A Little Off Base: A reserve full of tranquility
July 23, 2008
The relatively warm months of summer here in Britain make it harder and harder to sit on your couch drinking beer and playing "Madden" — especially if you have kids.
Believe it or not, there is a world out there worth exploring.
But Suffolk, home to the tri-base communities of RAFs Mildenhall, Feltwell and Lakenheath, what does it have to offer? Granted, the natural surroundings don’t seem to have much in terms of wildlife diversions. Look, some flat land over here. Ooh! A crop of trees over there! Get the camera, Hank!
But just off the A1101 on the way to Bury St. Edmunds, there lies a lake. Numerous lakes actually, that are part of the Lackford Lakes Nature Reserve, an oasis of green trails, all types of birds and the natural tranquility that can make you feel like you’re a planet away from stratotankers and fighter jets.
You’re more like miles away, but start walking the green trails and the modern world quickly fades. As you pass lake after glassy lake, a cavalcade of birds can be seen and heard warbling, pecking and singing all around you.
Turquoise kingfishers, softly cooing doves and predatory osprey all call the reserve home at one point or another during the year.
Each season brings its own subtle changes to the reserve, according to Dennis Briggs, an official at the nature reserve’s center.
"At the moment, a lot of birds are shedding their feathers and they look totally different than what they normally would," Briggs said.
The series of lakes and trails used to be a series of stone quarries dating to the 1960s, he said. When they expired, and via a number of land donations, the reserve and its lakes were born. Sorry, no fishing allowed.
"It’s all been reclaimed by nature," Briggs said of the reserve. "It’s nature taking its land back."
For those looking to give their kid a birthday bash outside of the base community center or food court, the reserve also hosts parties.
And as outings in Britain become more and more expensive for Americans paid in dollars, the reserve is a cheap way to kill a Saturday afternoon with the family or friends. All officials ask for is a modest donation.
"For a pound, you can spend the whole day," Briggs said.
Getting thereWhat: An 11-lake nature reserve full of noisy birds and trails just begging to be explored.
Where: Right off the A1101 between Mildenhall and Bury St. Edmunds. Type "Lackford Lakes Nature Reserve" and IP28 6HX into your online trip planner for specific directions, but you can’t miss it.
Details: Log on to www.suffolkwildlife.co.uk/nr/sites/lackford.html or call 01284-72-8706 for more information.