Banishead Waterfall - A Confession
This wonderful story was sent in by Duncan Darbishire, brother of Ibby Brown
Confession of an Aged Schoolboy (Anon)
Above Torver there are disused slate quarries on the lower slopes of the Furness Fells. In one of these there is a spectacular waterfall - now.
From the valley between The Old Man and Dow Crag, the Black Beck tumbles out of Goat’s Water, rushes down past Charmer’s Gravestone, face down, and under the Cove Bridge and the Walna Scar Road. After passing the faint remains of an ancient homestead it reaches Bannishead - a flagstone quarry.
It is the late 1950s and two small boys are walking up the track through the Far Intake. They open the last gate, close it and emerge onto the open fell, cross the remains of the slab bridge over Summer Cove Beck washed away in a storm earlier in the decade, and stare up at Bannishead Quarry. The path divides, one branch turning left to Tranearth, where the shepherd lives, and on to Eddy Scale Quarry. Ahead the track goes up between towering waste tips.
As the way rises towards distant Buck Pike the mounds of stone close in until the footpath fills the defile.
The boys emerge level with the tops of the spoil heaps and face an adit overhung with rowan. The track winds right around a deep pit in the bottom of which is a dark pool but the boys turn left across some smaller, earlier heaps and work their way up alongside the beck. The land narrows until there is only a small grassy area to the right, between the water and the sheer sides of the deep quarry.
There is, perhaps, three or four feet of slate between the beck and the edge of the cliff. They have no sense of danger - playing in the quarries is nothing new. One of their pastimes is ‘tip-running’ where you start at the top of a loose slate slope and run as fast as you can down its side leaping from slab to slab. The secret is to go fast enough so that, if the slate begins to slip, you are several steps below when it happens.
Both boys have been down inside the quarry pits, they know where to climb down, and, more importantly, how to climb out.
Today, which boy has the idea is uncertain but they set to removing the rock preventing the beck falling into the pit.
When they are tired and their hands are cold and scratched they stand back to admire their handiwork. It is time to return to the main track and go to the opposite end of the pit where they sit with their feet hanging over the edge gazing at the new, albeit thin, waterfall.
Finally hunger attracts their attention. They trudge back down to the farm and Madeira cake, apple pasty squares and sticky black gingerbread to celebrate a job well done.
One of the two boys now tells his older brother and not long afterwards the two brothers return to the Quarry with a mattock. Now the waterfall becomes spectacular and thunders into the pool.
One consequence of this, which the boys do not consider, is that the water level rises and the beck begins to flow out of the adit and down through the tips washing the track away.
The local farmers are dismayed and divert the water from the end of the adit back to the beck - but the damage is done. The general opinion is that this was something that was going to happen naturally, sooner or later, but one local farmer will have none of this.
“It was them lads down at that farm,” he says. He knew.
And where are these boys now - the youngest of the brothers is now a retired doctor and lives further south on the Furness peninsula, the elder brother lives east of Kendal and paints a bit, the other young boy - he still has a house in Coniston and has become an authority on mines and quarries!
If anyone else has any knowledge of this act of creative vandalism and can add to the story we'd
be glad to hear from you, but we will not be revealing the names of those wonderful miscreants.