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College Lake

Much-loved lapwing can be seen year 'round at College Lake. In winter, large flocks fly acrobatically in the sky above the water, while in summer, lapwing hatch their chicks on protected islands.

A visionary nature reserve

Once a chalk quarry, College Lake is now one of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust's flagship nature reserves. The transformation is a fantastic example of what people passionate about wildlife can bring about through a shared vision and sheer determination.  Thanks to the hard work of BBOWT staff and volunteers, this thriving nature reserve now supports more than 1,000 different wildlife species.  An eco visitor centre with stunning views of the lakes opened to the public in 2010.

Best in the county

College Lake is widely regarded as one of the best places in Buckinghamshire for water birds, and with many hides overlooking the lake, this is a great destination for bird watchers or for families, whatever the weather or time of year.

Wetland birds

The marshland is perhaps the most important of the reserve's homes for wildlife, as in the summer it supports a number of breeding waders. These include lapwing and redshank, both of which are rare species, and College Lake is a key breeding site in Buckinghamshire. In the lake, common terns nest on specially created islands. In the winter, the inhabitants of the water change, and wintering wildfowl, such as wigeon and teal, from Scandinavia and beyond, use the wetlands for feeding and roosting.

Grassland and more

Elsewhere on the reserve, chalk grassland is alive with colour during the spring and summer as a wide variety of flowers come into bloom. These support a range of insects, including a number of rarer butterfly species such as the small blue. Rough grassland provides a home for breeding skylarks, as well as shelter for small mammals, which in turn feed birds of prey such as kestrels and barn owls. Woodland, scrub and hedgerows are widespread across the reserve, and support a wide variety of wildlife, including finches and tits and in winter. thrushes such as fieldfare and redwings.

Cornfield flowers

An unusual feature of College Lake is the Cornfield Flowers project that started in the 1980s. College Lake was one of the first places in the country to actively conserve these rare and beautiful flowers, and the reserve now produces a glorious show of colour every year during June and July.

Reserve champions - supporting their favourite reserve

Geoff Young: In memory of Fred Young.

Things to do & places to go

  • Try our circular Wildlife Walk (2 miles).  Just follow the lapwing waymarkers.
  • Explore the world of bees at the Bee Centre.
  • Find out about the old farming methods that we still practice here in the Farming Exhibition.
  • Visit our 'Oulook Inn' a hands-on wildlife treasure box for under 5s.
  • Look out for our seasonal guided walks and Family Fun days.
  • We run regular work parties on the reserve.
  • There are 11 bird hides around the reserve.
  • Explore the reserve and surrounding area with our Tring Reservoirs Wild Walk. Starting at Tring train station, this 13 km circular walk takes in College Lake nature reserve, a section of the Grand Union Canal and three reservoirs. OS Explorer Map 181, 1:25,000 scale, covers the route of this walk.

Nearby nature reserves

Aldbury Nowers
1 miles - Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust
Tring Reservoirs
2 miles - Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust
Aston Clinton Ragpits
4 miles - Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Reserve information

2 miles north of
HP23 5QG
Map reference
SP 9314 1436
Great for...
a family day out
getting away from it all
Best time to visit
Jan - Dec
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Public transport
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Opening Times
Spring and summer opening times - 6th February 2017 to 29th October 2017: 9.30am-5.00pm

Last admission: 4pm (1 hour before closing)

Please note: from 30th October 2017 - 12th February 2018, the reseve will be closed at 4pm, with last admission at 3pm (1 hour before closing)

10.00am-4.00pm 7 days a week.

Gift shop
Visitor centre
Picnic facilities
Disabled toilet
Baby changing
65.00 hectares
Some wheelchair access, including hides; two mobility Tramper vehicles are avaliable to use - contact us on 01442 826774 or to book
Walking information
Gentle slopes, some surfaced paths, gates, benches
On the B488, ¼ mile north of canal bridge at Bulbourne turn left into signed entrance to surfaced car park; cycle racks also available
Guide dogs only
Grazing animals
Reserve manager
Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT)
Tel: 01442 826774

Smartphone Safari

Every weekend on BBC Radio Berkshire and BBC Radio Oxford we broadcast a Smartphone Safari. Listen along as we explore some of our fantastic reserves and introduce you to the wildlife you can see.