Community rallies round to keep boating lake clear

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For many years, the build up of weeds in the Longholme boating lake has been a blot on the Bedford landscape.

In partnership with officers from Bedford Borough Council, local volunteer Adrian Allen has been working tirelessly to keep the lake clear and it’s never looked better.

The collaboration enables Adrian to use the council’s equipment – including an amphibious aquatic weed cutter – to keep the lake free of blanket weed that grows during the summer season and unblock drains and inlets that maintain a steady flow on the water from the upper river.

Spending around 40 hours a week on the lake, Adrian removes silt and weeds that naturally occur in warmer weather. Anything that is removed is then taken away by council officers and used as plant fertiliser in council-managed flower beds.

The team has removed in excess of 80 tonnes of blanket weed, 10 tonne of silt and 9 tonne of reeds.

“The Council has committed to keep the lake open by using the best available technology and modern practices to find a long term sustainable solution to manage the naturally reoccurring weed growth in the lake,” said Cllr Charles Royden, deputy mayor and executive member for environment

“The Council will continue to monitor the lake going forward and respond accordingly to the ever-changing conditions and rate of weed growth, whilst bring improvements to the location for both wildlife and the community.”

To share the efforts to keep the lake clear, the team at the cafe has set up a Cleaning up Longholme Lake Facebook group for locals and customers.

“We have set the group up to proactively engage with the public on the topic,” explained the Longholme’s Thomas Healey.

“While we are not responsible for the upkeep of the lake, we understand that it is in our interest and indeed the interest of anyone using the river to have it looking at its best.

“We can’t just go on accepting that it’s a stagnant mess, so we’re doing the best we can to stop that happening. While the river is the responsibility of the national environmental agency, the lake is a local problem that needs to be fixed locally.”

Bedford's River Great Ouse, Longholme Boat House, Longholme Lake and Butterfly Bridge. Credit: ADC Films
Bedford’s River Great Ouse, Longholme Boat House, Longholme Lake and Butterfly Bridge. Credit: ADC Films

You can follow the Facebook group for updates of the hard work that the volunteers and the council are undertaking.

“You never know you might be able to help,” said Thomas. “Recently we requested a metal detector as we attempted to identify a hidden man hole cover. Thanks to the power of Facebook, Keiron Waites arrived and kept us moving forward.

“The lake is in need of major investment, both financially and in manpower to limit its annual maintenance programme so it can become more self sufficient. Experts have been to visit the lake in 2018 and we believe the council are still considering options on what to do next.

“Please show your support by liking the page for updates or contacting your local councillors about the ongoing issues within your parks.”