Marl Lake Shrinks Back In Summer Heat

12-08-2018. A D Winter.

Typically, July and August are the hottest months for Houghton Regis, averaging 17°C but rarely go above 23C (source). Pictures taken yesterday show how the larger Marl Lake at Houghton Regis Chalk Pit has shrunk back during this summer's heatwave that saw temperatures rise as high as 33°C.

Houghton Regis Marl Lakes is a 20.1 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in Houghton Regis in Bedfordshire. It was notified under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 in 1988.

The site is a large disused chalk pit, and it is listed by Geo-East as a "Chalk Place to Visit" due to its exposure of Totternhoe stone.

The Marl Lake is a rare example of standing water in chalk. It is important both ornithologically and for its range of dragonflies. There are two marl lakes, one deep and one shallow, which have aquatic plants and molluscs, with fens in a waterlogged area between the lakes.

Recorded highest temperatures between the end of June 2018 and the beginning of August in Houghton Regis have ranged between 23°C and 33°C on 26th July. (source)

Houghton Regis Temperatures:

But there is another side to the story of the beauty of the Chalk Pit.

Whilst the beauty of the Chalk Pit's nature is not doubted, the receding of the waters has revealed more of human nature, too, in the form of discarded rubbish, plastic bottles, tin cans, shopping trolleys, and a lot of that is easily accessible from the side of the larger Marl Lake without the need for waders.

The Marl Lake's reduction in size means there is better access for any volunteers who care to, to get in and remove the accumulated litter. But since the Houghton Regis Chalk Pit is no longer managed or organised for litter clearance, the situation is unlikely to improve. The condition of the triple S I site is deteriorating. The site is accessible from a footpath off Fieldstone, Houghton Regis.

Removal of items, like this burnt out bike, will need more than a litter bag.

All photos © A D Winter 2018

Entry to the Chalk Pit is via a footpath running between Fieldstone, (off Lake View) and the Watling Road (opposite French's Avenue):