For many visitors to Compton Verney the lake, or ‘Upper Pool’ to be more accurate, provides either a familiar vista or a pleasant, some would say dramatic surprise. It is crossed by almost everyone via the ornamental Adam/Sphinx bridge on the way up to the mansion.
For our anglers however, the upper pool represents much more, where opportunity exists for club members to perch by the water’s edge in the hope of catching a passing carp, tench or pike. Our group of anglers are a hardy bunch, and some have fished these pools for decades – indeed many remember a time when fish were in ample supply and the water was much clearer. These days however things are very different, with fish taking time to lure and waters being clouded from debris build up beneath the surface.
While a longer term plan exists to remedy this, we still have the seasonal task of ensuring the fishing pegs or swims are kept open to allow fishing to take place. This is a task that which of course falls to the grounds team, and this year Adam, plus volunteers Dick and Toby got involved to open up the lake edges. The process, surprisingly, is the same as for any garden pond, by way of removing the excess marginal growth to free congestion, ensuring it is left by the water’s edge for a few days to allow creatures to return to the pool.
In the ‘drink’ Adam went, a week ago, to pretty much hand pull selected growth, and haul it up onto the bank. If you can keep your balance in a chunky pair of waders, it is a lovely task, especially on the warmer days when the cool water is refreshing. However, with over twenty fishing pegs to deal with, it is a steady job lasting two days or so.
The pool itself has a long history, being formed out of a relatively calm babbling brook, which enters from the east end of the lake – this originates from nearby Gaydon. The stream was formed into fish ponds initially, then ‘trimmed’ up in the early 18th century to blend in with the impressive formal garden. After this, the lake was adapted to fit with Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s design for the landscape. Brown wouldn’t have taken kindly to marginal planting or weed growth, but these days our approach is very different…
Marginal growth, as with flag iris shown above is welcome for many reasons, not least for the colour and additional seasonal interest. As a mature riparian habitat, the growth around the edge of our pool forms an important ecology system, and a fast growing one at that. Spawning fish are supported and protected, and damsel/dragon flies flourish – a Broad-bodied Chaser was seen only yesterday for example – but not photographed!
As a result of the above, we try to manage the lake in a way that supports angling, whilst also embracing our resident wildlife. And on the point of resident wildlife, or none-resident in this case – only last week we received a report of two otters, seen playing near the sphinx bridge. Not altogether great news for the angling or fish community, but a wonderful sight none-the-less.
Whether you visit Compton Verney to enjoy the art, cafe or to shop; we hope you take a little extra time to pause by the lake side and take in the ambience that exudes from this very fine landscape – our anglers discovered its special qualities many years ago!