Researching "Bownessie"

Written by Paul Pearson

Insight into the Bowness area

The uncropped photo Source:Westmorland Gazette

Did you know there is only one body of water in the English Lake District that carries the name ‘lake’?

The others are meres, tarns and waters. The main focus of this article is Windermere, the largest natural lake in England. Though its name suggests it is a mere, things aren’t quite that simple. The word ‘mere’ suggests a broad, relatively shallow body of water, as at Martin Mere, whereas Windermere is a long, narrow, deep lake. Indeed, it is approximately 11 miles long (the exact measurement is confused by the question of whether the lower reaches down at Newby Bridge are part of the lake or simply a navigable part of the River Leven), and not quite a full mile across at it’s widest point.

It is divided into two main basins, North and South, the north basin being the deeper of the two, reaching over 65 metres into the depths, while the South basin reaches to over 40 metres. In between the two basins is a relatively narrow and shallow stretch, with a large island, Belle Isle, in the middle, and a chain car ferry, which carries the B5282 between Bowness and the western shore.

Bowness is the town on the Eastern shore at this point, and gives its name, for fairly obvious reasons, to a lake monster, ‘Bownessie’.

The history of the lake monster

Nobody can be sure that all of the sightings of strange creatures in the lake over the years are linked, but they certainly are treated that way by those who know the stories or have witnessed the ‘lake monster’

News to many is the fact that “Bownessie” is not a new phenomena. The earliest reports I could personally find placed a lake monster in Bassenthwaite Lake in 1961 and 1973. There are apparently reports from the 1950’s and 1980’s, but these were given to the CFZ when they were investigating in July 2006. This appears to be the beginning of the recent era of sightings.

The CFZ (Centre for Fortean Zoology) were responding to a report made by Steve Burnip, a holidaymaker from Hebden Bridge inYorkshire who, on the 23rd July 2006, was standing on the rocky promontory known as Watbarrow Point near Wray Castle at the North end of the Western shore with his wife and some friends when they say they saw a wake, as if from a boat, and then realized it was caused by a ‘twenty foot long animal swimming in the lake’.

Following this, within the same month, a Mr and Mrs Gaskell who were cruising near to Ambleside, also at the North end of the lake, claimed to see a large animal jumping in their wake, approximately 20 yards astern. There were apparently six more reports, including one from Kevin Boyd, an amateur diver who went on to help the CFZ when they visited the lake in October 2006.

Source: The Northern Echo

On to 2007 – in February local photographer Linden Adams photographed a fifteen foot long creature from Gummer How (pictured right), and christened it ‘Bownessie’ (So now we know who to blame…), the CFZ returned in July 2007, but this time were over the western hills in Coniston, searching for giant eels.

Meanwhile, a couple of weeks later, over in Windermere, the crew of asix-tonne yacht that was moored at the North end of the lake were rudely awakened by a loud banging against the hull of the yacht which they reported ‘sent shudders through the vessel’.

2008 seems to have been a quiet year for the lake monster, but come 2009 Bownessie was back in business, allegedly creating a three foot bow wave which nearly swamped the managing director of the Langdale Chase Hotel,Thomas Noblett, who was swimming in the lake during training for a cross channel charity swim.


This is when things started to get slightly bizarre as celebrity psychic Dean ‘Midas’ Maynard announced in July that he would be on Windermere over the weekend of the 19th-20th September to search the lake using sonar boats. (I’m struggling to understand why a psychic needs to use sonar…), Contrary to news reports, he wasn’t accompanied by the CFZ, who published a report on the 24th July describing that they would concentrating on other projects…

Kim Inglis, a freelance journalist onboard one of Dean Maynards boats, reported seeing ‘something’ coming out of the water, and another passenger reported seeing ‘a head emerge from the lake’.

A couple of days later, John McKeown of Lakes TV recorded footage of strange ripples on the surface of the lake, which ‘weren’t waves’. After that 2010 seemed to have been another quiet year, despite several reports about Dean Maynard continuing his search without much success, which is surprising, him being a psychic and all…

Recent sightings and photo ‘evidence’

Reported on the 17th February 2011, IT graduate Tom Pickles, 24, manages to obtain a photograph of a strange object in Windermere whilst kayaking near Belle Isle. Just days after Toms picture was taken, on the 16th, a holidaying couple at the South end of the lake also saw a similar object in the lake but unfortunately didn’t manage to get a photograph.

Looking for the monster

I stayed in Ambleside from February 21st-23rd, and despite spending time taking photos around the North and West shores, didn’t see anything unusual (although it was very atmospheric being on the edge of the lake at dusk, well away from anyone, with a thick mist lying on the surface of the lake).

Regarding the latest reports, the witness testimony is very similar to other reports, and therefore adds another chapter to the ‘Bownessie’ story. The photo is a slightly different proposition.

The photo is apparently ‘too small a filesize’ (because it was taken on a mobile phone) to tell whether it has been altered on Photoshop or not.’ However, I personally would have liked to hear something about the .exif file which would accompany the digital photo and give details of exposure etc.

I have a real problem with this photo because it was obviously extensively cropped for the newspapers. This never gives real perspective of what is being seen. Credit should be given to the Westmorland Gazette who included a copy of the original uncropped image on their website (as seen at the top of this article, or here in the original article itself).

Source: Wikipedia

Being curious, I saved a copy of the photo and then enlarged it and printed it onto an A4 page. To my eye, there appears to be some suspicious pixels around the mystery object and straight lines in the background where something has been changed.  Of course, this could be artefacts produced by my PC > Printer setup, but I would welcome any comments from anyone trying the same process.

Admittedly the photo is not first hand, but the presence of these artefacts means I am unable to fully trust this photo. If BARsoc were allowed to see the original, this opinion may change.

Also, a quick glance at the reported shapes of the famous ‘Loch Ness Monster’ as documented on Wikipedia (click the image to the left for the full size document entitled ‘Shapes of the purported sightings of the Loch Ness monster’) it’s clear to see that with such simiarities the creatures may be related… or at least, inspired.


About Hayley Stevens

Hayley Stevens is a podcaster, blogger, writer, public speaker and ghost geek. She likes tea, cake, sci-fi books and being a humanist.

Posted on March 1, 2011, in creature, cryptozoology, media, monster. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. The Westmorland Gazette may have shown the uncropped image, but it still looks like it’s been resized down to fit their 300 pixel-wide standard. At that resolution there’s little benefit to doing much analysis as you could be seeing artefacts due to the resize, or, making the assumption that the original might not be much better, any faults may be due to a cheap sensor in the phone that can’t manage movement particularly well. It’s such a shame that there’s never a good camera around these elusive animals!

    btw, Windamere has some very big pike.

    • We’ve made contact with the westmorland gazette to see if we can get the original photograph sent to us for examination, or if we can be put in touch with Tom, who took the original photo.

      We will update the site with what happens,

    • also near Belle Island is the main area for mooring and access for boats to the lake, so wakes and ripples are also very likely due to the large number of boats (sail and motor) sailing there. Plus the number of underwater branches can be quite high, as I found when canoeing one time!

  2. Windermere also has a sizeable Otter population, the swimming patterns of which closely resemble a series of humps – especially if several Otters are swimming in a line.
    A quick sample of the pixels in the body of the object gives CMYK values of 76,69,65,88 while a sample of the pixels in the darkest area of water to the base of the pic gives CMYK values of 75,68,67,90.
    If, for example, I were kayaking on the lake and saw something creating a wake (Pike/Otter) and wanted to transform it into something of Nessie like proportions I’d sample the colour in the darkest area of the picture ie: the water and then use that colour to digitally brush in the body of the monster.
    However as Tania has said, any analysis and conclusions drawn can only be speculative due compression artifacts etc.
    One final thing that puzzles me is that for a pic taken from a Kayak – where the photographers head would be no more than approximately 2-3ft (depending on the individuals height) the angle looks like it was taken from a higher position but I may be wrong. Ideally a comparative pic needs to be taken from the same location with some object standing in for Bownessie.

  1. Pingback: Did Tom Pickles photograph Bownessie? «

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