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A night beside Yorkshire’s Lake Semerwater


Nestled between rolling hills of Wensleydale, near to the popular tourist spots of Aysgarth Falls and Hawes, and visible only from the roads that spoon around this bowl of land, lies Lake Semerwater. This lake is one of only two natural lakes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s a quiet spot and, descending the road from Bainbridge, a view opens out over its expanse with few cars beside it. Parking my own vehicle, my little campervan, on the pebbled shore line, I face the side doors directly onto the lake and, it turns out as I open them, directly into the oncoming wind, forcing me to secure them to prevent them slamming shut. Seaside waves lap at the shoreline, and their effect is magnified when a family pull children on skis behind their boat. I am not alone today, accompanied this time by my faithful feline friend who, cautiously at first, enjoys exploring new places as much as her human companion.
Lake Semerwater, Yorkshire
This is a place of leisure; for me it is a place of wild swimming and wild camping and, it appears, wild weather. Having taken my swim I hang my wet clothes on branches in the wind, when a noise from beyond the hills draws attention to itself and I wonder about its origin; manmade, or natural? Watching, listening and waiting, the sound reveals itself as natural; a thunder storm approaches. Skies grumble in patches, gathering themselves together in melancholy, whining their way through their nonchalant neighbours. Observing this phenomenon, I wonder whether they will approach me, or spoon around the hills like the roads. I remain outside for as long as I am able until, finally, retreat is the only option.
Lake Semerwater, Yorkshire
From white horses (or perhaps, more realistically, little white ponies) to a sea of bouncing black stars, the lake is transformed, until, finally, the storm passes and all calms. Tranquillity reflects blue from between cracking clouds. Geese announce their landing, and settle into a dotted Aboriginal art form on water. A family of ducks, having successfully raised three ducklings, goes about the business of foraging the shoreline. Human visitors depart as day turns to evening, bringing with it the long, haunting call of the curlew that traverses the now empty foreshore, accompanied by the elegance of the oystercatcher in flight; their view beyond the water is winding stone walls and woodland drifts punctuating fields of bleating sheep. The engine of a quad bike performs the evening livestock check between stone barns that belong to farmers who reside on the hill sides. Meanwhile, clouds of midges take up residence in the air, and in my coffee. Eventually, retreat is, once more, the only option.
Lake Semerwater, Yorkshire
Half a silver moon hangs silent. As more storm clouds approach, rains come and go, ducks waddle, and lambs continue to call to their mothers, I look across the water, wondering when my feline companion will return, and reflecting on what sunset this day will offer.

Lake Semmerwater can be found on OS Map OL30, Yorkshire Dales Northern and Central areas. There is a small parking fee payable at the farmhouse, and overnight wild camping is permissible for small campervans and tents (a small fee payable to the farmhouse). Swimming is allowed; please observe the rules that are posted at the water’s edge.

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