Swanbourne Lake

When I first saw the view across Swanbourne Lake in Arundel I was immediately reminded of the fabulous vista created by John Nash in St. James’s Park in London. Arundel’s history is equally regal.

The story of Arundel is impossible to separate from that of the Dukes of Norfolk, the occupants of Arundel Castle which towers above all else nearby. Swanbourne Lake began as a mill pond and was purchased, along with adjacent land, by the 11th Duke of Norfolk in 1787. The castle’s surroundings were tidied in 1892 and Mill Road was built to replace the old Mill Lane by the 15th Duke. It leads from Arundel town centre to Swanbourne Lake, the Arundel Wetland Centre and the Black Rabbit pub (hence my original visit for lunch one Sunday last year). Two rows of mature trees line each side and a small stream with a variety of waterfowl runs parallel to it. Judging by the size of the burrows in the bank, there are water voles too.

Swanbourne Lake itself is accessed via two large wooden gates which are held up by octagonal stone pillars. Immediately to the right is Swanbourne Lodge which is today used as tea rooms. The lodge was built in 1852 and is of flint construction with sandstone quoins. Its best features are prominent Dutch-style gables and oversized chimneys which rise from a lichen-covered slate roof.

Coots, swans, geese, several types of duck, and a number of naughty seagulls all call Swanbourne Lake home. It is possible to walk around its perimeter through woodland where there are owls, woodpeckers, bats and snakes. This is where my friends and I picnicked on a more recent visit. We then went on to hire a small rowing boat and managed to feed the cygnets up close.

In the early 2000s, Swanbourne was the subject of a large works programme. In times of drought, the lake would become a mud flat and Environment Agency investigations attributed incidents to low rainfall (obviously), increased siltation and the modern pressures of public water use on the water table. The problem was solved by dredging the lake in order to increase its depth which, in effect, put a more generous buffer in place for dry spells.

Swanbourne Lake’s beauty was recognised by both Constable and Turner. That acknowledgement continues today in the form of 100,000 visitors each year. I can certainly see why.