Blackwater Valley Countryside

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Lakes & ponds

The Valley floor contains over 150 lakes and ponds, mostly created by gravel workings which were carried out over 50 years ago to provide building materials for the construction industry. Gravel extraction continues to this day but is now restricted to the northern area of the Valley.


Initially the gravel pits are open to nature with bare margins but soon become surrounded by trees, either self sown or planted, giving an enclosed wooded nature to the waters. This rapid succession affects the species that can survive:

  • First colonisers include short growing plants of bare sandy conditions such as Six-stamened Waterwort and Needle Spike-rush
  • Some birds also like these bare gravel conditions to nest eg Ringed and Little Ringed Plover and Common Terns

After a few years marginal vegetation beds develop including:

  • Bulrush
  • Sedges
  • Common Reed
  • Reed Sweet-grass

Under water thick beds of submerged plants can develop such as:

  • Potomogeton pondweeds
  • Canadian Pondweed

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Common DarterThis is a productive habitat for insects such as:

  • Water beetles
  • Dragonflies (eg Migrant Hawker, Common Darter and Downy Emerald)

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This type of habitat is of great value to birds, attractive to a wide range of breeding, wintering and migrant species and the Valley is important in a South/South-east England context.

In summer the following breed here:

  • Mallard
  • Tufted Duck
  • Coot
  • Lapwing
  • Reed Buntings

In winter many wildfowl gather on the open lakes as well as Mallard and Coot you can expect to see:

  • Gadwall
  • Wigeon
  • Pochard
  • Shoveller
  • Teal
  • Occasional Goldeneye and Smew

At Moor Green Lakes Nature Reserve a winter roost of Goosander of regional importance has become established.

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Many lakes in the Valley are used for angling. Fish stocked include:

  • Bream
  • Tench
  • Carp
  • Roach

Trees around these lakes are encouraged to create a woodland fringe.

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Other wildlife

Species of open conditions decline, but others eg Great Crested Grebes and some bat species, prefer these conditions.

  • Noctule bats feed high over the open water
  • Pipistrelle bats feed at the edge of the water
  • Water bats specialise in taking insects off the surface of ponds and rivers and favour the sheltered tree surrounded lakes
  • Brilliant Emerald Dragonfly and Water Violet favour these conditions especially where fish numbers are low