The Mayor and Bedford Borough Council have been urged to act on the shocking state of the town’s boating lake ahead of the River Festival.
Longholme Boating Lake, near the Embankment which is expected to host thousands of visitors for this month’s popular event, is now covered with unsightly green blanket weed and algae, with reeds encroaching the lake. The T&C also found rotting weeds which appear to have been dumped on disabled viewing platforms rendering the jettys unsuitable for wheelchairs.
Andy Ellis, from Putnoe, who used to fish on the lake with his father as a boy, said: “I care about this lake and to see it in such a state is heartbreaking. People who have grown up in Bedford and who would have visited or played in the area would be shocked by the state it is in now. I used to come with my dad when I was a kid but I wouldn’t fish here now.
“It looks horrible - and it’s bad for the environment, wildlife and the fish as the depth has decreased from about three foot to about 18 inches for the fish to live in. The algae must take vital oxygen from the fish. It also smells when the temperatures go up.
“With the River Festival happening soon I would have thought the Mayor and the council would have done something about it. It’s embarassing for Bedford - it looks like a swamp in the town centre.”
The boating lake was laid out in 1923 by Rotarian George Hayward Wells, who raised £1,000 to create the picturesque setting after each Rotarian donated 1/0d before gifting it to the town - and used to be a haven for fish and wildlife including pike, bream, tench, herons, mallards, and moorhens.
Chris Bailey, Manager of Longholme Boat Hire and Cafe said sadly: “The Mayor should be embarassed about the state it’s in. It’s such a waste and it isn’t good for the enivronment. We used to have 45 boats that people hired, now it’s down to 15 but people aren’t as interested because parts of the lake are impossible to row in. It’s criminal.
“The silt comes from when the river floods and allows for the conditions for the algae to grow. Dredging would get rid of it. I know the council used to dredge here but they haven’t done for a long time. They don’t seem to have shown much interest recently. I go out onto the lake and do what I can but it’s like fighting a losing battle.”
Councillor Stephen Moon said: “The three issues are - clearing the disgusting slime, cutting the reeds, and taking the silt away by dredging. They could also make a start simply by tidying the place up.
Cllr Moon added: “If the fish had a vote then you would see some action.”
Mr Ellis added: “It’s disgusting - not only does it attract flies it also stops disabled people from using it to view the lake - not that there’s much to see at the moment.”
A council spokesman said: “Clearance works to remove blanket weed from the boating lake near the Embankment before the Bedford River Festival is now underway. Initially work was undertaken by council officers but due to the rapid growth of the weed specialists have been contracted to deal with areas of particularly heavy growth as well as scooping up much of the smaller surface weed.
“Further work this summer will include selective dredging of the lake to remove silt build up. Investigations will also take place to find out if water flow through the lake can be improved.”
The Bedford River Festival is on July 19 and 20.