Visiting Ruislip Lido, Ruislip, Middlesex, England: 200 year old reservoir hiding the drowned hamlet of Park Hearn
Peace in the metropolis
This looks like a lake in the midst of the English countryside. Well, in a sense it is, but it is situated in Greater London, in the Borough of Hillingdon's suburb of Ruislip, and it is actually an artificial reservoir which is now 200 years old.
Dug in 1811, the reservoir, now known as Ruislip Lido, had two original purposes.
Firstly it supplied water to one of the leading canals in England's formerly well developed but subsequently neglected canal system: the Grand Junction Canal (1).
And secondly it supplied drinking water to the Paddington area (2).
Interestingly, the 24 hectare reservoir hides the remains of a former hamlet, Park Hearn, drowned a couple of centuries back.
Ruislip Lido is now home to a wide variety of wildlife. Species of bird found here include coot, moorhen, mute swan, black headed gull, cormorant, mallard, kingfisher and — yes! — Canada goose.
Other noted natural heritage includes the presence of various species of flowers and insects; the rare wild service tree may also be found. The area, including the nearby Ruislip Woods, has been incorporated into a National Nature Reserve.
Restaurant facilities complement lakeside walks. An artificial beach of sand has been created (3). Boating and swimming are not allowed today, although 80 years ago Ruislip Lido was developed into a facility with precisely those opportunities. These days, the emphasis has shifted to conservation. An organization called the Friends of Ruislip Lido exists to enhance the conservation process and opportunities for the public to enjoy the natural heritage and recreational opportunities.
A 305 mm gauge minature railroad — the longest of its kind in England — has operated since 1945 around a significant proportion of the Lido, to a distance of 2.4 kilometres. Formerly managed successively by the Grand Union Canal Company and by the London Borough of Hillingdon, the railroad has been the responsiblity of a company called the Ruislip Lido Railway Society since 1979. This railroad operates between the stations known as Ruislip Lido (Water's Edge), Haste Hill and Woody Bay (4).
April 22, 2013
(1) Later known as the Grand Union Canal.
(2) Paddington was formerly a Borough of London; now chiefly famous for giving its name to one of the mainline railroad stations in the English capital.
(3) When visiting Ruislip Lido, I witnessed an interesting — if unfortunate — incident relating to wildfowl, present on the beach: while a notice clearly indicated that dogs should be kept on a lead, an eager, loose dog suddenly materialized on the beach, causing panic among the birds and no little annoyance among passers by, from whom remonstration was clearly audible.
(4) Former stations, Eleanor's Loop and Wellington Junction, are now disused.
Also worth seeing
Central London (distance: 22 kilometres); a few of the vast number of visitor attractions include Trafalgar Square, faced by Canada House and the National Gallery, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament at the Palace of Westmister, St. Paul's Cathedral and many others.
How to get there
United Airlines flies from New York Newark Airport to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available (approximate distance between Heathrow Airport and Ruislip: 10 kilometres). 'Ruislip' is a London Underground Station on the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines. The H13 and 331 bus routes pass near Ruislip Lido. By road, both Ducks Hill Road - A4180 -and Breakspear Road North approach Ruislip Lido. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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