My Visit to Mardale

I've been to see some strange places in my time but last week’s visit to the village of Mardale is one to remember. I walked down its main street, passed by some of its houses, leaned on its dry-stone walls to refasten a lace, and came across a rusted-up hydraulic water ram from a tractor. It’s odd that the farmer would leave behind so important a piece of equipment, but then this is an odd place. You see, Mardale exists under water. The huge Haweswater Reservoir covers the ancient village and has done since 1935 when the valley was dammed. To create a reliable water supply for Manchester, the city’s corporation bought the place in 1919 with the intention of flooding it. None of the villagers received compensation; their tenancies were ended and they were expelled. On account of last month’s drought, much of the old village was above the surface, though tumbled and decayed. Scorch marks from the dynamite still marked the stones and piles of rubble and slate were the only signs that life had once flourished here. The towering mountains to the north, east and west only added to the melancholic atmosphere. The Dun Bull Hotel serves no more ale, the church‘s choirs are no longer heard. Only the wind coming down from the heights provides a sound, along with the gushing of streams and waterfalls attempting to restock the empty lake bed. 


Although the sad emptiness of Mardale continues, its inhabitants’ descendants have, I trust, found better lives. In Isaiah 49, the prophet reflects on Israel’s deserted places, prophesying future hope. Indeed, the nation would become so great that the empty plains will be considered over-crowded:

“For your waste and desolate places,

And the land of your destruction,

Will even now be too small for the inhabitants;

And those who swallowed you up will be far away.

The children you will have,

After you have lost the others,

Will say again in your ears,

‘The place is too small for me;

Give me a place where I may dwell.’”

This hostile earth is itself a ruined and chastised place on account of our ancestors’ rebellion. The lush gardens of paradise are only poorly remembered and evoked in our current natural environment. Yet we shall enjoy them again, for the gospel offers restoration: ‘”to him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”’ (Rev 2:7). Lives that have been parched and depleted by sin will find refreshment and joy in Christ:

In Him the tribes of Adam boast more blessings than their father lost.