight did not take place, Surrey claiming that he was too lowly born to fight with a king; and the fish garth remained. Claim followed counter-claim until 1543 when, under circumstances not recorded, some measure of agreement seems to have been reached.
However, the dispute over the Esk fish trap exploded again some 300 years later and almost resulted in civil war between Scotland and England. Sir James Graham of Netherby Hall rebuilt the trap and the Scots were so enraged that they gathered a small army of local people and set out to tear it down, a scene described by Sir Walter Scott in his novel Redgauntlet. Graham responded by collecting an army of his own, including a detachment of regular soldiers from the garrison at Carlisle. Fortunately, reason prevailed and Sir James agreed to open a gap in the garth, to allow fish upstream, and there the matter ended.
The arrival of the Carlisle to Edinburgh railway, the Waverley Line which ran along the far bank of the river Esk opposite the present day Kingfisher Lakes in 1862, facilitated the transport of goods and brought further prosperity to the region.
Longtown’s proximity to a good road and rail network saw the area play a vital part in Britain’s history some 52 years after the railway first arrived.
In 1914, Britain was suffering huge losses on the battlefield. A severe munitions crisis meant that thousands of soldiers were being killed or wounded by German firepower. The problem for the UK lay not with the nature of the artillery, but with the quantity – there simply wasn’t enough of the stuff. “Men died in heaps upon the Aubers Ridge because the field guns were short of high explosive shells,” the Times reported in 1915. David Lloyd George, the UK’s first minister of munitions and a former Prime Minister, had to find a swift solution.
The search began for a suitable site to construct a large-scale munitions factory to remedy the shortage of ammunition during World War 1. The location chosen was an area near Longtown in North Cumbria and the small village of Gretna in south-west Scotland. It was sparsely populated yet had excellent transport links, being on both the Caledonian and North British railway lines was a key factor in the decision to site the vast munitions factory here.
Coal from nearby Sanquhar and Canonbie and iron ore from the foundries of England provided a supply of raw materials, and the nearby estuaries offered a convenient solution to the considerable waste. The site was far enough north to be out of the immediate range of the Luftwaffe and far enough west to scupper a Zeppelin approach from the east. It was also bordered by low hills – the Cheviots, Pennines and Cumbrian Mountains – ensuring the area was often shrouded in mist or cloud and thus difficult to spot from the air.
The secrecy surrounding the project reflected the importance of the material it was producing. It was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who dubbed the factory site “perhaps the most remarkable place in the World” in an article in 1918 and who also provided the moniker for the end product, cordite RDB, a combination of nitroglycerin and collodion (gun-cotton in ether or acetone).
During the peak of construction 30,000 people were employed on site. The influx of so many navvies and munition workers was met with the introduction of the state management scheme and the nationalisation of pubs and brewing in the vicinity.
Today there is little to suggest that the land just across the river was once home to the biggest factory in the world, code-named Moorside. The factory straddled the Scottish and English border covering an area nine miles long and two miles wide, stretching from Longtown in the east, to Dornock and Eastriggs in the west. At the height of its production the site employed many thousands of people and undoubtedly affected the outcome of the First World War and changed the course of history.
As you drive towards the South Lake car park look to your right; the building on the far bank of the river Esk was the factory’s pump house which drew water from the river through a 42 inches diameter pipe. From there it was pumped through a 33 inches main to a reservoir and treatment works that handled ten million gallons of water a day.
As well as its own water supply the factory had its own narrow gauge railway network with 125 miles of track, 34 railway engines, its own coal-fired power station to provide electricity for the factory and townships, a telephone exchange (which handled 2.5 million calls in 1918), as well as bakeries, a laundry and its own police force. The laundry could clean 6,000 items daily and the bakeries could make 14,000 meals a day.
At its peak, the factory produced 800 tons of Cordite RDB (colloquially known as Devil’s Porridge) weekly, more than all the other plants in Britain combined.
Although the Waverley Line became a victim of the Beeching cuts in 1969, Longtown still lies at a hub of transport routes between England and Scotland as demonstrated by the presence of several haulage companies and the largest sheep market in the United Kingdom.
Gravel extraction for the building trade in the 1960’s and 1970’s left a legacy of three Lakes, 40 years of neglect and a helping hand from Mother Nature and the Syndicate Controllers has healed the scars of gravel extraction and created the North, South and Long Pond Syndicates.
So as the light fades and you settle down for your night’s fishing was that distant splash a rolling carp or could it be ghosts of the Roman legions returning across the Esk, the Scots fleeing general Wharton, the Reivers on another night time raid or Bonnie Prince Charlie’s highlanders invading England once again.
Over the last 2000 years all of this and more has happened just a short distance from where you are now fishing. Ponder upon this as you relax and enjoy the peace and tranquillity. FOR IT WAS NOT ALWAYS SO!