Fen Drayton Lakes, England, United Kingdom

Lake Locations:

United Kingdom - England -

Also known as:  Swavesey Lakes, Moore Lake, Elney Lake, Oxholme Lake, Holywell Lake, Ferry Lagoon, Ferry Pond, Springhill Lagoon, Far Fen Lake, Swavesey Lake, Scout Pond

Just north of the tiny village of Fen Drayton in Cambridgeshire, East Anglia, a series of small ponds called the Fen Drayton Lakes anchors the Fen Drayton Lakes Reserve. Located within a stone’s throw of the River Great Ouse, the ponds are former gravel and sand pits dug into the underlying peat bog. Located only about 20 feet above sea level, the wetlands formed around these small ponds create excellent bird and waterfowl habitat and have even been known to host the occasional seal.

Moore Lake, Elney Lake, Oxholme Lake and Holywell Lake are deemed protected Reserve lakes, and no fishing is allowed. Ferry Lagoon, Ferry Pond, Springhill Lagoon, Far Fen Lake, Swavesey Lake and Scout Pond have somewhat different access rules, and a few fishing permits are issued each year. More shallow scrapes than pits, these former excavations are shallow and hold many tiny islands with their irregular surfaces resembling a drowned maze-perfect for nesting waterfowl and birds. Often called the Swavesey Lakes for another small village to the east, the new Reserve is the perfect spot for picnics, walking, bird-watching and school biology excursions.

Encompassing 267 acres, the Fen Drayton Lakes Reserve includes several miles of walking paths, bird-watching blinds, old country roads, a bridle path and beautiful views of wildlife enjoying the serene landscape. The new Reserve, under the supervision of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, joins the Hanson-RSPB Wetland Project at Needingworth Quarry to the north and the nearby Ouse Washes wetlands to form nearly 5600 acres of protected and restored wetland along the River Great Ouse. Breeding warblers, hedgerow and wetland birds can be seen here from spring through fall, with ducks, geese and wildfowl overwintering here in huge flocks. Goldeneye, gadwall, pintail, coot, wigeon and bitterns are commonly seen. Estimates show that about 2% of the nation’s bitterns and 4% of the cold weather smew (species of duck) population inhabit the area. Hobbies, terns and large numbers of dragonflies are seen during the summer, and habitat improvements are being made to encourage black-headed gulls, common terns and kingfishers to nest here as well on the tiny islands. Seldom seen, otters are already present at the lakes regularly, and a variety of native small mammals have taken up residence in the hedgerows and wet meadows.

Management plans call for removing scrub brush and invasive willows from much of the area to duplicate the natural wet meadows and verges that existed before humans altered the landscape. More ponds and ditches will be dug and handicap-accessible birding blinds will be developed to allow access for all visitors. Nearby Hanson-RSPB Wetland Project is busy constructing the largest reed bed in the area. Wildlife won’t be able to resist stopping here, preferably to breed and raise their young. Human youngsters find Fen Drayton Lakes Reserve irresistible, and school outings regularly arrive to study such things as the prolific dragonflies, fungi and insects. Anglers lucky enough to score a fishing permit enjoy catching dace, chub, roach, perch and bream, although the real prize catch is always the occasional 30+-pound carp, one of the United Kingdom’s favorite sport fish.

After years of delays and cost over-runs, the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway now runs through the Fen Drayton Lakes Reserve. Although many protested that the busway would disrupt nesting, the completed section from Cambridge to Huntingdon and St. Ives uses an abandoned railroad right-of-way, including a stop at Fen Drayton Lakes. A gravel bridle path/cycling route allows those with non-motorized aspirations to enjoy a route that has not been seen since the former railway closed in the 1870s.

The busway has only been in operation a couple of years, so it is still too early to tell if it will bring hoards of new visitors or disturb the bird life. Cyclists have certainly enjoyed the new access to the scenic views over the ponds and the quiet countryside. As National Cycle Route 51 comes through Swavesey, cycling in the area is now even more popular. Route 51 is an east-to-west 77-mile long distance cycling route that connects Colchester and Oxford via Cambridge and the many quaint, historic villages in between.

Ideal for a nature holiday, the Fen Drayton Lakes area is conveniently supplied with several bed-and-breakfasts, guest cottages, hotels and inns near historic St. Ives to the west. Parts of the River Great Ouse are popular recreational boating destinations. Although improved for drainage purposes since the 1670s, boating took a background role in waterway management for many years, during which time diversion canals and flood meadows were constructed to provide dry land for farming. It wasn’t until the 1950s that efforts were made to build new boat locks and dredge shallow portions to make boating an easy and pleasant experience. The newly-accessible waterway skirts the Ouse Washes Wetlands; these wetlands are intentionally-engineered floodplains created to divert heavy rainfall and high tides into channeled wet meadows to prevent flooded towns and fields. Similar to flood mitigation drainage in the Netherlands, the ‘washes’ were constructed in the 1600s and are still being used and improved today.

Other nature-based attractions near Fen Drayton Lakes include the Raptor Foundation, where visitors can view these magnificent birds of prey and learn about them. Hands-on activities are regularly scheduled to teach small groups about the flight patterns and habits of the majestic hunters. Also at the Raptor Foundation location, ‘Animal Experience’ teaches about other animals, particularly reptiles and meerkats. Animal Experience specializes in providing learning exhibitions at schools and children’s events but are also open daily to visitors. Those with children in tow will find plenty here to keep their interest.

Whether boating the River Great Ouse or bird watching on the thousands of acres of protected wetlands, visitors will find plenty to see and experience in the Cambridgeshire area. Many local inns, restaurants and pubs will keep the body fed while serene nature scenes quiet the mind. One visit may convince you that this is the perfect area for a holiday cottage or retirement apartment. Some real estate is still available. So why not gather up the family and make the trek to Fen Drayton Lakes; you won’t find a more pleasant and unhurried venue than the Cambridgeshire countryside.

*Few statistics are available for these lakes.

Things to do at Fen Drayton Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Picnicking
  • Biking
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding

Fish species found at Fen Drayton Lakes

  • Carp
  • Perch
  • Roach

Fen Drayton Lakes Photo Gallery

Fen Drayton Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 20 feet

Average Depth: 8 feet

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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