LWT – Lavell’s Wetland Trust
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 Friends of Lavell’s Lake (FOLL) became a registered charity – 297074 with the Charity Commission. In 2018, Lavell’s Wetland Trust – LWT – was formed (registered charity 1176960). LWT is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) and has replaced FOLL.
Since 2000 we have benefitted from habitat management grants under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. This enabled FOLL and Dinton Pastures Countryside Service (DPCS) to expand our Phragmites reed beds extensively across DPCP and also part funded 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 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.
LWT hosts volunteer work parties each fourth Sunday to help manage the habitats to optimize them for target species, we also receive Duke of Edinburgh (DoE) youths as part of their volunteer work and have hosted school groups and provided guided walks for Brownies.
Bittern Hide, Tern Scrape & Wet Grass Meadow
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!
Before you arrive at Bittern Hide the grass meadow on the right was part excavated in 2018 to provide wet grass and sedge lined shallow gullies. We plan to graze the meadow and attract Redshank, Lapwing, Little Egret, Kingfisher in the summer, Water Rail, Snipe, Jack Snipe in the winter. Barn Owls frequent the meadow dawn and 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. Re-profiled 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 Lake, or south to Sandford Lake and the rest of Dinton Pastures.
Lea Farm Lake & Ron Bryant Hide
North of Lavell’s Lake along the Loddon footpath, is Lea Farm Lake, 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 was been created as a nature reserve by Summerleaze Ltd, who owned the land until October 2018, when it was purchased for LWT by trustee Ron Bryant..
Summerleaze Ltd gave 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 built since.
In 2014 we re-dug and profiled the south west corner to create significant shallow waters and muddy edges and now offers good nesting habitats for Lapwing and Little-ringed Plover, which are showing interest, Redshank and Oystercatcher may be tempted too with further work on the habitat.
Lea Farm Lake also has an artificial Sand Martin wall, with 102 holes which was used successfully for the first 3 years, but we went through a dry spell, but happily they returned in 2017 and 2018 had great success, with double brooding in numerous holes.
Lea Farm Lake has a very bright future, Ron is inspiring us all by his generosity and we have exciting plans to emulate the shallow waters of the SW corner, in the North East corner and on a larger scale. A large area of lake edge tucked up against Lodge Wood is out of sight from Ron’s hide. We are making plans to build a path and a new hide near the North spit, which will provide fantastic views over the whole North East corner, where we will also create a one acre Phragmites reed bed and pools for Bitterns and Egrets, many islets and hopefully a large shallow wader pool on the edge of the landfill.
We aim to use cattle grazing to control Willow growth while benefitting from the many species of insects and birds they attract, not least Yellow Wagtail – now an uncommon passage visitor.
If you think you can help LWT with fund raising, social media, membership engagement, or even building hides and paths, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org