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U5529 Elterwater or Owlet's Nest


This route was described by the County Surveyor for Westmorland as a “narrow steep lane, in bad order, but almost impracticable for traffic” in 1895 in his report to the then highway authority, South Westmorland Rural District Council (RDC). 


Westmorland County Council, the highway authority between 1930 and 1974, decided not to tarmac it, preferring to tarmac the roads which provide an alternative, longer but less steep, route between the village of Elterwater and Little Langdale.  


This decision was presumably due to its steepness and narrowness i.e. its unsuitability for motor vehicles (as currently indicated by County Council signs at each end of the unsealed section), but is also justified by the speed with which the surface erodes.  

This route is signed and advertised on Ordnance Survey maps as a ‘traffic-free’ cycle route, part of the Regional Cycle Network,  but it is not traffic-free.  The vehicle logger figures collected by the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) during the seven years from March 2002 to March 2009 show that the average number of motor vehicles per week ranged from 23.5 in the year ending March 2004 to 19.3 in the years ending March 2007 and March 2009.


Over the seven years the balance of use changed from predominately motorcycles to the majority being 4x4s.  It is now regularly used by 4x4s.


LDNPA (through Go Lakes) also recommends this route as part of a cycle route, encouraging visitors to “drive less”, but says the descent to Elterwater on this part of the cycle route “is the roughest section ... and may need to be walked down”.

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