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Stocker's Lake (October 2011) [Photo © Steve Marshall / Wild Future]

Stocker's Lake, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire

A large former gravel pit in the Colne Valley, Stocker's Lake attracts an excellent number and variety of waterbirds and offers an enjoyable circular walk to visitors.

The lake - complemented by smaller lakes, wet woodland, reedbed and the adjacent River Colne, Grand Union Canal and Rickmansworth Aquadrome LNR - is a good site to visit all year round.

Ducks are abundant in winter: Shoveler and Goldeneye visit in nationally important numbers, and Smew and Red-crested Pochard are occasional. In the breeding season, Common Tern nest on floating rafts and there are good views of the county's largest heronry.

Target Species

All year: Kingfisher (50%) • Spring: Large Bittercress (100%) • Summer: nesting Common Terns (100%) • young Grey Herons (100%) Autumn: Osprey (10%) • Winter: Smew (10%) • Goosander (20%) • Water Rail (see 10%, hear 25%)

 

Key Info & Critical Kit

Free access - Access open at all times - Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire (TQ048935)

Pay and Display in Aquadrome car park (TQ057937): 1 May-30 Sep 8am-8.30pm, 1 Oct-30 Apr 8am-6pm

Limited free parking in Springwell Lane car park (TQ041933) or roadside (TQ043930) • Disabled space available: contact HMWT for key

Bus stop at Aquadrome; 5 mins walk -  Rickmansworth station; 10 mins walk

 

Managed by Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust • Owned by Veolia Water • Local group: Friends of Stocker's Lake

38 hectares (94 acres) • Designation: Local Nature Reserve - 30 mins to 2 hours • Circuit of lake: 40 mins - Latest sightings

Almost all level terrain • Suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs • Walking shoes recommended • Some paths can be muddy after rain • Dogs on leads only • No running or jogging in refuge areas • Four hides • Toilets and café at Aquadrome

 

Maps image: Explorer 172 "Chiltern Hills East" • Landranger 176 "West London"

Equipment: Binoculars • Bird guide • Camera • Telescope useful but not essential

Stocker's, Inns and Springwell Lake walk leafletRickmansworth Aquadrome leaflet

 


Open Map Key (in new window)

 

One of the oldest and largest gravel pits in the Colne Valley, Stocker's Lake is at the centre of a large freshwater complex at Rickmansworth which includes the River Colne to the north, the Grand Union canal to the south, Rickmansworth Aquadrome to the east plus Inns and Springwell Lakes and Springwell Reedbed to the west.

Stocker's Lake was the source of gravel for Wembley's original stadium, including the famous Twin Towers, but, since extraction stopped, a wide range of aquatic and marginal plants have become established: areas of reed and sedge marsh with Meadow Rue, Ragged Robin and Meadowsweet. The gravel ridges left behind have become islands important as wildfowl refuge. There are well-surfaced paths around most of the circular walk, although the trail on the north side of the lake is a little less prepared and can be muddy. Please click to open the Stocker's, Inns and Springwell lake walk leaflet published by the Colne Valley Park, the overarching body promoting countryside along London's western edge.

Birds are the main wildlife attraction - with more than 40 regular breeding species and hundreds of wintering duck and geese - but the lake and its surrounding wet woodland, wet grassland and reedbed are also home to butterflies, dragonflies and uncommon plants, including the locally rare Large Bittercress.

The mixed habitats make this site excellent in SPRING, with summer breeders starting to return and migrants - such as Wheatear and Whinchat - passing through.

In SUMMER, the meadows are in flower and the lake is buzzing with activity. Hobbies can be seen preying on dragonflies and the Common Terns nest on the purpose-built gravel rafts; Black-headed Gulls also nested for the first time in 2010, on the rafts. By mid-May, young Grey Herons are taking flying lessons from the heronry in the north-east corner of the lake. Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Whitethroat are singing and nesting around the lake's margins, with tits, Treecreeper and possibly Nuthatch in the wooded areas. A pair of Kestrels breed in a nestbox.

The site is one of the county's foremost reserves for WINTER duck and wildfowl, with Shoveler, Gadwall and Pochard all present and Goldeneye and Red-crested Pochard more than occasional. In cold weather, Smew and Goosander can be found here, often amongst the islands at the eastern end. Little Egrets join the herons and Cormorants at the roost. Water Rail can be seen around the stream and scrape on the south-west side of the lake. Fieldfares and Redwings often flock in the scrub around the site's margins and roost on the islands at dusk. Siskin flocks and the occasional Lesser Redpoll occasionally throng in the alders along the various watercourses and Goldcrest can be found with the tits in the wet woodland.

AUTUMN migration is a fruitful time at Stocker's Lake. Common Sandpipers can be found on the lake and island margins and impressive flocks of Sand Martins and House Martins build up over the water. The Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler influx is joined by the occasional Lesser Whitethroat or Whinchat. The Osprey is an increasing migrant, using the lake and the Chess Valley as a feeding stop. HMWT have now erected a nesting platform in the hope of attracting the birds to breed.

Year-round attractions include the active Kingfishers and increasing numbers of Ring-necked Parakeets.

Conservation management of the site includes pollarding trees to check encroachment and increase light levels, maintaining the islands and rafts for breeding birds, and planting and protecting reed strips for new habitat.

 

Inns Lake, Springwell Lake and Springwell Reedbed

Inns Lake is visible from the paths at the western end of Stocker's Lake; a small, narrow lake, with the margins encroached by scrub and reedbed. This a relatively quiet and undisturbed area and a quick look can occasionally be quite fruitful for odd ducks or a close view of herons and egrets. A Little Gull was seen here in November of both 2005 and 2006, and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker may be occasionally encountered in the woodland areas.

The larger Springwell Lake lies on the other side of Springwell Lane, with access easiest from the small car park at TQ041933. A popular carp fishing lake, there is a walk on the lake's western side which includes boardwalks, raised sections and platforms. The route can be made circular with a 600m walk along Springwell Lane.

Springwell Reedbed lies at the southern end of the lake and, at 2ha in size, is large in a London context. Also a HMWT reserve owned by Veolia Water, most of the site is reedswamp, domainated by Common Reed. In the south, a mix of Greater and Lesser Pond Sedge. Scattered Alder, Crack and Grey Willows can be found within the site. The reserve is best views from the adjacent canal towpath.

The reedbed is noted for large numbers of breeding Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers. In winter, the reedbed is a roosting site for Starlings, wagtails and buntings, with up to one hundred Reed Bunting and 300 Starlings a regular occurrence; birds of prey such Sparrowhawk and Peregrine Falcon are sometimes keeping a close eye on the roost. Other wintering birds include Snipe, Water Rail and rarely Bearded Tit.

 

Stocker's Farm

A large damp field south-east of Stocker's Lake, on the southern side of the canal, has been gathering interest over the last ten years through sympathetic management. A scrape at the western end can be well viewed from the canal bridge.

Little Owls can be seen roosting in the scrub all year round. Yellow Wagtail and Little Ringed Plover turn up on the scrape in spring, with other waders infrequently seen. A couple of pairs of Lapwing attempt to breed, raising one chick in 2010. Wigeon, Teal and Snipe can be found on the scrape in winter.

 

Rickmansworth Aquadrome

This 41ha Local Nature Reserve is managed by Three Rivers District Council and includes two former gravel pits now used for a range of activities including windsurfing, kayaking, canoeing, water skiing, sailing, fishing and model boats. A range of tamer waterfowl - such as Mute Swans, Mallards and geese - can be found on the lakes. The eastern end of Bury Lake is less disturbed and can hold some more interesting species.

There is an easy access circular trail through the woodland, scrub and grassland area that surrounds the lakes with a picnic area between the lakes and a viewing platform on the River Colne. A new year-round café facility opened in 2009.

Please click to open the Rickmansworth Aquadrome leaflet, including map.

 

Wildlife Summary

Target species

All year: Kingfisher (50%) • Spring: Large Bittercress (100%) • Summer: nesting Common Terns (100%) • young Grey Herons (100%) Autumn: Osprey (10%) • Winter: Smew (10%) • Goosander (20%) • Water Rail (see 10%, hear 25%)

Other possible species

All year: Grey Heron • Treecreeper • Kestrel • Summer: Reed Warbler • Sedge Warbler • other warblers • Autumn: Osprey • Winter: Pochard • Goldeneye • Gadwall • Red-crested Pochard • Fieldfare • Redwing • Siskin • Goldcrest

 
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