The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Lakes, lagoons and ponds

Dorset may be lacking in huge above-ground reservoirs, but it nonetheless has some spectacular bodies of water

A sculpture of swans on Pallington lakes near Dorchester; the former fishing lakes are now the home of Simon Gudgeon's Sculpture by the Lakes

A sculpture of swans on Pallington lakes near Dorchester; the former fishing lakes are now the home of Simon Gudgeon’s Sculpture by the Lakes (Chris Ashmore)

Dorset is blessed with many things, but large areas of man-made pools of water are not amongst them. There is a single surface reservoir of significant size in Dorset, or at least a bit of it is. Sutton Bingham Reservoir covers an area of 132 acres, but only 9 of those acres are in Dorset, and the county border as it wiggles its way back and forth across the portion of water hints either at high old times at map-drawing HQ, or, perhaps more likely, that the once obvious natural features which used to form the Dorset-Somerset border were effaced from view when the reservoir was flooded.

The millpond-like stillness of the Fleet Lagoon belies the occasional violence visited upon it (and Chesil Bank which protects it) by winter storms and flooding

The millpond-like stillness of the Fleet Lagoon belies the occasional violence visited upon it (and Chesil Bank which protects it) by winter storms and flooding (David Crosbie)

The most prominent of Dorset’s ponds, lakes and lagoons is the Fleet lagoon. Stretching eight miles from Abbotsbury to Ferrybridge – and with an area of 1231 acres (nearly two square miles) when measured at the mean high and low water mark – the Fleet is enormous, but shallow. Along its length it varies between 200 and 3000 feet across, but is only just over 15 feet deep at its deepest and about 6 feet (in the centre) at its shallowest.

Browsea Island's lagoon  is home to thousands of migrating birds every year

Browsea Island’s lagoon is home to thousands of migrating birds every year (Chris Moody)

Others of our highlighted bodies of water – the lagoon at Brownsea Island and Poole Park lake – are also brackish, the former also being home to a bewildering array of native and transitory bird life.

 Across Poole Park lake at night with the evening breeze gently caressing the water's surface to add a little movement to the stillness of the night

Across Poole Park lake at night with the evening breeze gently caressing the water’s surface to add a little movement to the stillness of the night (Mark Watkin)

Equally packed with wildlife, but with less of it passing through, are the fishing lakes that are dotted across Dorset and the ornamental lakes of the county’s stately homes, like Sherborne Castle, Forde Abbey and Kingston Maurward amongst others.

Not, it's not Lake Geneva, but the fountain at Forde Abbey's lake (Mark Sewell)

Not, it’s not Lake Geneva, but the fountain at Forde Abbey’s lake (Mark Sewell)

Perhaps the most perfectly man-made bodies of water, though less capacious than reservoirs, are the mill ponds; when gazing at their still or gently rippling waters, one is overcome by an almost instant mental calming effect.

Melbury Mill is one of a number of mill ponds around the county, including Worth Matravers, Swanage, Lulworth, Bere Regis and Sturminster Newton

Melbury Mill is one of a number of mill ponds around the county, including Worth Matravers, Swanage, Lulworth, Bere Regis and Sturminster Newton (Terry Yarrow)

Equally calming, although often changing with the light, are the pools formed by quarrying and clay and gravel extraction, of which Blue Pool is the most famous.

Although known as Blue Pool, it can change colour depending on the direction and nature of the light falling on it, as well as the position of the observer (Mark Watkin)

Although known as Blue Pool, it can change colour depending on the direction and nature of the light falling on it, as well as the position of the observer (Mark Watkin)

Some pools, ponds and other bodies of water – now far from civilisation – may or may not have been man-made, but this uncertainty renders them perhaps the most magical and mysterious of all. It is easy to lose onself in contemplation when gazing at water, but even in a coastal county like ours, that does not always require us to look out to sea. ◗

A wild pond in heathland near Poole, whose dark, peaty waters mirror perfectly the never-ending light show that is the sun's transit across the skies

A wild pond in heathland near Poole, whose dark, peaty waters mirror perfectly the never-ending light show that is the sun’s transit across the skies (Terry Yarrow)

 

 

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