A Stroll Around Westport Lake and Nature Reserve
Westport Lake Regeneration Park opened in 1971
Westport Lake Regeneration Park was officially opened in 1971 by the then Prime Minister Ted Heath. At the time it was seen as a great example of how to regenerate former industrial wastelands, thus creating exciting new leisure and recreation facilities within urban communities. The park was originally the site of a coal mine and its workings which had gradually subsided and flooded.
Westport Lake Park has proven to be one of the city’s most popular and enduring regeneration projects.The engraved plaque which commemorates the official opening is set into a rock within close proximity to the water's edge and within sight of the visitor centre.
Measuring approximately 300 metres in diameter, Westport Lake is situated between Tunstall and Burslem in the north of the Potteries.The lake covers some 10 hectares and is only 1m deep at the most. Underwater surveys show it to be uniformly shallow.
Westport Lake is home to an award winning visitor centre.
Westport Lake is home to one of the few architectural achievements in the City of Stoke on Trent in recent times: the new Westport Lake Visitor Centre, which opened in 2009.
The centre is run by The Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and provides a guide and history of Westport Lake, and is to a futuristic design raised on stilts and incorporating building materials sympathetic to its waterfront surroundings The building boasts stunning views across the park.
There is easy wheelchair access to the building, as there is to all the paths around both lakes, though in wet weather these can become muddy. In all you should allow at least a couple of hours for the visit, the circular path around the lake is approximately 1 mile in length.
No animals are allowed into the centre but are allowed onto the veranda. I should expect guide dogs or similar working dogs to be allowed into the building. Pet walking throughout the park pathways is allowed though the animal should be under leash control at all times.
In the early years
In years gone by, certainly how I remember the place as a child, (The visitor centre stands on what used to be the beach.) there were no visitor facilities here other than a few portaloos and a free carpark, to this day it remains free to park your car
On one occasion I recall wagon after wagon dropping off tons of sand and then it being raked by a tractor to level it out to form an artificial beach. There were many children including myself who were thrilled by the prospect of a day at the lake making sandcastles and paddling. There used to be sailing dinghies, a launch jetty and pontoon and always an Ice cream van parked up nearby busy as ever almost every day. As a youngster it was quite easy to imagine being at the seaside when you looked over the beach and onto the lake and all of its activity, always reminding yourself to never glimpse to your left or right lest you may catch sight of the railway sidings or other industrial buildings which would undermine your fantasy.
The smaller lake which is now the bird sanctuary hosted regular Sunday morning radio control boat events which was quite a crowd draw. In the 70's wildlife preservation did not enjoy the same level of popular support as it does today and similar activities would not be tolerated. It's easy to imagine what disruption and annoyance was caused to the birds.
Unfortunately all this fun came to an abrupt end when the authorities deemed both lakes too polluted for human bathing, sailing and other activities.
The public were not deterred and still visited in numbers, the grassy banks, the pathways and the many picnic tables always remained available for public enjoyment.
After a period of time, benefited by greatly reduced human disturbance closely coupled with further redundant industrial infrastructure being cleared, and being enhanced by mans effort to reduce the parks pollution levels the wildlife began to thrive.
Fishing is allowed on the main lake and purpose built peg spots are dotted around the water. To this day, bathing and any activities within the park that may upset nature's balance are barred.
Approaching Westport Lake Park and Nature Reserve.
As you drive through a recently constructed private housing development to reach the large carpark and lakeside, a narrow steel bridge passes you over the Trent and Mersey canal which runs parallel with the main lake. Even though the car park has been substantially enlarged over the years, in particularly busy periods you may have to queue for a parking space!
A tour guide leaflet of the park including visitor information is available from the visitor centre for free!
Occasions when it may be prudent not to visit Westport Lake and Nature Reserve
The large carpark is next to a children's playground which is very popular and is enjoyed by families with children. If you only want a quiet, gentle walk around the lakes or nature reserve to watch or photograph wildlife, don't go in the middle of summer when the schools are closed (end of July and all of August) or any other summer school holiday for that matter. Summer Bank holidays are to be avoided with a certainty! If you go in Winter it will be very peaceful, but there may be limited wildlife.
Feeding the Birds
You may feed the birds!
The resident flock of waterfowl, through habit and experience learn that humans are the bearers of food. Indeed they expect to be fed and are not timid. They have confidence enough to approach you, sometimes as intimidating as a pack of wolves. They seem to have an ability to identify and single out those individuals who have their bird feed.
Do not feed the birds anything other than the bird feed which is available for purchase from the visitor centre!
Depending on the season expect to find, among others, birds such as Canada Geese, Coots, Mallards, Swans, Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, and Seagulls.