Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Adderbury Lakes: A Small But Well Kept Secret

Last weekend we visited Adderbury Lakes in the village of Adderbury in Oxfordshire. It is a small Nature Reserve, whose existence, many people in the vicinity are unaware of, with two small lakes which used to be part of the estate of Adderbury House, a large 17th century country home owned by Henry Wilmot, 1st Earl of Rochester.

The house has been remodelled several times over the years: in 1661 for Anne Wilmot, Countess of Rochester, in 1722 for John Campbell 2nd Duke of Argyll, in 1731 by the architect Roger Morris and in 1768 by the architect Sir William Chambers for Henry Scott, 3rd Duke of Buccleuch. At this time Lancelot 'Capability' Brown was commisioned to produce a design for a park and there is a rough undated sketch of the proposed lakes in one of his work-books. Sadly most of the house was demolished in 1808. In the 19th century Adderbury House was owned by Major Larnach whose Adderbury-trained horse Jeddah won the Derby at odds of 100-1 in 1898 and also won at Ascot the same year.

After the second world war it became a nursing home and about fifteen years ago, after it had stood empty for ten years following the closure of the home, the house was bought by Anton Bilton a wealthy property developer who gave the lakes to the village which are now managed by the Adderbury Lakes committee and beautifully maintained by parties of volunteers.

EDIT: It has been brought to my attention by Diane Bratt, Chairman of the Lakes and of Adderbury Parish Council, that, and I quote:

'Anton bought Adderbury House but he never bought the Lakes. The Lakes (like the House) were owned by the County Council and Adderbury Parish Council bought the Lakes from them.'

I apologise for any misunderstanding, my information was published in good faith and from a supposedly reliable source.

The lakes in their present form were created around 1815 by the then owner William Hunt Chamberlain. He also added a number of structures including an ice-house, a boat-house, a small covered viewing seat and a summer-house.

On our way to the lakes the sun was shining radiantly as we followed the winding footpath,

lined with Cow Parsley,

but it promptly disappeared as we reached them!

There are some wonderful, very old trees, some dating back to the early 1800s.

As we walked through these trees we came across,

this Mallard resting among the vegetation.

'Behold the duck.
It does not cluck.
A cluck it lacks.
It quacks.
It is specially fond
Of a puddle or pond.
When it dines or sups.
It bottoms ups.'
(Ogden Nash)

There is an impressive list of birds to be seen including Hobby, Kestrel, Spotted Flycatcher, Green and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Tree Creeper, Nuthatch and many, many more but sadly we only heard some of their songs and I'm afraid I have never been very good at identification by song.

We saw Buttercups,

'I found a buttercup today;
A lovely thing it was, indeed,
And yet in theory, a weed.'
(Reginald Arkell)


'Oh that lone flower recalled for me
My happy childhood's hours
When Bluebells seemed like fairy gifts
A prize among the flowers.'
(Anne Bronte)

Herb Robert,

'Little Herb Robert,
Bright and small,
Peeps from the bank
Or the old stone wall.'
(Cicely Mary Barker)

The Ice-House built around 1815 was an early version of the modern day refrigerator and is now a listed building.

This small covered viewing seat is dated around the same time and was marked as a garden seat on Capability Brown's plan.

'What is this life, if full of care,
We have no time to [sit] and stare.
(W.H. Davies)

The Summer-House is now reduced in size and reshaped since the lakes were re-claimed.

In this lovely tranquil place not all was peaceful!


Ramsons or Wild Garlic was growing in abundant splendour.

It has been necessary to fell some trees because their roots were beginning to pose a danger to the dam between the lakes, others have been felled or reduced in size as they were dead and becoming a potential hazard by the footpaths. Many of these have been retained to provide habitat for insects and to allow fungi to form as the wood rots.

We saw Ground Ivy flowers

'And where beech trees had mixed a pale green light
With the ground ivy's blue.
(W.B Yeats)

and Rowan

'Oh! Rowan Tree Oh! Rowan Tree!
Thoul't aye be dear to me,
Entwined thou art wi many ties,
O' home and infancy,
Thy leaves were aye the first o spring,
Thy flowr's the simmers pride;
There was nae sic a bonny tree,
In a' the countryside'
(Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne)

We walked back past the old Boat-House,

along the winding path, pausing to admire Wisteria on an adjoining house,

and back to the gates to remind ourselves of all the bird and animal life which we could have seen!

A very enjoyable outing though and well worth a return visit to hopefully see more bird life. Finally a big thank you to A and S for telling us about this lovely place.


  1. some nice pics. I didn't know about the nature reserve, the church though is worth a visit (i've been :D )

  2. Enjoyed visiting the Adderbury Lakes on your blog, What a treat to see it through your eyes... a charming, peaceful and serene treasure!
    I had never heard of moorhens...wonderful photos of the birds and flowers along your way.

  3. Now I'd love that as a local patch. Sees like a large bird species list could be obtained there, looks ideal for dpotted flycatchers.
    Thanks for the tour. Songbird

  4. I just love the way you put your visits on your blog Shysongbird, it's almost like your reader is making the visit themselves - very well done!!

  5. What a great place to visit.
    An excellent tour through your eyes, along with the history too.

  6. You obviously had a great time visiting Adderbury Lakes. An interesting and easy read Jan with many lovely photos along with the matching poetry.

  7. Pictures & poetry held my attention throughout your interesting visit to this secret place. Wonderfully scripted Jan.

  8. Hi shysongbird! what a beautiful post! Love the wildlife, the flowers, the lakes,the poetry, and love the old buildings, the 'fridge' and the viewing seat. I adore old buildings!They have something very special about them! Thankyou for sharing your day out, karen x

  9. I loved this post Shy!! Great story and poems along the way and great photos!! The ducks were so pretty!

  10. What a beautiful place, your photos really do it justice :-)

  11. Hi Shysongbird,

    I loved this posting, it looks like exactly the kind of place i'd want to go to. It looks so quiet too.

    The Mallard photo was great, it looks a little strange there!

    I'd love to see a Treecreeper. Trouble is that they are so well camouflaged most of the time, making them hard to see.

    Thanks for sharing.

  12. Pete, thank you and from what I can gather not too many local people even know of its existence. Maybe next time we will visit the church as well, on your recommendation!

  13. Nan, thank you for your very kind comments, it really was very peaceful and I suspect we will visit again before too long.

  14. Warren, thank you and you would have loved it, and been able to identify all the birdsong which I couldn't!

  15. Jayne, thank you, you are very kind. I'm very glad you enjoyed it, it was a lovely place to visit.

  16. Keith, thank you, I thought the history of the house and lakes was fascinating and what I forgot to include was that virtually the only other people we saw was a lady and her husband who asked if we knew anything about the house as she had been researching her family tree and found that her great (or she may have said great great) grandfather used to live there, I was so taken aback I forgot to ask her his name!!

  17. John, thank you I certainly enjoyed my visit despite not seeing many birds (there were plenty there, I just couldn't identify their song!) and it was such a beautifully cared for place.

  18. Frank, thank you for your very generous comments, you are very kind and I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

  19. Karen, thank you for your lovely comments, despite the fact I didn't see many birds it was a very special place to visit and the history really was fascinating. I think there is something very special about the sense of knowing you are seeing the same places and things that people from so long ago have experienced.

  20. Ginny, thank you, I was glad to see the ducks considering all the other birds seemed to be hiding!

  21. Pam, thank you it really was beautiful and it was just a shame the sun deserted us!

  22. Joe, thank you very much, I think you would definitely like it and it was amazingly quiet which was lovely. You are absolutely right, the Mallard gave us quite a surprise nestled there, and I think it was surprised by us too. :-)

    Oh, how I would love to see a Treecreeper, it has been on my garden wish-list for ages, a vain hope I suspect!

  23. Wow! I found this post totally enchanting. A historical setting right out of a Jane Austen novel... I enjoy how you sprinkle the post with lovely poems. My favorite was Herb Robert (the poem and the photograph). I also like matching up poetry with photographs, but you have a special talent for it.

  24. Hi Jan
    What a beautiful place and thank you so much for giving us such a wonderful guided tour...

    I grow herb robert and wild garlic in my garden...although invasive, I do love them and for me wild is good...

    Some beautiful spots there to just to sit and 'be'. Glad you found time to 'sit and stare'.....we should perhaps all do that more often...

    Wonderful bird photographs....love the mallard and its reflection in the water......

  25. shysongbird,what can I say that hasnt been said,and amazing tour with beautiful photographs and lovely words.It is an marvellous blog obviously put together with love by a very clever lady.

  26. Kelly, thank you so much, I am very flattered.

    Herb Robert is a pretty little flower and I always think the name is so nice too.

  27. Cheryl, thank you very much for your lovely comments. It was a lovely place and very serene, it was a shame the sun disappeared though!

    As you say it is good to just 'be' sometimes and that was a very nice place to do so.

  28. Sheila, thank you I really am very touched by your generous comments. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, I enjoyed putting it together despite its being rather time consuming!

  29. Hey what a fabulous posting Shysongbird, and love the mix of photos, text and poetry. And of course nice to see an area less well known.

  30. What a lovely magical place! Thank you for taking us along for a visit.

  31. What a wonderful place to visit. It looks so tranquil and I love the watery pictures in particular. Isn't it great when an organisation doesn't "tidy away" its dead wood. Well done them.

    I always enjoy your poems interlacing your posts Jan. How do you always manage to find such appropriate ones!

  32. Hi Jan. How nice it is to find yourself a fairly unknown nature reserve. it looks a lovely place. You have taken some lovely photo's. Lovely blog Jan.

  33. Andrew, thank you for your very kind comments. It really was a treat to go somewhere, which although quite small, was so beautifully managed and quiet apart from birdsong.

  34. Morning Glories, thank you, the reserve did have a special feeling about it and I'm so glad you enjoyed sharing the visit with me.

  35. Tricia, thank you, tranquil really is the right description and especially as there was barely another soul to be seen! What struck me particularly was how the felled trees looked almost sculptural in their own right, it was such a beautifully cared for place.

    I do enjoy matching up the poems and quotes, although if I'm hunting around in the wee small hours I sometimes wonder why I do! ;-)

  36. Ken, thank you for your very kind comments. It certainly was a lovely place to visit, and I suspect we will go again before too long.

  37. Thank you! This is a beautfiful place. I love seeing the blue bells.

  38. Sherry, thank you, I love Bluebells too, I have such fond memories of visits to the woods to see them as a child.

  39. Hi again ShySongbird :-)

    Thanks so much for taking us with you on your trip to Adderbury and for the history behind it. Its great to hear about the different uses of an estate and what all the owners have done with it.

    Loved the Cow Parsley walk and the lake. I adore old trees too. I do enjoy seeing the mallards like this too – loved the pair with their reflection :-D

    Poetry and wild flowers just go together don’t they? Oh… I can smell particular woodland from my childhood with its sea of wild garlic too. Gosh… this posting must have taken quite a bit of research here :-D

    A wonderful walk and a fantastic posting. I am having difficult deciding which photo is my fav. Yep… decided… it’s the first lake shot… you could just lose yourself there :-D

    Have a great weekend… don’t get lost ;-D

  40. Shirl, thank you very much for all your lovely comments and I'm glad you enjoyed sharing the outing. I found it really interesting to look into the history and it gave me a true 'feel' of the place.

    It is strange how a sight or sound and so often a scent can take us back to childhood, in terms of wild flowers I notice it particularly with the scent of Sweet Violets and with garden flowers Roses and Sweet Peas are very evocative scents for me.

    I hope you have a lovely weekend whether you spend it at home or out and about.

  41. Oh, I want to visit Adderbury Lakes now, but I am so far away, in California. Your photos are lovely and the poems fit very well. I signed up to follow your blog.
    Please stop by and say hello on mine.

  42. Terra, welcome and thank you for visiting and for all your kind comments.

    It certainly was a beautiful place to visit and definitely to be recommended but maybe just a teeny weeny bit far from California!! :)

    I will pop over to visit your blog soon.

  43. Espectacular lugar.
    Te invito a mi blog....

  44. Pedro a. cruz cruz, welcome and thank you for visiting and for your very kind comment. Please do visit again, you will be most welcome.

  45. After seeing you page we went for a walk to see the lakes. Lovely spot and it made our decision to buy the house easier.

  46. Paul,

    Welcome and thank you so much for your comment, how kind of you to take the trouble! It really is a beautiful place and we have been back since I wrote the post and will do so again.

    I am very flattered that my post played some part in your decision to buy the house and I hope very much that you will be happy in your new home.

  47. Hello I want to congratulate to them by its site of the Web of the excellent looks like entertained and very good very to me it elaborated. I invite them to that they explore a little on my Web site.


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