I have been told that the Cotswold Water Park is the largest inland man-made water feature in Europe. It covers an area of 40 square miles, and contains more than 150 lakes set across the countryside of Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and West Oxfordshire. The lakes have been created over the last 50 years by extraction of glacial Jurassic limestone gravel, which millions of years ago, eroded from the Cotswold Hills. These quarries, once the gravel has been extracted, are left to naturally fill with water, and are then managed by the Cotswold Water Park Trust for the benefit of local people, visitors and wildlife.
Within the water park there is loads of things to do; some of the lakes are wildlife conservation areas, there are fishing lakes and water-sport lakes, swimming lakes, an amazing Sculpture Park and of course loads of beautiful walks. Today we visited one of our favourites, Neigh Bridge Lake, to walk the dog (they have created a special area for dogs to swim in), and to try our hand at Pond Dipping!
We know there’s tons of wildlife on and in this lake. We often see fisherman catch really large Pike and Carp here, so we were confident that there was plenty in there. We also know there’s a few non-native species in the lake that we often see – look closely at the willow in the picture below that fell into the lake a couple of months ago in a storm – can you spot something that you wouldn’t normally see in a UK lake? The most turtles I have seen on this trunk at once is 3, so at least we know that this one has a couple of friends. As you can see from the other picture, the lake is full of fish, so although the turtles shouldn’t be in this habitat, they clearly aren’t having too much of a detrimental effect on the fish population!
We took simple fishing nets and containers with us on our explore. The containers give you a chance to have a good look at anything you catch, without distressing or damaging the animal. Once we had had a little look at the creatures, we returned them back to the area of the lake we had found them in.
These little baby crayfish are, I believe, another non-native that are now found in UK lakes, which in some areas have caused a lot of damage to our wildlife. They certainly look ferocious, even as little babies, none of us were prepared to check by handling one of them! Edit 20/8/2015 Note – It has been pointed out to me that we have a native White Clawed Crayfish in our waters, as well as the non-native American Signal Crayfish. The former are very susceptible to a disease carried by the non-native species. I presumed the ones we found were non-native, but don’t know for sure, if I find out I will add another note here, and if anyone can tell from the photo I would be very interested to know!
We also found lots of pond mini-beasts; snails, water boatman, fresh water mussels and pond-skaters.
We had a lot of fun, and although we visit this lake all the time, it was the first time we had ‘dipped’ here. It really gave the kids a new understanding of the life below the surface of the lake. We are now trying to work out how we can explore under the water further, apparently a remote controlled submarine with its own video camera is what I need to order!