Reader and budding photographer Hannah Johnson shares her favourite place to walk in the beautiful East Staffordshire countryside - in her own words...
One grey, and bitterly cold February day, I discovered these delightful lakes situated beside the JCB factory on the outskirts of the villages of Rocester and Denstone. Forming a dramatic backdrop to the water, the iconic JCB logo looks down on these beautiful manmade havens for nature, and I was amazed at the variety of water fowl enjoying this tranquil spot even at that time of year. Little did I know it would become one of my favourite East Staffordshire walks.
Since my initial visit I have been back, in all weathers, to enjoy a leisurely 2.5km walk around the lakes and marvel at the numerous wildfowl. It has certainly been my ‘go to’ place during this year’s lockdown, allowing me to get some fresh air whilst managing to social distance.
The area has become a real favourite of mine as it can be accessed and enjoyed by anyone regardless of their abilities. The walkway is beautifully paved, and as you walk you may also catch site of helicopters landing on the factory’s very own helipad. There is also a championship golf course in the vicinity.
As the lake is home to a whole host of water birds, many stunning photo opportunities are provided.
I myself have photographed Mallards: with their emerald green heads and flashes of sapphire blue among their plumage; the Blue Billed Duck sporting its golden brown feathers; and the Fulvous Whistling Duck with its blue beak, and white, grey and black feathers.
I have also observed the white faced variety of Whistling Duck which is my personal favourite. In addition to a multitude of ducks there are many larger birds to enjoy including the majestic white Mute Swan. On a recent visit I was fortunate to see and photograph a pair of magnificent Black Swans too.
Barnacle Geese and their tall, Egyptian counterparts can also be found in large numbers alongside the busy little Coots and Moorhens that are so charming.
You can sit beside the lakes, either on the beautifully manicured grassed areas or make use of the ample seating provided. And from here you can watch these beautiful creatures, and their endearing offspring, whilst perhaps enjoying a picnic or, should the fancy take you – an ice cream.
The lakes also sport their own angling club and, if you look closely, you can make out the shapes of massive Carp. Every now and then their huge mouths break the surface of the water.
As you continue your stroll around the lakes you will also encounter a number of very interesting structures. These sculptures include ‘Opus’ by the artist Mark Delf, which, I believe, portrays how much the need for hard manual labour has been reduced by the introduction of the earth moving machinery designed and built by JCB.
Also sculptured by Mark Delf in 1990, the ‘Startled Horse’ grabs your attention. Its symbolism being that the animal has more power and control over its decisions than does the rider. The most dramatic and unusual form to be seen beside the lakes is the massive ‘Fosser’. In the 1970s JCB’s chairman, Mr Anthony Bamford wanted a statue to depict his franchise and Walenty Pytel would be the artist to design the 45ft high structure, weighing an impressive 6 tonnes, created from excavators joined together to resemble a huge Spider. The Fosser became the largest steel structure in Europe at that time.
There is so much to see and I find this lovely place very restful and peaceful.
A comfortable quietness helps me to unwind in its welcoming and safe atmosphere.
On a more practical note, there is ample parking for visitors to the lakes – so there is no excuse for inconsiderate parking which could damage the grass verges or block factory entrances and/or exits.
It is also an ideal place for four-legged friends (on short leads, of course, to protect the wildlife) and the flat walkways allow little ones to pedal around safely.
Pushchair and wheelchair users will also find easy access to all areas. Plus, the area is litter free! A testament to the lake staff.
Finally, if you fancy a bit of retail therapy – in addition to the pleasures of the lake – there is a well stocked farm and gift shop nearby. It sells high quality items and it also boasts a small cafe.
If you would like to follow Hannah and see more of her photography – check out her Instagram page @Johnsonhannah925