Karl’s Chronicles Article 45 The Jewel of Bewl
A crunch of rubber on small stones, the happy whiz of a child on a passing bike as mum and dad pant along at the rear. Her excited cry of ‘catch me up’ floating back like puffed clouds from a steam train. I watched them glide along, shrinking into the band of trees that knitted the sky to the ground. The long trail like a rim on a saucer, banded the sweeping arc of the reservoir. In bold contrast to the reflective metallic-blue disc of water, wearing the sky like a second skin. Spread out across the shallow valley where little white yachts sliced through the clouds and stretches of widest blue.
Bewl Reservoir, the jewel in the Sussex crown has sparkled aplenty against the tarnished backdrop of virus and isolation, its priceless existence a blessed fortune on the wealth and value of peoples well-being. Offering wide-open spaces, tranquillity and buckets of fresh air, just the antidote against boredom, distress and too much uncertainty, sweeping away the mental deadwood that’s been clogging our long-term views. The 800-acre site at the core of the high weald lays as the largest body of water in the South East. Here the landscape is nothing but certain, as splendid woodlands and farmlands sweep down to the shoreline, dashed with trails and copse drawn from the halcyon brush of Constable or Cole.
As international travel retracts to our shores, taking exploration inland, we are discovering the advantages that staycations go beyond quarantine and economy. Raising the curtain on an island full of magic that helps break the curse of media doom and gloom. The beaches have offered respite but simultaneously shone a bleak light on peoples capabilities with social distancing. The countryside fared better, enticing people to keep on the move, discovering and questioning. For families, the great outdoors is one effectual classroom and playground rolled into one, nearly as limitless to children’s imagination that finds a voice amongst the wind and mud, leaves and grass.
Bewl Reservoir harmonises the best of those assets by offering plenty to keep the visitor occupied, presenting activities both on and off the lake without the fears of overcrowding. A browse across their website shows the companies strict health measures concerning Coronavirus, giving extra peace of mind when arriving with people more vulnerable who require greater assurance.
Growing concern after WWII realised a traditional reliance on underground sources of water could no longer sustain an expanding population. The idea of holding auxiliary supplies of water in times of need would be a logical move forward. A few years after the Queen gave her Royal Assent to the Medway Water Act in the late 60s, the green light shone for Bewl.
Work on constructing the reservoir started in the early 70s by damming then flooding the Bewl Valley. Clay and limestone, two essential materials for the dam’s stability could be sourced locally. The 900-metre dam wall used clay as a foundation, strengthened with sandstone blocks. Along its bank, twelve inches of gravel lay packed under a five-inch crust of concrete slabs. To allow Bewl River to continue flowing, pipes were fitted under the dam. Two towers helped regulate the amount of water held at Bewl; one could funnel a supply when needed while the second acted as an overflow. It took two years to complete the entire project at a cost of £11 million, filled with 31,300 million litres of water.
In 2004, at £25 million, a 17km long pipeline linked Bewl with Darwell reservoir near Robertsbridge. Helping to refill the area during times of drought.
When the River Medway passes a daily flow of 275 million litres, the surplus is diverted into Bewl reservoir. The current level for August 2020 is 69% going by Southern Water figures. During March and April, Bewl had reached 100% volume.
Future plans to increase yield in response to population increase is to raise the water level by 3 metres, a 30% capacity increase. However, it’s not without complaint, as the Medway and its ecosystems will suffer from the demand.
Due to its character, the reservoir attracts plenty of birdlife. Aside from migrating waterfowl, it’s one of the prime locations for spotting Great Crested Grebe and the smaller family member, the Dabchick. Tufted Duck, Kingfisher, and Canada Geese are regular visitors while during the Spring and Autumn seasons, migratory Osprey stop here from North Africa. In the woods near the sailing club, offer chances of at least hearing the Spotted Woodpecker and Tree-creeper.
Whether it’s a stroll, hike, bike or jog, Bewl reservoirs trail provides the ideal setting to get out amongst the beautiful countryside. Enjoying the charming medicinal qualities of nature as intended, without the shrill of modern day demands. The vast body of water acts as an ideal alternative to the sea, dismissing the concerns of overcrowding, busy roads, and noise. All of which dilute the intended reason for going. For parents who would like a day away from smart phones, social media and Netflix, bring your family here and let nature entertain you.
Bewl Water is open daily form 08:00. Last entry 16:00. Exit gates shut at 19:00.
All-day parking £5 – ‘Pay & Display’, accepts both card and coins. 2-metre social distancing applies to cars as well. There is disabled parking closer to the toilets and cafe, but beyond this area, the hilly terrain, steps, and dirt paths make it difficult.
Allow six hours walking and three hours for biking to complete the 13 miles circuitry route around Bewl Reservoir. Please wear appropriate footwear, pack enough water and food, and carry a phone for ‘just in case.’ Usual countryside courtesy applies regarding noise/litter/dogs/wildlife/neighbouring properties.
Toilets are available, located beside The Waterfront Café. The cafe opens from 11:00 onwards, operating a reduced menu due to Covid19 restrictions. It’s not possible to dine inside the cafe, but a large patio with picnic tables and the sloping lawn out front is suitable. Social distancing and face masks must be worn.
The gift shop and information centre are currently closed.
Bewl Reservoir runs a selection of activities, but some like the Aqua Park and Camping wind down around mid-September. Check out www.bewlwater.co.uk for up-to-date information and online booking.
Laser challenge – weekend mornings plus 26th-31st October only. One hour slot at £15 pp.
Fishing – Fly fishing only from the bank. Spinning/float fishing prohibited. Starts from 09:00. Eight fish/unlimited C&R. £29. Boat hire with two permits – £91.
Water-sports Taster Sessions – Until 30th September. £20pp for one-hour instruction. Kayaks/paddles/leashes/boards/buoyancy aids provided. Bring your old trainers or plimsolls as well as swimwear/towel. Arrive 15mins before. Slots starting from 10:00.
Bike Hire – Year-round. Available from 09:00, last rental at 15:00. Return times are seasonal so check the link below. All-day hire: £25 adult/£20 child. Bikes can be hired per hour but face a different set of tariffs. Trailers available for children 12 months plus. Bikes and helmets are disinfected between each use, operating reduced numbers. Can pre-book on 01892 893935, these must be collected by 11:00.
Bewl Reservoir is a stunning place for weddings, private parties, corporate, coach and Christmas parties and on-location filming. For the latest information click the link https://www.bewlwater.co.uk/venue-hire/
If sailing and racing float your boat, then check out www.bewlsailing.club who organise Sunday races in various kinds of boats including laser, flying fifteens as well as windsurfing.
Getting There and Away – Bewl Reservoir is one mile south of Lamberhurst on Bewlbridge Lane (TN3 8JH) just off from the A21. By car, you can reach Bewl within an hour from Tunbridge Wells, Hastings, Tonbridge, Maidstone, Ashford, Eastbourne and Sevenoaks. Arriving from the north follow the Bewl Water signs, while a southern approach, takes you through Flimwell before Bewl signs become apparent.
Wadhurst is the nearest train station with services to and from Charing Cross. From the station, you would need a taxi for the 11-minute journey to Bewl Reservoir.
Bus #254 (38 mins travel time) leaves from Tunbridge Wells War Memorial, descend at Flimwell Crossroads from where its a further two miles north on the A21 for Bewlbridge Lane, and a further 800metres to the entrance. Note: you are following the dual-carriageway with no pedestrian walkway. A taxi would be a safer option.