Spade Oak Nature Reserve

The lake is a flooded gravel pit and in the middle is a spit of land where there may be anything from a few dozen to a few hundred water birds going placidly about their business – gulls, geese, ducks, swans – even black swans – herons – up to 200 species have been seen here. The path around three sides of the lake is flat, although often muddy, there are bullrushes, shrubs and blackberry bushes all along the water’s edge with many little waterside clearings sometimes occupied by fishermen but perfect for picnics. The swans may come along and stare intimidatingly at you for a sandwich, but the rest of the birds won’t spare you a glance as they pass by. If you look carefully in the water you may see oysters too. Hordes of stubborn fishermans sit quietly along the shore patiently waiting for a big catch. We have been going to the lake for the last 7 years almost every weekend and we never saw any fish either in the lake or in the fishermen’s bags!

Half way around the lake is a little wooden footbridge that takes you to a gate into a field where three cheerful horses pay you little attention as you walk across to the Spade Oak pub on Coldmoorholme Lane. Next door is Enid Blyton’s Thatched Cottage gardens that are open on summer weekends. Have a drink at the pub then follow the road down to the railway line. Trains usually hoot as they dawdle along the line, just the other side of the track is the Thames, a really expensive ice cream van and some riverside houses from which you could easily choose your dream home. This spot was Spade Oak Wharf which used to be busy with boats loading locally made paper, malt barley, timber and other local produce, but which nowadays is a lovely spot to sit and admire the pleasure boats and assorted geese and swans.  Turn left and follow the Thames path alongside the river for a field, then turn up along the hedge to the next railway crossing which takes you back to the corner of the lake, and it’s straight up to the cottages and the car park. A lovely way to spend an afternoon.

How to get to Spade Oak Nature Reserve in Little Marlow: There isn’t a signpost to Spade Oak Nature Reserve from the main road, the A4155, but there is one off it down to the XII century St John the Baptist Church in Little Marlow, down by the King’s Head pub. Drive past some very quaint cottages till the road comes to a head in front of the St John the Baptist Church and some larger houses, once home to Noel Coward and Scary Spice, and bear left past the vicarage gates down a small single track road saying no vehicular access to the river. After a row of modern houses turn right into a little car park before the entrance to the water treatment works. Continue down that little road on foot past some cottages on the left and one on the right where the tarmac becomes a path, and a few steps later, the waters of the lake appear.

Length: apporx. 2 miles (3.2 km)

Duration: 2 hours with a break at the Spade Oak pub on Coldmoorholme Lane

Conditions:  flat

Level of difficulty: Easy. Suitable for beginners. Or people who don’t keep fit. Nice day out for families. Or taking a dog for a nice walk.

Places of Interest: The Kings Head Pub, The Queen’s Head Pub, the St John Baptist Church, The Hatched Cottage, The Spade Oak pub, River Thames.

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About the author: Tara


The travel professional with years of experience in the travel industry – in guiding, reservations, operations, contracting, customer service and product development – and have travelled extensively in Asia and Eastern Europe not just on holiday but also for work, inspecting hotels, visiting attractions and seeing exactly what each destination has to offer. The only way I could do this properly was with my own guide, car and driver and this inspired me to create my own range of customised private day tours for other people to be able to explore in-depth and learn to love their destination as much as I do.