Semerwater Rise! Semerwater Sink!

Posted on 4th October 2014

After leaving Malham Tarn I come to the only other ice age lake that remains in the Yorkshire Moors, Lake Semerwater. This place is full of local legends, quite literally.

Perhaps my favourite is the tale of a beggar who visited a large and thriving city where he asked the townsfolk for some food and shelter. However, the people were so used to finery and splendour that they showed little concern for the man who had so little, leaving him cold and alone on the city streets. Eventually, he reached a small cottage just outside of the city where a kind shepherd took him in and gave him some food and a place to rest. The following morning the beggar stood at the door of the cottage and looked back towards the city. He raised his hands and then cursed all who lived there with the words “Semerwater rise! Semerwater sink! And bury the town all save the house where they gave me meat and drink!”

The legend was immortalised in the poems of William Watson and John C.C. Routh in the first part of the twentieth century but, funnily enough in 1937, just a few years after both of them had died, the water level of the lake sank very low and uncovered an iron-age settlement on what is now the bed of the lake.

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