Thank you to Brian Cartwright, regular visitor to Anton Lakes, for contributing this site guide.
Just north of Andover town centre, Anton Lakes cover an area of just over 30.5 hectares. The site was designated as a local nature reserve in 1996 and is also an officially classified SINC. Formed by gravel extraction from the 1930s to 1973, the area is now separated from the surrounding housing estates by woodland stripes, grazed chalk hillside, road and railway embankments. The conserved area contains meadows, damp willow woodland and disused watercress beds. In the lakes are small tree-covered islands, often adorned with perching Cormorants. Water from two streams and numerous springs keeps the lakes refreshed from the north and west and is de facto the source of the River Anton which runs from the lakes to and through the town of Andover to join the River Test.
If you leave the car park via the gate on the east side you continue along a wide track which passes, on your left, two small artificial islands, often host to a Kingfisher. Continue along the track passing the play park on your right, at the bend in the track look to your left where you will see a rock outcrop in the lake. This rock is the favourite resting area for many different birds; Coots, ducks, geese, gulls, cormorants, egrets and herons. With space for two birds at any one time, it is interesting to see who has ‘perching rights’ on the day you visit.
Continue along the track until you reach the end on the lake where you will find the ‘Tench Pool’. This has recently been dissected with a boardwalk and small jetty for use as an education area for schoolchildren, pond dipping etc, but the reeds do encourage Reed and Sedge Warblers as well as Reed Bunting. If it is quiet look out for the resident Water Vole family
Moving along, with the lake on your left, the field to your right has a pylon on which a Buzzard or two may be found; they nest in the trees beyond the railway line. The lake on your left has Swallow, Swift and Sand Martin swooping over the water taking insects.
Further along the track you will find, on your right, the River Anton. This stretch of the river often sees the Kingfisher, Water Rail or Water Vole. It is also a safe haven for the Mallard and her brood – the lakes contain numerous very large Pike and young water birds are far from safe. Cross over the bridge across the river and turn left passing a row of mature Willow trees, looking out for various members of the tit family but also the Goldcrests which are to be found in this area. The path meanders through a small wooded area to a cross path, take the left path and in 50 yards on your right is a shallow water area fed by two streams. This pond and streams are haunts of the Kingfisher, Little Egret and Grey Heron.
Proceeding along the path you pass small fields to your right and left. Behind the right hand field are the remnants of disused water cress beds – the growing of watercress was a large industry here in the 19th century due to the clear chalk filled water. These old beds are now home to Water Rail, Moorhen and very occasionally Snipe. The path meanders back to the car park, passing a small lake with reedbeds. This lake is the usual haunt of Kingfisher, Little Egret, Mute Swan (they nested here in 2018) and small birds in the trees.
That concludes the lakes walk on the path which affords wheeled vehicle access. For a walk of twice the distance, with the possibility of mud in wet weather, take the walk round the lake from the car park until you reach the cross path, this time continue straight on. Follow the path through a wooded area, with some mature trees, habitat of the Great Spotted Woodpecker. The path reaches a cross path and to the left will lead you over the stream to a gate on your left, through this gate is a long field which leads you back to the car park. If you take the path on the right, it will lead you through a gate into a grassed area beside a housing estate.
Follow the grassed area, heading north, keeping to the trees on your left until you reach a tarmac footpath. This leads you between lightly wooded areas towards an underpass. Eventually this path arrives at the village of Knights Enham. Do not go under the road but turn left and in 200 yards is a gate into a long field with a stream through the centre, to the left of the footpath. Follow this path to the end where you pass through a gate, across a path (if you took the left branch earlier this is the gate you would pass through into the field back to the car park).
Depending on the time of year you can see numerous types of bird. I have recorded 85 species since 2014. A few return annually, if not resident, and others have only been recorded on one or two occasions (Cuckoo, Jay, Lapwing, Yellow Wagtail).
The lakes are situated off the Redon roundabout on the Goch Way, towards Charlton village. There is ample free car parking, with a height barrier of 2.7m. The circuit of the lakes is accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs, but the fields north of the lakes are often muddy and unsuitable for wheeled vehicles. Weekends are particularly busy, so weekdays are a better time to visit.
Test Valley Borough Council – Anton Lakes