Please note: College Lake nature reserve is now open to the public, but the visitor centre, hides and education centre are closed until further notice. Please read the guidance here before planning your visit.
Know before you go
Parking informationSurfaced car park
Gentle slopes, 90% surfaced paths, gates, benches.
Some wheelchair access, including hides; during coronavirus our Tramper vehicles are unfortunately not available to use.
When to visit
Opening timesReserve and car park: Wed-Sun 11am-3pm. Last admission: 2pm (1 hour before closing)
Best time to visitAll year round
About the reserve
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.
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 'Outlook 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.
- 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.
College Lake Visitor Centre
Explore the interactive displays in our visitor centre and around the reserve. Enjoy delicious food and drinks in the café after taking a stroll around our beautiful lake.