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Fake Lakes, but Great for a Picnic
Rickmansworth Aquadrome (Herts)
Member Name: Novabug
Rickmansworth Aquadrome (Herts)
Advantages: Good Local Shops and Transport, Very Clean and Kept Environment, local Wildlife and activities
Disadvantages: Can get busy, Attracts Some Unruly Teenagers, Cafe is a tad Expensive
Sometimes I really take it for granted that I live in the London suburbs, and forget that I have the easy access to urban and rural attractions. Rickmansworth was a place I longed to live in as I grew up in Harrow and Sudbury, and as a student me and freinds would make regular trips to the town, primarily for one place, The Aquadrome. Part of Rickmansworth lies in the Colne Valley regional park, and the Aquadrome is a highlight of this fact. Here are my thoughts of this large public park, which have been gathered over many years of visiting the Rickmansworth Aquadrome.
--A Place to Go...--
During my student and school days, the typical activity of drinking in a park was a regular thing before I could enter pubs legally. The ever-so-sweetly termed 'Ricky' was place we would go to get away from London, and the aquadrome was always where we went. Even though it's only several miles outside of the city, it seemed at the time like it was a totally different area, like taking a day trip to the country, and it reminded me of the fond memories of my childhood in Lincolnshire. It seemed so out-of-the-way, and became a highlight whenever we used to visit. The usual thing to do was walk around the park, armed with copious amounts of cheap cider, sit by the shoreline, drinking and paddling in the sunshine. This was a time where Health and Safety was much more relaxed, and you could swim in the water, and because of the nature of the purpose built lakes, you could even stand up in the middle if you found the right place. As I got older, I learned to appreciate the Aquadrome more for it's beauty and natural wildlife, and it still retains this in high regard today, probably even more so then back then.
Of course, now living in Rickmansworth it's not all that special, but the Aquadrome is still a lovely place to go, and does take the stress out of city life, giving that feeling of being at ease in pleasant surroundings and breaking away from the rat-race. Apart from a rather impressive sounding name that wouldn't look out of place is it was a waterslide park, it is basically a large public park covering over 40 hectares, and is comprised of woodland, grass clearings, the River Colne, the southern end of the Grand Union Canal, and the main feature of three medium sized lakes. Although the park is designated a Local Nature Reserve, two of the lakes are used for sailing, water-skiing and other boating activities. This is all kept quite low-key and so doesn't intrude on the overall natural appearance of the park. There are also a few human-built additions. A modest café, a fairly roomy car park and a children's playground placed at the closest part to Rickmansworth.
--Getting There, Local Amenities and Prices--
Rickmansworth is a small town right on the border of Greater London, and is very close in proximity to the M25. If you are visiting from outside London, it's best to use this route, exiting at Junction 17 on the M25 and following the signs to Rickmansworth. This is less than a two miles from the motorway. If you are coming out from London, the A40 is the most direct route, getting onto the A412 (Denham Way) and following this striaght into Rickmansworth. Once you are into town, follow the signs to the LNR Aquadrome, which is clearly posted at several points. The primary entry point by car is a little awkward, negotiating a few residential streets and a humpback bridge, but you can park in the town centre for 2 hours free of charge at Iceland and Marks & Spencer, and walk into the park. By foot, you can enter from many points. By the canal path, via the car entrance or at the northern-most corner at Ebury Roundabout.
The Aquadrome is free to enter all year round, and never closes to people visiting by foot, but the car park which hold approximately 60 cars does close upon nightfall. The playground and picnic areas are also free, and are clean and well kept. The Ebury playground can get very busy in the summer months however, with many families and children, and there's always an ice cream van if you wish to indulge. Also free to access is the the canal path and river Colne, apart from certain times of the year and when the town holds an annual 'Rickmansworth Week'. Entry to the canal path is £3 because of the local events and show-boats on display, but this is a fun time to visit.
Apart from the various shops and pubs in town, there is a handy but small Tesco just before the main entrance if you wish is pick up any picnic goods, and a pub called The White Bear located next to this, sitting on the side of the Canal. This pub is a typical local style place, many of the canal folk drink here but is generally a friendly atmosphere with little trouble to speak off. They also provide food, pool and host TV sports events occasionally.
--A Quarry-Load of Water--
Built sometime in the 20's, the artificial lakes of Stocker's, Bury and Batchworth were originally stone quarries used to build many structures in London. The original Wembley Stadium used material from here, but the area was converted into a nature reserve soon after this. Over the years, the lakes now appear quite natural, with swampland, marshs and shingle banks surrounding all of them, giving the park a very rustic feel. Like I said before, because they were quarries, the lake beds are uneven, and when it was allowed to swim in them, you could stand up in the middle of Bury lake. Of course this is dangerous and a possible pollutant, so swimming is strictly prohibited now. Many fish specis were also indroduced to the lakes, mostly Batchworth and Stocker's, and it had been rumoured that Pike can pop up from time to time in Bury lake. Fishing is allowed in all of the lakes and the river Colne, but you have to have special licenses to fish in Stocker's.
All of the lakes have a designated purpose too. Stocker's is the most isolated as it is the primary nature reserve and bird sanctuary. You can observe this from the pathway between Bury lake, with many breeds of ducks, swans, geese and other freshwater bird-life. Access to Stocker's is restricted too, and not generally open to the everyday public. Bury is the smallest lake and is the public centrepiece of the Aquadrome, with the pathways winding there way around it. Most of the lakeside picnic areas are based here, and it can be quite a walk to go all around it. Signposting is at a minimum, but the pathways are clear and naturally cut into the park. Dogs can be let of the leash too, but the normal clearing up methods should be practised, and a careful eye should be taken if your lovable mutt were to venture into the waters. Bury lake is also home to a local youth sailing club, and various water-sports such as water polo. Batchworth is a sort of mixture between Stocker's and Bury. If plays host of water-skiing and canoeing, but has several islands that are home to yet more bird-life. It is the northern-most lake and sits next to the river Colne, so fisherman regularly reside here. Of the whole of the park, Batchworth has the most intertwining of pathways, so it is easy to lose your bearings, but I find that if you keep walking and sticking to the paths, you'll find your way out.
The Aquadrome has been awarded a Green Flag award for excellence, which highlights the cleanliness and great upkeep of the park. The waters are now generally very clear and clean, but the odd human rubbish does sometimes amount in places, typically around the picnic areas and fishing points around Batchworth and Bury. The park on the whole however is kept very neat, and rarely do you find yourself step into some dog-mess, or for your children to accidentally discover an unfortunate birds corpse. The grasslands are well managed, and are visitor friendly whilst maintaining a natural look. Most of the additions for visitors have been blended into the environment, and the park tries hard to stray away from an artificial feel. Examples of this would be that wood bark and large stone chips are used for the paths and car park, and the shoreline are left to develop as nature intended. The only rather industrial part would be the entrance to the Ebury playground from Batchworth lake, where you have to cross a bridge housing pipes used for the nearby weir, but this is forgiveable and doesn't detract from the general qualities of the park.
The Café-In-The-Park, located east of the Bury lake shoreline and nearby to the car park and off-lake picnic area, is a wooden building which although is designed to blend in, is obviously new and does stand out amongst the trees. It's a modest establishment, and again can get very busy much like the playground, and oddly has a rather middle-class menu. Built in 2009, it is a family run, casual style restaurant and caters for mainly families. The usual hot and cold beverages are avialable, and a coffee will set you back around £1.80, but the cheapest adult lunchtime meal is above the £5 mark. The lunchtime menu starts from 12pm to closing time at 5.00pm, and the breakfast menu runs from 9.00am until lunch. They do have a nice, if a little restricted choice, and have vegetarian dishes too as well as pastries and fruit. It's really like a wine bar food menu mixed with that of a coffee shop like Costa or Starbucks, so don't expect to feed your family of 2.4 for less than £20. The food is well served and cooked however, and more importantly they use local produce which adds to the freshness but also the price.
The café has various shaped seating areas, both inside and outside of a veranda overlooking Bury lake. Inside, some of the tables are very high, large and wooden with bench seating which is not really comfortable, but there are also several placed tables with regular metal chairs which are fine. The general atmosphere is ok, but will be noisy during busy hours. They also have a facility for hired parties and special events.
Overall, the Aquadrome is a lovely place to visit to get a quick fix of peacefulness and nature so close to London. The park to very well kept, with plenty going on both on a nature and human aspect, and the lakes, grasslands and river combine with the canal and cafe to make a well balanced attraction, if somewhat low-key. It's not exactly the most serene of parks considering it's size as it can get busy during the hotter days, but it still has a lot to offer for walking, wildlife, water activities and family time. Of course, my old days of spending alcohol guzzleing sessions in the park have not gone away with the current crop of teenagers, and sometimes a rather boisterous group or two will be present on your visit, but this is not as frequent nowadays. With an underground and train link running into Rickmansworth, and being easy to access by road, the Aquadrome is not a hard place to visit, and for the fisherman or twitcher in you, is perfect without escaping to the countryside. As Rickmansworth has a tight community, the Aquadrome is held in high regard and respect, and this shows in the way it is presented. An oasis of the countryside set into the London suburbs, I find this park a great place to relax and take the family, so recommend you pay a visit if in the area.
For more information on Café-In-The-Park, visit - http://www.thecafeinthepark.com
Thanks For Reading. © Novabug
Summary: Wonderful for a walk or picnic so close to the big city!
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