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Long Lost lakes

As the tethered hydroplane community comes to terms with the unfortunate situation that there are only two venues left in the country where hydros can be run we can but reflect on the huge number of lakes and ponds that have hosted hydroplane racing since a line was first attached to a boat in 1908. Ironic in a way that the two lakes left are Victoria, one of the very first to be used and Kingsbury one of the last to come into operation. Although we have already been sent a great deal of material, hard information about locations, periods of use and notable runners would be much appreciated. Current photos of the venues wherever possible would also be a fitting post script to each. 

South Cerney: Home of the Cotswold Model Marine Club. The open nature of the lake and the fact that it was shared with full sized boats required breakwaters to be constructed that can be seen in the photos. Reports from Model Boats emphasise the very social nature of events there. Problems at the lake firstly required the pylon to be moved and later forced a move to another venue close by that the Club was only able to use for a relatively short period of time. As can be seen from the second panel of photos, the lake has now been filled in with a view to development.

Stu Robinson, Jim Williams, Lionel lawley B Class record holder John Rose Arthur Wall and 'Doc' English launching
Entrance to the lake Location of the pole! Wot, no water?

Postscript from Kevin Fleet Aug 2020

After my last trip past the old South Cerney venue in November 2018 I fully expected to see lakeside chalets or houses for weekend retreats constructed and ready to move in to with £650,000+ price tags on them. As in 2018 they were putting kerbstones in from the main road and all the David Bellamy undergrowth had all been cleared from inside the site, now they’ve just put up these metal gates and big bollards where the photo is taken from to stop illicit entry into the site.
It really is a great shame to think apart from some of the lake being filled in nothing has been used or done on this site since the Cotswold club were asked to leave twenty five years ago, and to a lot of members of the hydroplane club this venue will bring back many fond and happy memories. Anyway I just thought I would forward you the latest photo to show you how the site looks today

No development as yet 25 years on The sign says it all. Cotswold Model Marine Club

Photos kindly provided by Kevin Fleet, Mike Rose and Margaret Lawley

Swindon: The Swindon Model Boat Club is one of the longer established in this country having come into existence around 1931. The Cheney Manor Lake in the north west suburbs of Swindon, also knows as Plaum's Pit, hosted regattas from the late 1930s until well into the 1970s. By then it was surrounded by an industrial estate and housing. The lake had a path around the whole perimeter where the Ford Anglia van can be seen. The lake is now a fishing lake with the club moving to other waters, but no more hydros.

Regattas in 1973-74
Hydro on a run. Ford Anglia in background Doc English & Ted Blacknell Frank Jutton and TNT
Home club boat, Mr Baxter's Miss Swindon Jim Williams with a straight running boat

Photos and captions again kindly provided by Kevin Fleet

Old Ford:

In the early 70s, the Kingfisher Club realised that they were in imminent danger of losing their water near Elstead in Surrey so set about raising funds via a share scheme to enable them to rent a new site. After a great deal of searching they found an area that would be suitable behind the Old Ford pub at North Camp Farnborough, bounded by the river on one side and a railway line on the other.

The minor complication was that there was no lake and no water so an excavator was hired to dig a 2ft deep lake around 150 ft by 200ft. This needed a membrane covered by 2" of sand and 300,000 gallons of water pumped from the River Blackwater.

Much of the impetus for the hydroplane facilities at the new lake was believed to be down to Frank Jutton and Jim Bamford

Building pit areas, launching platforms and shelters, along with landscaping and planting occupied club members until the official opening in April 1974. The lake was built to accommodate all forms of model boats, including hydroplanes, but all with very strict adherence to the noise limit. Attendances slowly dropped away over the next few years until Kingfisher member Don Reid suggested that it might be an ideal venue for tethered hydroplanes then running at Cerney and Bradwell.

The lake hosted around five or so hydroplane events throughout the season with Sheila Reid providing refreshment from her stall and Don running the meetings. It was reckoned by many to be the ‘fastest lake in the country’ with numerous records being broken there and always runnable because of the surrounding trees and banks. The Reids both died within a short while of each other in 2000 and 2001 but problems were already emerging.  Unfortunately, after tenure of just on thirty years, a change in ownership of the brewery that owned the site and the death of the landlord of the pub led to the pub being closed so no running was possible in 2003 and all forms of boating brought to an end in 2004. With no maintenance or topping up of water the lake effectively vanished to be replaced by scrub and saplings. It could be resurrected but would require huge amounts of work and a considerable investment in time and money. The combination of the M25, M3 and A331 made travelling to and from the lake from anywhere north of the metropolis something of an adventure, and getting home on a Sunday night even more fraught. A bit like Cerney really, if you wanted to go there you would be better off starting from somewhere else?

Norman Lara with 'Sharkie'  The 'pit area' Rose family in action
Norman and John Hyder Ian Berne with A Class steamer 130 +mph with A class boat
John Rose and John Whelan More pit action Terry Everitt assisting Ian

 The sad sight that once was 'the fastest lake in the country'

Thanks to Norman Lara for the latest photos. The site can still be identified, just, on Google maps but now looks like a wood.