Wimbleball Lake Reflections
A journey through the seasons
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHS by Jane A. Mares DESIGNED & EDITED by Naomi Cudmore PUBLISHED by South West Lakes Trust in association with Exmoor Magazine ÂŁ2.00
ane Anita Mares was born in a North Devon farmhouse tucked into a steep valley-bottom between woods and water. She now lives in a Somerset cottage on the fringe of Exmoor. She works as a gardener and has written articles on organic gardening and poetry for various magazines, including The Countryman, and the Exmoor Review. She says: “Writing is a form of repayment for the luck of living in the West Country, where nightingales may still be heard if you know where to listen and bee orchids may be seen, and no doubt ‘piskies’, if you know where to look!”
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ver the course of more than two years, Exmoor Magazine has run a series of articles charting Jane Mares’ reflections on Wimbleball through the seasons.
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Jane is one of our longest-standing contributors and has enjoyed an enduring love affair with the reservoir. As her journey drew to a close with autumn, it dawned on me that it really would be a shame not to bring the seasons all together in one publication, in sequence for visitors and locals alike to enjoy. South West Lakes Trust liked the idea and together we collaborated to reproduce Jane’s articles in this leaflet which we hope will bring you great pleasure.
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Exmoor Magazine itself is owned, designed, edited, written, photographed... – you name it – in and around Exmoor and the nearby Quantocks. We are a small, rural group of friends dedicated to the area and to providing an independent magazine which celebrates the flora and fauna, communities, history, culture and everyday life of the area.
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If you have not heard of us before I hope that the features on these pages may pique your interest. Our quarterly magazine is available in over 140 shops across the area as well as in local Waitrose and M&S stores or you can subscribe online at our website, www.exmoormagazine.co.uk, or by calling Sue on 0845 224 1203. Subscriptions cost just £16.50 for one year. Thank you for your support.
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Naomi Cudmore, Editor and Designer, Exmoor Magazine
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…it’s getting better and better! Thanks so much for the Winter magazine, I think it really looks great, well done!
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“My family saw an article about Wimbeball Lake and Porlock in your magazine a while ago and visited areas they probably wouldn’t have done if they hadn’t seen your articles. Keep up with a lovely magazine.” Mrs Hall, Bridgwater Community: Autumn 2012
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“I always get a nice warm glow when I see it come through my letterbox, because I know I am going to be entertained and informed about the best place on earth, namely Exmoor.”
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Welcome to Wimbleball from Evelyn Stacey, Director, South West Lakes Trust
outh West Lakes Trust is the largest combined environmental and recreation charity in the region. The Trust manages inland waters in Cornwall, Devon and West Somerset and won the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in the Sustainable Development category in 2010. The Trust is passionate about providing access to the lakes for all abilities and delivering an extended conservation program that supports flora and fauna around the lakes. Four of our flagship sites have been awarded a Green Tourism Business Scheme Gold Award.
Above: Nicholas Zorab’s photograph ‘Wimbleball Dawn’. This image: Wimbleball high ropes.
One of these sites is the jewel of Exmoor – Wimbleball Lake. Wimbleball is a fantastic site in every season and has something for everyone. You can enjoy being out in peaceful countryside on a leisurely stroll or undertake a more energetic exercise such as Nordic walking or jogging. You can learn to sail, windsurf, kayak and row with our qualified instructors, hire equipment or launch your own craft. We have climbing walls, high ropes courses, archery and WOWballs, making the centres the ideal place for an amazing experience. Wimbleball is a premier trout fishing lake stocked with rainbow trout and accessible for less-abled users too. We have a wheeleyboat to accommodate wheel-chair users and a tramper or mobility scooter to drive around on the level foothpaths. Wimbleball Lake is heaven for stargazers and has been nominated as the first Dark Skies Discovery Site on Exmoor. You can extend your stay using our AA rated campsite or check in to one of the friendly B&Bs surrounding the lake. Our café and gift shop is the perfect meeting place offering a wide variety of delicious light lunches, vegetarian options and children’s menus, refreshments and locally made ice cream all in a friendly and relaxed environment.
Wimbleball is perfect for a releaxing walk.
rush of air like a long breaker soughs through the bare treetops of Upton Cleave, ebbing as the wind’s shadow races away down the lake, darkening the blue water, ruffling the feathers of the coot’s back as he jogs shoreward among suddenly boisterous wavelets. The spirit of March, exuberant and skittish, is in the wild gusts that nip bare fingers and toss pollen from the hazel catkins. A winter-spring month, bright by day, bitter by night. The path round the lake leads through a splash of puddles, a squelch of mud, a crunch of ice. Yesterday’s hailstones linger in pockets of shadow but along the marshy verge of the Haddeo, before the river-song becomes swallowed in the broadening waters of the lake, lies evidence of spring. Under cover of dusk, frogs have been collecting to court and spawn. Stranded among frozen rushes, some jellyballs have shrivelled, the life-specks like milky pupils, frost-blighted. But in the brown pools under sheltering alders are more mounds and dollops, half-submerged bubbles of plump spawn with embryo tadpoles already beginning to develop from round ‘fullstops’ to tailed ‘commas’. A frog croons nearby, very softly. He is hidden among stalks and dead leaves. Only the slow, periodic croaks tell of his presence, and even they are hard to pin-point, the quiet tone giving a false sense of distance. Something warns him into silence moments before a water rail skulks out onto the soft mud. Her trifle of a tail is perked up behind, moorhen-like, but the straight bill is made for stabbing: long and purposeful. Her lean body is a discreet blend of grey and brown, only the prettily barred flanks catch the eye. Partial to frogs, tadpoles, spawn, the brookrunner will also take berries, carrion, sometimes voles, foraging as seasonal opportunity and need directs. A bird of cryptic colours and crepuscular habits, she is uneasy in daylight, uncomfortable with open spaces. Now she moves at a crouching run, speeding across the boggy ground, vanishing into a tangled thicket of bramble and nettle. The frog will not sing again for many hours, but there are other signs of spring around the lake. Where the streamlet works down off Lyddon’s Grounds a colony of yellowish stems are rising vertically along the bankside, even venturing out into the water-glitter. They are paddock-pipes (paddock is an old name for frog) more commonly called horsetails. These first hollow stalks are the fruiting bodies, each miniature minaret topped by a cone-shaped catkin containing spores from which future plants will grow. As the spores ripen the fertile stems wither, lost among the bushing-out of the barren stems – the familiar green ‘horsetails’. All seven British species tend to be damp lovers, water diviners, advertising wet or ill-drained ground, suggesting the world will end in flood rather than drought. For they are an obdurate, wonderfully enduring race, little changed except in size since the Carboniferous period when their ancestors towered a hundred feet into the sky, at a time when the kingdom of plants was still young. In death, these flowerless forests formed coal seams that, 300 million years on, fuelled the Industrial Revolution and the wealth of the British Empire. Wavering cries carry from the hill where the old church stands – there are lambs at Upton Farm. And in the valley the larch is greening, tender ruffs of young needles lighting the sombreness of South Hill Wood. ‘Diddley diddley diddleooo’, a jingle of notes spirals from the resin-sweet heights of the fir canopy. A diminutive bird, the smallest in Europe (six to an ounce) is fluttering there, peering for insects. As if he would capture the spring, the unattainable spring, the goldcrest swings and casts his musical lasso, over and over, until his song is lost in the roar of
Blackthorn. Horsetails or 'paddock-pipes'.
Red Admiral on catkins. Facing page, main: Willows on the lake banks. Insets, left to right: Frosted alder, bluebells and campion, catkins. This image: Larch.
Robin in springtime.