|Harry in the Lane|
The reservoir was created in the 1950's; a hamlet of farm houses and farm cottages was destroyed so that it could be built. There is not, contrary to popular belief, a church with a ringing bell under the water, but there is a strangeness, almost an eeriness, about a community that has simply vanished. A sixteenth century manor house was also demolished; apparently it was a fine building with a great entrance hall, Elizabethan panelling lining the walls and huge fireplaces. The grounds were said to be beautiful. And it also had slightly notorious connections, as it was (supposedly) visited by the plotters of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 - and a later inhabitant was also suspected of plotting against a king (this time Charles II).
|The Sixteenth Century Manor House Demolished for the Reservoir|
At the entrance to the lane, there are three cottages and then a barred gate preventing vehicles from going further. I happen to know something about these cottages because I know some of the people who once lived in them. These cottages were all farm cottages until the late twentieth century. I knew a man who was raised in one of them with his twelve brothers and sisters and as I walk by the cottage, I remember one of the stories he told me about his family. It goes as follows: The ground behind his cottage was used for village fairs, and the highlight of these was a competition to climb a greasy pole to win a haunch of meat. Visiting the fair one year was my story-teller's ancestor, who was a man with a reputation for using his fists too readily and so, because of this, he was forbidden to take part in the competition. But he went ahead anyway, climbed the pole and won the meat, defying anyone and everyone to stop him claiming his prize. Today, the fair is no longer held, and a private house now stands on the land.
|Woods by the Lane|
There is wildlife here today; a flock of long tailed tits flit along the hedges beside me and a muntjac deer barks from the woods. Another muntjac deer stares at me for a while from further ahead, before disappearing. I remember that I saw a hare in the lane a long time ago. This countryside was once rich in hares, but many were lost before the reservoir flooded the land and I would be very surprised to see one in the lane again.
|The Lane meets the Reservoir|
I reach the end of the lane and the reservoir. A skein of geese fly over my head and before me there are the sounds of birds calling and squabbling on the water. New wildlife inhabits this area now. In the last few decades, human intervention has completely transformed this landscape - and the story of this place with it.