NATURE RESERVE: spring sunshine transforms the quarryside path at Spade Oak
SPRING has sprung with a vengeance at the Spade Oak Lake in Little Marlow – and not before time after the unseasonal March snowfalls and recent riverside flooding.
For weeks, the path round the border of the former gravel pit has been a mudbath, deterring even the hardiest of anglers and birdwatchers.
But with the sudden April rise in temperatures, the site has been transformed and the nature reserve has come into its own again.
It was here during the 1960s that aggregate was extracted that would be used for the M40 and M4 motorways. But the restoration of the site saw the creation of a remarkable nature reserve comprising the lake and surrounding woodland.
DEEP WATERS: nowadays the lake is a sanctuary for water fowl
Much of the restoration work focused on encouraging birds to use the site as a breeding sanctuary, and breeding birds include little ringed plovers, kingfishers, reed warblers, great crested grebes and terns.
Alongside these are the ducks, gulls and geese who provide a cacophony of background sound on a still evening as the bats come out to flit and flicker around in the gloaming on the permissive path which runs around much of the lakeside perimeter.
This is one of nine fishing venues operated by Marlow Angling Club and is said to host carp, tench, bream, pike, perch, roach, rudd and eels.
GONE FISHING: Marlow Angling Club members fish at selected spots around the lake
It was back in 1966 that the Folley Brothers began to dig the former farmland in Coldmoorholm Lane to extract the valuable flood plain gravel that was in great demand for the motorway building program. Gravel is no longer dug from Spade Oak but the area is used by the current owners, Lafarge, as a depository for gravel dug elsewhere.
In 1999, Little Marlow Parish Council and Lafarge began discussing a permissive path around the lake to celebrate the millennium, and the official opening took place in 2002.
IN FULL BLOOM: the lake path through the trees towards the Spade Oak pub
And a very pleasant waterside ramble it is on a spring or summer’s evening, with the gulls and geese shrieking in dismay at some temporary disturbance and the gentle clank of the two-coach train lazily meandering its way from Bourne End to Marlow alongside the lake path.
Ah, bliss! Nature has been quick to reclaim the former quarry, and the millennium project has proved a wonderful resource, not just for the villagers of Little Marlow but for all those tempted to take a waterside ramble on a warm evening.