Day out: Rutland Water, Rutland
This horseshoe-shaped lake midway between Leicester and Peterborough is a birder’s idyll – explore the water world on foot or bike
The male osprey dubbed Mr Rutland became quite the celebrity in 2001, when he helped raise a chick with a female near Rutland Water. It was the first wild osprey hatching in central England for over 150 years.
These iconic birds now regularly breed here, beside one of Europe’s largest man-made reservoirs in England’s smallest county, close to the pretty historic market towns of Oakham and Uppingham.
Those wishing to spot these beautiful migrants, present in the spring and summer, should head to Lyndon Visitor Centre on South Shore. The centre sits on the edge of a 1,000-acre nature reserve, managed by Anglian Water and the Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust. The reserve runs along the western end of the reservoir and regularly hosts over 25,000 waterfowl.
Walking trails run from Rutland Water’s two visitor centres (the other one is the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre at Egleton), offering opportunities to see a wide range of birds, from grasshopper warblers and blackcaps to shovelers and gadwalls. For those who fancy a longer walk, a great way to see the whole reservoir – built in the mid-1970s – is by walking the full 38km circuit, although you can trim this to about 27km if you exclude Hambleton Peninsula.
Either way, you get to see beautiful ‘floating’ Normanton Church, which was saved when the land was flooded, turning it into a tiny island with a causeway to the nearby shore.
Cruising the waters
A quicker way round the lake is via pedal power, with bike rentals at Whitwell and Normanton, while sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and canoeing are on offer at Rutland Watersports on North Shore.
Where this venue wins out is on sheer variety. It might not be the quietest day out you’ve ever had but it caters for everyone, from those chasing high-energy activities to those seeking altogether more genteel endeavours.
I gravitate towards the latter, so can recommend hopping aboard the Rutland Belle pleasure cruiser – a relaxing way to take in the sights and the wildlife. Climb aboard an Osprey Cruise and you might even get to watch one of these beautiful birds of prey fishing, too.
Words: Tim Relf