FOLL – Friends of Lavell’s Lake
Lavell’s Lake is in the northern most part of Dinton Pastures Country Park (DPCP) and set in about 46 acres of a mixture of managed wetland habitats, including Phragmites reed beds, sedges, grass areas, coppiced scrub and hedgerows.
The area was deemed a conservation area in 1984 and officially became a nature reserve 7th July 1987, when FOLL became a registered charity (297074) with the Charity Commission.
Since 2000 we have benefitted from habitat management grants under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. This has enabled FOLL and Dinton Pastures Countryside Service (DPCS) to expand our Phragmites reed beds extensively across DPCP and also provided part funding for Bittern Hide and the new access path for wheelchair and mobility scooters.
Our Teal & Bittern hides overlook scrapes where the water depth is artificially controlled to provide year round shallow water, but being set between two rivers, Lavell’s is easily and quite regularly flooded. To mitigate breeding season flash flooding and with support of the Environment Agency, a sluice situated in front of Teal Hide and co-funded by the BOC, provides some protection from flash flooding from the Loddon and then allowing water to drain into the Loddon when water levels subside.
Lavell’s Lake has a rich biodiversity, but the key focus is wetland birds, such as dabbling ducks, waders, herons/Bittern/egrets, rails and crakes and reed dwelling passerines. Two public hides have been built by FOLL overlooking shallow water and our artificially created Teal & Tern scrapes. Both hides provide some of the closest views possible of numerous shy and secretive species.
Teal Scrape was formed in 1984, but invasive weeds, in particular Crassula overtook and led us with no choice but to have it re-dug and re-profiled in 2005. We then replanted with Phragmites reed, both within the scrape and on the adjacent main island.
Tern Scrape was formed in 1987 to counter the problems and disturbance to Teal scrape arising from the new Loddon footpath. Tern Scrape is quite a lot larger than Teal Scrape and has a more open aspect. Here Phragmites reed and Reed Mace established more quickly and as a result dabbling ducks, waders and reed dwelling species have thrived. Tern scrape is now overlooked by Bittern Hide, which was opened in August 2008.
Bittern Hide and Tern Scrape
At the East end of Lavell’s and just a 5 minute walk along a tarmac path from the car park, Bittern Hide can seat about 25 people, plus 20 standing and is positioned very close to Tern Scrape. Bittern Hide provides excellent viewing for waders, dabbling ducks, rails & crakes, herons, warblers and buntings.
At Bittern Hide you can view Tern Scrape and the main island Phragmites reed bed, which has attracted annual wintering Bitterns since 2002. Lavell’s Lake and White Swan Lake (WSL) are nationally important wintering grounds for between 2 and 5 Bitterns each winter, making our site one of the top 5 sites in Southern England….AND you get to see the Bitterns too!
The grass meadow to the right is Tern Meadow, with no public access, but often has Barn Owls at dusk.
Teal Hide and Scrape
At the West end parallel to the Loddon River, Teal Hide can seat about 10 people and overlooks a more boggy habitat fringed with dense willow scrub and some mixed reed beds. Reprofiled in 2005 and planted with more Phragmites, this scrape appeals to dabbling ducks, rails, herons, warblers and buntings.
The footpaths between the hides are flanked by dense varying height vegetation and hedgerow which are good for Bullfinch all year and Garden Warbler in the summer. Paths lead on to the river Loddon footpath and access north to Lea Farm Gravel Pit, or south to Sandford Lake and the rest of Dinton Pastures.
Lea Farm GP & Ron Bryant Hide
North of Lavell’s Lake along the Loddon footpath, is Lea Farm GP, which is about a third longer than Lavell’s, but probably more than three times the area of water. A relatively new lake formed from recent gravel extraction, it has been created as a nature reserve by Summerleaze Ltd, who own the land.
Summerleaze Ltd have given FOLL exclusive permission to build a hide overlooking the lake, members can use it at any time, visitors are welcome. The hide seats up to 16 people, plus 6-10 standing and being set upon 6 foot stilt legs, it offers exceptional views across the lake. The lake offers a great deal of weedy edges and has a very open aspect with exposed shallow, muddy and gravel lake edges, which annually attract waders like Snipe, Green & Common Sandpipers, Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin, Ringed and Little-ringed Plover. Being flanked on the east side by open grassy landfill, it is often grazed by sheep and is equally attractive to Wigeon, Lapwing, the odd flock of Golden Plover and many corvids, with Peregrine sometimes hunting them and the gathered winter gulls.
There is quite a large shingle island which in 2009 held a colony of over 25 pairs of Common Terns, who also use the two artificial rafts FOLL has built since.
In 2014 we re-dug and profiled the south west corner and now offer one of the best wader nest habitats in Berkshire. We hope that in future it will attract successful breeding Lapwing, Redshank and Little-ringed Plover.
Lea Farm GP also has an artificial Sand Martin wall, with 102 holes which was used successfully for the first 3 years.