Dinton Pastures Country Park by Rebecca Walkley
Black Swan Lake, Dinton Pastures Country Park, 2001
Dinton Pastures Country Park was opened to the public in 1979 after 14 years of gravel extraction on a site, which was previously farmland. Today the Park is enjoyed by several hundred thousand visitors annually and is a haven for wildlife.
Previous to gravel extraction the site belonged to High Chimneys Farm. The farmhouse, which is now the café building was built in 1904. In 1924 it was sold to a farmer who re-named it after his home village of Dinton, near Aylesbury. Sheep and cattle were kept on the farm and the Emmbrook and Loddon rooms were originally cow sheds built in the 1920s. The large concrete floors in the large barn still have the indentations in them where the cows once stood for milking.
The gravel extraction created 8 lakes on the original farm site. Part of the Emmbrook was diverted to run alongside the golf course. The remnant of the old course can still be seen today, dividing one of the islands on Black Swan Lake.
As the water areas were created, wildlife and visitors moved in. Wintering wildfowl like wigeon, pochard and goldeneye soon found the lakes as well as familiar species like swans, coots, mallards and gulls. Nightingales found places to nest in the scrub areas and dragonfly species moved into the wetlands. The park has a significant number of the latter with 18 species present on site out of a British total of 42 species. Rarer birds started to arrive like bitterns and smew on Lavell's Lake and great crested newts have been found in the ponds.
Wokingham District Council Countryside Service manage the site with the aim of balancing wildlife needs with access to the park for people. The site has been zoned to include fishing and sailing lakes as well as quieter conservation areas. Over 5,000 school children visit the site annually to learn about their environment. Regular Countryside Events are organised throughout the year on everything from bat and bird walks to basket making and star watching as well as bigger 'fundays' for families, where there are up to 3,000 people.
The Countryside Service has recently updated the play area. Wildlife management is a priority especially for species highlighted in the Authority's Biodiversity Action Plan. Creating hibernating places for great crested newts, putting up nesting boxes for barn owls, creating reed beds for reed buntings and warblers are all part of the valuable conservation work carried out by the Service. New wildlife trails were opened last year 2000 and electric buggies are now available for disabled visitors to hire free of charge.
Day tickets for coarse fishing on White Swan Lake are available in the main car park. Fishing is also carried out on the River Loddon.
The Hurst Golf Course in Sandford lane is a nine hole, par 36, with a professional shop. For Windsurfing, canoeing and sailing contact the Black Swan Sailing Club.
Hopefully, the park will be a valuable resource for wildlife and people for many generations to come as foundations are laid down now for the future.
Preparing for one of the special events held at Dinton Pastures
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