The name Fleet is derived from the Middle English word "flet" (or "flete"), itself derived from the Old English "fleot", meaning river or stream. A prominent feature of our local landscape is Fleet Pond, an area of wetland surrounding a sizeable pond. Almost a lake in fact - by English standards, that is! In the 9th Century AD the pond was known as "Fuglemere" (wild fowl lake), and was probably a place where the local gentry went to shoot water-fowl. The pond is also said to have supplied fish to monks in the city of Winchester, although this is hard to credit since Winchester is about 20 miles away and probably had its own more convenient ponds.
One of the major factors affecting the development of our town was the construction of the railways, in the 1830s and 1840s. Fleet is on the line from Portsmouth to London, via Basingstoke, and it was not long after the railway opened that Fleet had its first railway station. It was built near the pond rather than in the town centre, because it was thought that lots of people would travel to Fleet specifically to enjoy the area of natural beauty around the lake. I have read that it became a favourite Sunday picnic destination for people living in the suburbs of London. Today, the railway station is still a significant feature of the Fleet landscape, and many of the town's inhabitants commute daily into London (about 50 minutes on the train).
I thought some of my readers might like to see what Fleet pond looks like. It's a bit "off topic" for me really, since my blog is primarily about my garden, and if you're not interested in reading the rest of this post, then fair enough, stop here. I hope you will return again some other time...
On a recent day off work I took a stroll around the pond, camera in hand. This is what I saw. The Pond is quite a substantial body of water, and plays hosts to a lot of birds, such as these swans. Many of them are adolescents, presumably ones born here last Summer.
In the background (on the left) of the next photo you can just see a line of Cormorants sitting on a log. They show up as black dots against the light brown reeds. There are also lots more in the trees on the little islet to the right, which is obviously a favourite roosting place - see how the trees are white with Cormorant guano!
The Pond is surrounded by areas of woodland and dense reed-beds. The cover provided by these is a major attraction for wild birds. In times gone by I expect the reeds were also popular with people, who would have used them for thatching their roofs. They grow to a height of about 8 feet.
|Close-up of a flowering reed|
There are also a fair few bulrushes to be seen, although at this time of year they do look a mite tatty.
There are paths all around the pond (you can walk the whole way around it in about an hour), and in some places a proper made-up walkway.
There are lots of places where you can get down to the water's edge, to enjoy the view, watch the birds (or take photos...)
There are fishing platforms
There are places from which you can launch boats (the sign says "No powered craft. Life-jackets must be worn)
There are a number of viewing platforms, some of them at water-level, some of them raised for more distant viewing
Around parts of the Pond there can still be seen a number of WD (War Department, now Ministry of Defence) markers that delineated the boundary of the Government land.
Of course I saw lots water-birds, like this lovely Swan
And these noisy Canada Geese
And this diminutive Coot. You can clearly see his bald pate. Have you heard the expression "Bald as a coot"?
If your eye-sight is really good you may be able to see in this next picture a Great Crested Grebe. A lovely bird, very graceful; a very speedy underwater swimmer; fairly common in our locality.
Not all the birds I saw were water-fowl. I think these are sparrows of some sort. Yes, there are TWO birds in the photo. Their camouflage scheme is pretty good, isn't it?
I also saw some beautiful plants, like this Lesser Celandine, positively glowing in the bright sunshine
And this rather more restrained clump of Ivy covering an old tree-stump
Bringing it all into perspective though, let's not overlook the proximity of the Industrial Estate (buildings in the background of next photo) or of the railway (the station car-park is behind the brick wall at the right of the photo)
So that's Fleet Pond. A wonderful facility, full of interest, and above all open to everyone - for FREE. Long may it stay un-developed, to enrich our lives.