Walk through the woods at dawn and hear the songs of the chiffchaff, willow warbler and black cap. Spot a blue tit, great tit, wren, great spotted woodpecker or even a red squirrel. Take a picnic plus, if possible, a pair of binoculars and explore the woods and wetlands of the Tranquil Otter, or the many public footpaths in the area and return to your five star lodge with a private hot-tub to watch the stars on a one of our crystal clear nights.
Thurstonfield Lough SSSI is the largest species-rich area of open water in the lowlands of north and east Cumbria, of local importance for wildfowl and invertebrates as well as supporting nationally rare species such as the otter (Lutra Lutra) and red squirrel (Sciurus Vulgaris). The reserve was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1983 because it supports some of the best examples of submerged aquatic vegetation, fringing marsh and wet alder and sallow woodland in the area and for the sake of its rich and varied population of aquatic plants, invertebrates, red squirrels, otters, bats, owls and fungi. The Lough itself is a stream-fed 20-acre body of water stocked with trout and home to many wetland bird and insect species, a family of otters and the usual animals typical of the English countryside. The Lough is a shallow lake set in boulder clay laid down during the retreat of the last ice age (c 12,000 BC). It is a natural pond extended by a dam to feed a no long-defunct water mill in the village. The Lough is now controlled by a “Monks’ Weir” on the Eastern Edge of the Lough. This allows the outflow to be drawn either from the surface of the lake or from the bottom.
The Lough is surrounded by about 40 acres of mostly deciduous woodland, made up primarily of formerly coppiced alder, willow scarr, silver birch, increasing numbers of beeches, holly and sycamore with some oak, rowan, wild cherry and scots pine. The flora demonstrate in a particularly marked way the transition from dry woodland to swamp and marsh (“the hydrosere”, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrosere).
The conservational interest and recreational value of Thurstonfield Lough have been threatened by local modern farming run-off in the form of excess plant nutrients (“eutrophication”) and silt. High inputs of major nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates have decreased some rare and notable plant species such as the needle spike rush (Eleocharis Acicularis) in favour of non-native species like Canadian pondweed (Elodea canadensis). However in the last three years, The Tranquil Otter has worked hard with some success to reverse these trends.