Windermere and Leven

Catchment Facts

  • Total area: 220km2
  • Main Rivers: Brathay, Rothay, Great Langdale Beck, Trout Beck, Cunsey Beck & the River Leven
  • Main Lakes: Windermere, Grasmere, Rydal Water, Elterwater and Esthwaite
  • Settlements: Windermere, Bowness, Ambleside, Hawkshead, Grasmere and Cartmel
  • Windermere is England’s largest and longest natural lake
  • Popular tourist destination
  • Has a population of approximately 17,500 people
  • The Great North Swim was cancelled in 2010 due to blue-green algae. There are on-going issues with nutrient enrichment.
  • Flooding affected the catchment during 2008, 2009 and 2015 with drought conditions in 2010.
  • Water is abstracted from the lake for distribution across Cumbria and the North West
  • The catchment is largely rural, with farming in the lower parts of the valley
  • Dramatic declines in population of Arctic Charr within the last 10 years
  • Windermere and Leven Association is our local catchment partnership in the area.
  • View a map of the Leven Catchment

The Windermere and Leven catchment is perhaps the most well-known catchment in South Cumbria, attracting large numbers of visitors year round. Windermere is England’s largest and longest natural lake and a public right of navigation means it has a rich boating history and is the busiest of all the lakes within the National Park. However, since 2000 there has been a gradual decline in lake condition, with increasing phytoplankton  (micro-algae) levels and summer blue-green algal blooms combined with a depletion in oxygen concentrations in deeper parts of the lake, threatening native species.