Village from tarn
Last Updated: 23 January 2014

 Daisy Hill from tarn

Great Urswick and Urswick Tarn looking to Daisy Hill and the village's former iconic sycamores

Great Urswick is an ancient village nestling beneath steeply rising ground to the north and east, where within living memory its original ancient field patterns ascended the sloping ground approximating to a radiating fan from the settlement below.  The village occupies three sides of a rare 5.63 hectare marl tarn, the heritage bequeathed to the village by glacial action.  The possibility of cavern collapses in the limestone below the tarn can not be ruled out as a reason contributing to its presence.  The water entering the tarn is from a limestone catchment and most rises from springs at its bottom.  As a marl tarn it has taken on an importance in modern times as a site for ecological and scientific research.  Within the settlement, regard for the tarn is, for most, based on its undoubted visual amenity.  It is also valued as a location for course fishing and bird watching.  But its real importance linking it to the initial establishment of a settlement was the provision of a dependable supply of water, water both for the inhabitants of the settlement and, importantly, their livestock.  It was not until around 1900 that mains water came to the village sourced from high ground on the nearby Furness Fells where the catchment is over a different geology which then ensured soft water being delivered to a parish which up to that time had been accustomed to hard water from its local limestone catchment. 

Urswick Tarn & west of village

Urswick Tarn and the west side of Great Urswick in winter. 
It is important to recognise that a marl tarn must be given regard not only as the body of water which is readily seen, but in combination with the marl bench which the body of water has created all around its perimeter.  In the case of this marl tarn the marl bench is well developed and has been long in the making.  However, it is to be greatly regretted that it has been used as a depository for material which is alien to a marl bench for such a long time that it is now grown over by vegetation which disguises its presence and hence creates an illusion that it is the water alone that is significant.  More seriously, the disguised margin risks creating a mistaken impression of a load bearing capacity which is beyond that of the marl below.  Coring has shown that the marl is of significant depth, buried below the beguiling vegetation which covers the bench.  No other tarn of this type is known to have buildings constructed, or proposed for construction, over marl in close proximity to the body of water which still keeps the marl saturated and paste-like.  It would be inappropriate for such a marl bench to be included within a boundary where development was approved by a planning authority without that authority having established beyond doubt that the ground is fit for purpose.  At the parish level, Urswick Parish Council is well informed regarding these concerns and as owners of the tarn on behalf of parishioners, are in a position to contribute an appropriate precautionary responsibility.  There is a separate section of this site which deals with Urswick Tarn in more detail (Click). 

Swan in Church Road

Not its normal route to the tarn
Whilst still being small, with around 230 dwellings, the village is the largest settlement in the parish.  It has two pubs and Low Furness Church of England Primary School, although the latter, based on ancient village boundaries, is historically located in Little Urswick.  Distal county authorities with responsibility for road signs can easily distort perceptions on such things as boundaries when local population movement is so dynamic and is without historic awareness to be in a position to question inaccurate signage.  For two half days each week the former fine old village Sunday School serves as a base for a mobile Post Office and some retailing activity.  There is no longer a scheduled bus service through the village but the children of Low Furness are taken by bus to their respective schools either in Urswick, Ulverston or Dalton in Furness.  Despite the provision of this transport service to the schools, a large number of private vehicles remain involved each day in the delivery and collection of children.
Low Furness Church of England Primary School

Low Furness Church of England Primary School
Low Furness Church of England Primary School is located between the two villages of Great Urswick and Little Urswick and was opened in 1994.  As implied by its name, it serves an area of rural Low Furness beyond the Parish of Urswick.  When its pupils reach the age of eleven the majority transfer to Ulverston Victoria High School, four miles away in the market town of Ulverston.

Looking east from Brow End

Looking east from Brow End

The only employment in the village, apart from the domestic help which will be availed of by some families, is associated with local tradesmen and is at a low level.  The most important centres for employment for the village inhabitants are Barrow in Furness to the south and Ulverston.  Agriculture is still important across the parish but employment levels are now low.  During the second half of the nineteenth century the very large scale haematite mining around Lindal in Furness brought a significant source of employment to the men of the two Urswick villages.  The many footpaths around the parish were their means of getting to and from work.  A tin bath in front of the fire filled with water carried from the nearest well would be their means of cleaning up after their dirty wet days in the glutinous red iron residues of the mines.  These residues have stained some local areas of land, and in wet weather some roads still flow with red run-off water. 

Urswick Church

Urswick Parish Church of St Mary and St Michael
The parish church of St. Mary and St. Michael is believed to have its origins as far back as the 7th or 8th Century and therefore pre-dates the rich and hugely influential Cistercian Furness Abbey, 5.6 km to the southwest, by a considerable margin.  The abbey has been in ruins since the reformation.  The structure of the parish church has been upgraded many times over the ages, but its great age touches the senses of all who visit this centre of spirituality to the countless generations of Urswick residents who worshipped here over the millennia.  The annual carpet of crocuses in the churchyard is a sure telegraph of approaching Spring and its ancient sundial an icon of life's passage.

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