Walk on the waterside in Rickmansworth
PUBLISHED: 17:29 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:53 20 February 2013
From wildlife to water skiing, Sue Armstrong takes a closer look at the Aquadrome in Rickmansworth
THOSE warm summer days may have now passed but there's still plenty of opportunity to have fun by the waterside in Hertfordshire's great outdoors. And one picturesque spot, set in the Colne Valley, is the Aquadrome in Rickmansworth. Situated just south of the town centre, it is set in 100 acres of beautiful grassland and woodland and at its heart are three lakes - Bury, Batchworth and Stocker's. Adding to the watery surrounds are the River Colne and the Grand Union Canal, which run along the Aquadrome's boundaries.
The lakes were formed by the extraction of gravel in the 1920s, which was used for the construction of the original Wembley Stadium. These waters provide facilities for a host of activities and have become a paradise for birdwatchers, walkers and photographers.
In its early years, Bury Lake was a popular swimming venue. With its diving board and changing facilities, people would travel from London by train on the Metropolitan Line to Rickmansworth and make the most of sunny days, sunbathing and cooling off in the water. The lake closed for swimming some 25 years ago and nowadays it is used by clubs offering sailing, wind surfing and canoeing with a year round calendar for all ages.
Batchworth Lake is fished during the open season and has a reputation as a big carp water. Many an hour can be spent enjoying the challenge of fishing as a sport or as a tranquil pleasure with the water gently lapping at the shoreline. The lake is also home to the local water-skiing club, which has a good arrangement with the fishermen, claiming that its activities help to aerate the water and encourage the fish to grow.
Stocker's is the biggest of the three lakes and is a dedicated bird and wildlife sanctuary owned by Three Valleys Water and managed by Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust. The lake and its islands attract a huge number of water birds. Wintering duck such as shoveler, with their broad bills, and goldeneye, with a white patch encircling their shining eyes, are common visitors in nationally important numbers. There are more than 60 recorded species of breeding birds, including the common tern, which breeds on specially constructed rafts in the lake. These are delightful silvery-grey and white birds with long tails. They are often noisy and distinctive with their buoyant, graceful flight, frequently hovering over the water before plunging down for a fish.
The heronry here is the largest in the county. These spectacular wading birds can be seen standing with their long necks stretched out, looking for food, or hunched down with their necks bent over their chests. They are usually solitary although several birds may feed fairly close together. They stalk their food, often standing motionless for some considerable time and usually feed close to the bank or shore, occasionally wading out into shallow water.
The path around Stocker's Lake passes bird watching hides, mainly on the southern shore, with the heronry, on the northern side. The hides provide the perfect opportunity to observe wildlife at close quarters and a chance to take some special photographs. This is also a wonderful place to take children so they can begin to learn about their feathered friends. Plus the excitement of spotting a water vole furtively scurrying along the banks with its short tail and stubby nose or a shy fox with its reddish-brown fur and white chest searching
Around the margins of the lake there are acres of reed and sedge marsh and the islands become colonised by beautiful wetland plants attracting many insects. The shallow water around the islands has been planted with reeds to provide cover for fish and water vole and establish ideal conditions for wetland birds. These include bittern, a member of the heron family, but with their buffy-brown plumage these secretive birds are difficult to spot as they move silently through the reeds at the water's edge.
Article taken from October issue of Hertfordshire Life