Marl Lake at Houghton Regis Chalk Pit Reduced to a Puddle

Shocking pictures of Houghton Regis SSSI Marl Lake show that the lake has practically disappeared.

These pictures shared by local environment supporter, Sally Gray, were taken today.

The blue flag was placed in the lake at a point at the far end where, in the second week of August, the water was seen draining away.  See Video. The water's edge has receded another few feet since then.

Alan Winter on 13 August, wrote, “I'm no expert, but it seems likely to me that the Marl Lake waters have been trickling away through cracks and fissures for years. The movement of water underground could have been accelerated by earthworks movements on the developer's fields to the north and east of the water treatment centre (sewage works) where another lake appeared.”

To the rear of the edge of the lake, Sally Gray reports that yesterday the ”Water is still flowing into this boggy wooded area"

A hydrological expert from Natural England has now seen the video Alan Winter made during August and he believes that it is a sinkhole and the lake may act as a turlough (see Wikipedia), so fills up from below when groundwater levels are high enough and is, therefore, an important process for the functioning of the lake.  They also highlighted that groundwater levels are very low at the moment due to significantly lower levels of rain over the last few years and this is causing concerns for water supply. The recent heavy rain is unlikely to impact groundwater levels overall in the short term. The low lake levels may simply be due to this, and this sinkhole is usually underwater and therefore invisible. A second opinion from the Environment Agency is awaited.

Meanwhile, the charity Campaign for Rural England is organising a clean up of the Houghton Regis Chalk Pit on 14 September. Anyone interested in coming along to help out is invited to select "14 September, Houghton Regis Chalk Pit, Bedfordshire" on the CPRE website

What's important about SSSI designation?

There are forty Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in Bedfordshire, designated by Natural England. Thirty-five are listed for their biological interest, and five for their geological interest. Three of the sites are also National nature reserves, twelve are in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and eleven are managed wholly or partly by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire. In 2009 Bedfordshire was divided into three unitary local authorities: thirty-two sites are in Central Bedfordshire, eight in Bedford and none in Luton. (Wikipedia)

Houghton Regis Marl Lakes

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 quarry, and it is listed by Geo-East as a "Chalk Place to Visit" due to its exposure of Totternhoe stone. It 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. (Wikipedia)


State of SSSI Marl Lake at Houghton Regis Chalk Pit (2019)
Marl Lake Shrinks Back in Summer Heat (2018)
Chalk Pit Viewing Bench Disappears (2018)
Chalk Pit: Litter Picker's Dismay At Weekend Mess Sun-Lovers Leave Behind (2017)
Houghton Regis News Desk Flickr Album of the Chalk Pit (2012-18)

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