One of the lovely things about Daisy Chain is the abundance of birds to be seen. Herons, Egrets, Grebes, Terns, Swallows and Kingfishers to name just a few. But have you ever wondered what the Lower Mill Estate looks like to them? Some recent guests shared these great pictures taken from a drone.
Swooping over Somerford Lagoon, Clearwater Lake is straight ahead. To the left is Howells Mere with Swillbrook Lakes beyond. To the right beyond the green, the tennis court and the Mill Village pool is Spinney Lake, edged on the near side by the new houses with their green eco roofs.
Zooming down towards Daisy Chain you can see some people sitting on the grass enjoying the sunshine and pick out the barbecue on the lower deck – perhaps they’ll be wheeling that out in a minute to cook up some burgers and kebabs by the lakeside! That belt of reeds doesn’t just look great in the sunrise photos that guests take from their bedrooms, it’s also home to many birds – and sometimes a murmuration of starlings lands there during the winter. Just over to the left in the corner of the lake is the handy place for slipping the canoe into the water.
Here she is, as seen by the birds, slipping quietly across the calm waters of the lagoon. Where are they off to? Round the island before breakfast? Paddling to the reed beds to see how many different species of birds they can count? Heading across to the narrow strip of land where they can portage across and canoe on Flagham Fen to see if they can spot the beavers in the water just a few metres away from them? Or just enjoying the simple pleasure of being afloat, the freedom, the ripple of the water, being captain of your own boat, the satisfaction of learning to make the canoe go where you want with the ‘J stroke’ (turning the paddle at the end of the stroke to act as a rudder so you don’t have to keep switching the paddle from side to side). It’s just great being out on the water … I wonder if they can smell those burgers cooking yet?
It’s starling murmuration season again (this runs from late autumn through the winter). The occurs as the local populations of starlings are boosted by their European cousins arriving to escape the harsh Scandinavian winter. A starling murmuration is an amazing sight, with huge flocks forning into an amazing acrobatic mass before roosting.
There have been huge gatherings of starlings over the lakes of the Cotswold Water Park over the last few days, with flocks in excess of 50,000 being reported. Amazing!
We have loved exploring the lakes on the Lower Mill Estate in the Cotswold Water Park in our Canadian Canoe but we have been intrigued to try out a Stand Up Paddle board (SUP). We have seen lots of pictures of people on SUPs and have watched people using them but now it was time to try them out for ourselves. The Family Adventure Store have SUPs for hire on the Lower Mill Estate so we headed in their direction. We had arranged to have a board from 11am on Saturday morning. We had imagined heading out onto the water under clear blue skies, but it was not to be. The skies were grey and it was raining. We weren’t too worried as we were fairly convinced that our first encounter with a SUP would end with wet clothes – swimming things and waterproof jackets were the order of the day. We met Jenny at the Family Adventure Store and walked to collect a SUP. The Stand Up Paddle board the Family Adventure Store have available to hire is an inflatable version – don’t think squishy beach ball – more rigid board with a tiny internal honeycomb structure making it really firm, but not too hard to carry. The other vital piece of equipment, other than buoyancy aids which we were already wearing, was the paddle. A SUP paddle is much longer than a canoe paddle and the paddle part is quite shaped. Jenny talked us through how to hold it in the water (the opposite way round to the way we would have assumed) and how to steer. As you stand in the middle of the board you steer with the start of your stroke, rather than at the end of your stroke as in a canoe. We carried the board down to the edge of Somerford Lagoon, the largest lake on the Lower Mill Estate.
Setting off on a SUP is very different to setting off in a canoe. In a canoe it is helpful if someone gives the canoe a push off into the lake. When you a standing on a SUP, the last thing you want is for someone to give the board a push, upsetting your balance and propelling you into the water without your board! We were surprised to find how straight forward it is, and were quickly exploring the lake – it’s fun being that much higher than you are when you’re in a canoe – you have quite a different view. We quickly forgot that it was raining and enjoyed using the SUP. The children were very keen to have a go. We started off with them paddling while one of us sat on the back of the board, but we soon realised that they had taken to using a SUP like ducks to water and our role was redundant! As the children are shorter instead of using the SUP paddle they used a canoe paddle. Within a short time we felt at home with the SUP – and decided it was time to collect our Canadian canoe so that we could have more of us on the water at one time. The canoe is kept in the Lower Mill Estate boat park, 10 minutes walk from Daisy Chain, or a 10 minute paddle across the lake. We discovered that the SUP was quite capable of carrying one adult and three children across the lake! At the boat park 3 of us jumped into the canoe and our son enjoyed paddling the SUP back to Daisy Chain. It was fun to watch the terns diving as we passed by.
By Saturday evening the rain had cleared and so it was time for a barbecue. It was lovely to be able to barbecue by the lakeside while the rest of the family continued to enjoy playing on the lake in the canoe and stand up paddle board. There is an island in the middle of Somerford Lagoon which is fun to paddle around. From the middle of the lake the hungry paddlers could smell the barbecue cooking and so soon returned to shore for food!
The forecast for Sunday was grey – the weather forecasters seem to excel in talking down the weather. The sun came out and we had beautiful blue skies with fluffy white clouds and very light winds. Perfect weather for paddle boarding. We set off around the edge of the lake – there is always more wildlife to be seen in the reeds at the edge and we enjoyed gliding silently towards egrets. The SUP is able to explore slightly smaller, shallower passages than the canoe, so it was fun to explore new places. By staying close to the edge of the lake we were able to come ashore to swap paddlers. Whilst we discovered that it is possible to swap vessel in the middle of the lake it was slightly more wobbly, although our confidence had meant that today we were wearing shorts and t-shirts rather than swimming things! There were lots of swans on the lake, and it was lovely to watch a couple of them running across the water, lifting off and flying across the lake.
Jenny told us that a recent guest on the Lower Mill Estate had swum around the edge of Somerford Lagoon and measured it as 2.2km. I think we’ll stick to paddling (not with our feet!) We loved our adventures with a SUP and will definitely be spending more time on them. The children were very excited to tell their friends about their adventures on returning to school this morning!
To contact the Family Adventure Store to book a SUP, or indeed a kayak or bike for your holiday on the Lower Mill Estate give them a ring on 07971 252394 Hire charges are by the day or 3 days, but have a chat about what would work for you as they are very happy to work around you.
The Thames and Severn Canal passes along the edge of Cotswold Water Park. It was completed in 1798 and was planned as part of a canal route from Bristol to London. At its eastern end it connects to the River Thames at Inglesham Lock near Lechlade, while at its western end it connects to the Stroudwater Navigation at Wallbridge. Since 1972 the Cotswold Canals Trust has been working to restore the canal and the Stroudwater Navigation so that there can again be a navigable link between the River Thames and the River Severn.
A walk along the section of Canal that passes along the edge of Cotswold Water Park will bring you past Cerney Wick Roundhouse. It is one of five distinctive buildings that were built for use by lock-keepers and lengthmen. The roundhouses have 3 floors, the lower floor would have been a store, while the first floor provided a living area and the second floor a circular bedroom. The roundhouse at Cerney Wick is now privately owned.
Nightingales are secretive birds which often hide in the middle of thick hedgerows. They arrive in April and sing until late May / early June. Once they have bred they return to north Africa between July and September.
Spring really has arrived on the Lower Mill Estate now – lots of daffodils around still and as well as pussy willow and blossom. It’s lovely to explore the estate and discover fresh green leaves emerging!
One of the most easily recognisable birds on Somerford Lagoon, the lake directly in front of Daisy Chain on the Lower Mill Estate, is the Great Crested Grebe. At this time of year it is fun to watch their elaborate courtship as the rise out of the water, shaking their heads at one another. The Great Crested Grebe has to be one of the most elegant waterbirds with it’s slender neck and ornate head plumes. These plumes nearly led to its extermination from the UK as birds were hunted for their feathers. Fortunately the situation in the UK is now very different with 5300 breeding adults in the UK.
Guests at our luxury lakeside self catering property can sit on the balcony and watch this elegant bird diving – as the water is usually very clear it is even possible to watch them swimming under water as they dive for food. It’s also fun to count and see how long they stay underwater…and see if you can guess where they are going to reappear!
The Lower Mill Estate architecture is an attractive mix of contemporary styles which set against their lakeside location produces spectacular views. If you look carefully you will see the faint presence of a rainbow in this photo which was taken at the weekend.
Daisy Chain is a great location for meeting with friends and family from up and down the UK. It’s really accessible, between the M4 and M5
Check out these driving times: Cardiff 1 hour 20 mins Southampton 1 hour 20 mins Birmingham 1 hour 30 mins London 1 hour 30 mins Nottingham 2 hours Exeter 2 hours Brighton 2 hours 20 mins Manchester 2 hours 45 mins Darwin, Australia 24 hours driving by plane, not car 😉