Rutland Water

Rutland Water

Location and access

OS map ref: SK 878075/894058 (Sheet 141)

The nature reserve comprises an area of varied habitats lying at the western end of Rutland Water. Use of the two visitor centres is free, but a charge is made for access to the reserve which includes car parking. Day or Annual Activity passes can be purchased at the centres (concessionary day and annual permits are available to LRWT members only). Current rates can be obtained by phoning 01572770651 or by checking the website at www.rutlandwater.org.uk.

We encourage visitors to use environmentally friendly forms of transport wherever possible. Most of our reserves are easily accessible by bicycle, with many close to the National Cycle Network. Please keep to the designated cycle routes around Rutland Water.

Access for the disabled: The Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre has disabled facilities and within the Egleton areas of the nature reserve twenty hides are adapted for those with wheelchairs. The Lyndon Visitor Centre also has disabled facilities and access is possible to four hides. An electric-powered mobility scooter is available for hire by advanced booking at both centres. Concessions on passes are available for disabled visitors and their carers.

Egleton (SK 878075): Egleton village lies 2 km south east of Oakham and can be reached from either the A606 (Oakham to Stamford road) or the A6003 (Oakham to Uppingham road). A track runs east from the village to the nature reserve car park. 

Public transport - contact Traveline for further information www.traveline.org.uk or phone 0871 200 22 33.

The Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre has a shop, a large birdwatching gallery and incorporates the Rutland Environmental Education Centre providing interpretative areas and a classroom that can be hired for business and other functions.

This part of the reserve is open daily throughout the year with the exception of Christmas Day and Boxing Day. A nature trail runs north and south from the car park and 19 birdwatching hides may be visited. A hide overlooking a badger sett is open to small guided groups from mid April until July by prior booking. Evening and school party visits may be made by prior arrangement with the Reserve Manager or the Education Officer, and a guide is available.

Lyndon (SK 894058): The reserve entrance on the south shore of the reservoir lies off the minor road from Manton to Edith Weston, about 2 km east of the junction with the A6003. Follow 'Nature Reserve' signs to the car park and the Lyndon Visitor Centre. The Centre is open from Easter to October daily from 9am to 5pm. A nature trail leads from the Centre to six hides that overlook the water and a woodland walk, a seventh hide overlooks a pond in Gibbet Gorse.

Please keep to the paths.

NB. Up to date information on the ospreys can be found on the website - www.ospreys.org.uk

Dogs are not permitted on the Egleton area of the nature reserve due to the sensitive wildlife.

Dogs are permitted on the Lyndon area of the nature reserve but only under strict control - able to bring to heel at all times.

Status

The reserve is owned by Anglian Water and managed by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust. The reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Ramsar site and a European Special Protection Area. It covers 393 ha.

History, habitats & management

Rutland Water Nature Reserve is unique in that it was declared a reserve before it existed. The wildlife potential of the proposed reservoir was recognised as early as 1969; reserve boundaries and the construction of lagoons were formulated in 1972 and in 1975 the Trust signed a management agreement with the Anglian Water Authority. In 2002 the areas managed by the Wildlife Trust were increased to include Barnsdale, Armley, and Hambleton Woods and Berrybutts Spinney.

Management of such a large reserve is varied and complex. The main theme of management is to provide ideal conditions for wildfowl, whether resident or migrant, and breeding birds. The farmland is managed by traditional methods - grazing sheep and cattle, and late hay cropping - without the use of chemical herbicides, insecticides or fertilisers. Willow plantations provide screening and are coppiced on a regular cycle to create dense, low cover. Lax Hill has been planted with oaks, with an under-storey hazel. Within other woodland areas, small glades and wider rides have been created to promote a wider diversity of plants and animals. The lagoons are individually controlled by a system of penstocks allowing seasonal regulation of water levels.

A three year Rutland Water Habitats Project commenced in the summer of 2008 to create a series of nine new lagoons. The project will provide new wetland habitats creating optimum conditions for wildlife and ensuring it is undisturbed by future water management of the reservoir.

The reserve is divided into three different sections:

1.  Egleton: Four man-made lagoons provide an undisturbed sanctuary for wildfowl. A number of islands give safe nesting habitat for breeding birds, while others are used by moulting ducks during the late summer. Specially created areas of shallow water and muddy shoreline attract migrant waders. The margins of the lagoons vary from grazed meadow to rank vegetation.

Plantations created in the late 1970's include dense willow thickets and stands of oak and ash, with an under-storey of shrub species such as field maple, guelder-rose, spindle, dogwood, buckthorn and hazel.

There are a number of meadows, some of which are unimproved hay meadows, where a wide variety of wild flowers grow; newer grass leys are lightly grazed throughout the summer. Many of these meadows ore bordered by species-rich hedgerows.

Lax Hill is a mature woodland, consisting mainly of oak, beech, horse chestnut, sycamore and regenerated elms.

Part of the reserve borders the main reservoir and is of particular interest outside the fishing season when large numbers of birds congregate on these undisturbed waters.

A large reedbed on the edge of lagoon III attracts many of the specialist species associated with this habitat such as bittern, waterail and breeding sedge and reed warblers.

2.  Lyndon: This area has as wide a variety of habitats. Gibbet Gorse, the only mature woodland, is rich in old coppiced oak, with Norway spruce, blackthorn and hawthorn thickets. Nightingales regularly breed in Gibbet Gorse. Two ponds have well-developed aquatic ecosystems. A wader scrape provides mud and shallow water for specialist feeders and much of the reserve overlooks the open shoreline of the reservoir. As well as willow thickets, an area of alder and silver birch plantation provides winter food for small passerines such as siskins and redpolls.

The western end of South Arm II was bunded to create a large lagoon in 2010 as part of the Rutland Water Habitats Project. Water levels will be controlled by sluice gates.

3.  Burley Fish-ponds: Located on the reservoir's north arm this area is only open by special research permit. The grazed grassland and dense willow carr is subject to winter flooding and summer drawdown. A rich marsh habitat is developing at the western end.

Features of interest

The particular interest of the reserve lies in the large number of wildfowl that visit the reservoir throughout the year. There are seasonal fluctuations, the most noticeable being in the late summer when flocks of moulting ducks congregate around the lagoons and later when migratory wildfowl return from their northern breeding grounds. The reserve is an important wildfowl sanctuary and for some species numbers have reached international significance including gadwall and shoveler. The reserve is the most important site in the UK for gadwall and great-crested grebes.

The reservoir has attracted more than 23,000 birds at one time and in the winter months up to 28 species of wildfowl are recorded, including rare species such as scaup, smew, long-tailed duck, scoter and Bewick's swan. Wild geese make brief appearances, attracted to the grazing meadows that are frequented by large flocks of wigeon. Rare grebes, such as black-necked, red-necked and Slavonian, are recorded regularly. In most winters, divers can be seen in the deeper stretches of the reservoir, the commonest being the great northern diver.

Areas of rank vegetation attract birds of prey such as barn and short-eared owls, which feed on the abundant small mammals. Other regular birds of prey are sparrowhawk, kestrel and peregrine in winter, whilst in summer, hobbies chase the newly emerged dragonflies, later turning their attention to the enormous flocks of swallows and martins that feed over the water prior to autumn migration. Buzzard and red kite sightings are a regular feature as they circle over the reserve.

Following a successful programme to translocate osprey chicks to Rutland Water from Scotland, ospreys are now breeding in central England for the first time in 150 years. Adult birds can be seen from early April to mid September after which they migrate to Africa. A camera beams live nest pictures back to both visitor centres and to the web site during the breeding season. For further information on the Rutland Ospreys see the website www.ospreys.org.uk

Summer migrants on passage include wheather, whinchat, yellow wagtail, tern species and many special waders. Up to 70 bird species breed annually. Breeding wildfowl include mallard, gadwall, shoveler, shelduck, teal, tufted duck, garganey and pochard. Habitat improvement has resulted in oystercatcher, lapwing, little ringed and ringed plover, snipe and redshank breeding. Common tern breed on special, shingle-topped islands on floating platforms. Moulting flocks of tufted duck have reached 9,758 recorded in September 2006, with pochard in excess of 1,000 making the reserve one of the most important sites in Europe for both species. Internationally important numbers of gadwall and shoveler are best seen in autumn months.

The reserve is recognised as the most important inland site in Great Britain for passage waders and up to 21 species have been recorded in a single day. A total of 268 bird species had been recorded up to December 2008.

The Rutland Water Ringing Group mantains two Constant Effort Ringing Sites, a spring migration monitoring programme, wildfowl ringing and rings hundreds of chicks of tree sparrow, sand martin and other nest box species.

In spring the flora of the herb-rich meadows includes cuckooflower, yellow rattle, ragged-robin, marsh-marigold and common bird's-foot-trefoil. Up to 24 species of butterfly have been recorded, with significant large populations of large, small and Essex skippers, orange tip, meadow brown and gatekeeper while comma, common blue and small copper are also present. The number of damsels and dragon flies have increased to nationally important levels. Emperor, broad-bodied and four-spot chasers, two species of darters, emerald damselfly and black-tailed skimmer are all uncommon species seen regularly. Moth trapping has produced 346 macro and 163 micro species since recording began in 1975, including several nationally notable and local red data book species.

The new woodlands do not contain many typical woodland flowers as yet, so much of the interest lies along the margins and within the rides. In recent years, the nightingalehas become a regular breeding species especially in Gibbet Gorse. A wide variety of fungi is present. The ponds and watercourses, are rapidly being colonised by a diverse flora and fauna. Water violet occurs in several locations. All the woodlands contain badgers and foxes, while both weasel and stoat are often seen crossing paths. Muntjac and mink are common and sightings of otter are increasing annually.

The woods outside the old reserve boundary are part of the Medieval Forest of Rutland and contain a rich diversity of woodland species. They are managed to ensure their diversity is maintained. The ancient hazel stools will be coppiced and invasive non native species removed. In spring Armley, Barnsdale and Hambleton woods are carpeted with bluebells and primroses.

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