It dominates one of Hull’s best loved green spaces but how much do you actually know about East Park’s lake?
The popular lake has been around since the turn of the 20th century and has been a source of leisure and enjoyment for the people of Hull ever since.
Once full of rowing boats, more recently it has become a popular coarse fishing spot.
But how did the lake come about, what is in there and is it dangerous?
Hull Live spoke to East Park manager Howard Flitton to find out more about what lies beneath the water and what it takes it maintain such a big lake.
History of the lake
While East Park itself was opened in 1887, the large boating lake came later when Thomas Ferens gifted the land for the building of a 16-acre boating lake in 1913.
The lake was dug out and modelled with clay. It was completed in 1919 but extended further in 1923 and has five islands.
While it began life as a boating lake, more recently it has become a coarse fishing lake.
Where does the water come from and how deep is the lake?
The lake is predominantly fed by rain water but it is also connected to the water supply so it can be topped up during dry periods.
“The depth of the lake varies,” Mr Flitton said, “and can reach six feet at its deepest and only around two feet around the edges.
“The deepest part is around the bridge which was cut out some years ago by army volunteers to provide a channel for boats when the lake was drained. But the lake is pretty large at 31,717sqm.”
What is it like underneath and what life can be found there?
The lake is unremarkable in terms of what lies at the bottom. It is full of silt and mud with plenty of water vegetation and weeds.
But the lake also has a thriving animal and fish population.
“The lake was last stocked in 2010 when the council put in 800lb of fish which included roach, perch, carp and tench.
“We also have pike, eels and bream in there. There is a very healthy population and they are breeding well. I saw signs of carp breeding recently which is great to see.
“We do have some rather big fish in there too with pike reaching 26lbs and carp weighing in at 32lbs. You could get quite a few portions of chips with that!”
But the lake supports more than just fish and is an important habitat for many species.
“There are a lot of rare aquatic plants which grow round the lake,” Mr Flitton said. “It is very important to several bat species and water fowl populations, such as goosander, pochard and tufted duck.
“There are also populations of frogs, toads and we have even seen a couple of great crested newts in there too.
“It is really important for biodiversity and creates a green tunnel in the city.”
How is the lake maintained?
Park rangers do enter the lake itself to clean but go for the prevention is better than cure approach.
“Our rangers regularly tour the lake using an electrical vehicle to skim the water for any litter or fallen branches before they sink to the bottom,” Mr Flitton explains.
“There have been occasions where we have had to drag out bikes and shopping trolleys but it is not usually too bad.
“I think if we drained the lake there would be a few hidden treasures down there, such as rings that have been thrown in but they would be lost to the mud and silt.”
The dangers of the lake
Take any large body of water, mix it with large crowds of people and you are going to have risk.
Thankfully, during Mr Flitton’s 33 years at the park, there have been no tragedies.
“Being around water always means there is a high risk,” he said. “We always carry out risk assessments for staff and visitors.
“The council recently funded 19 new life preserve units dotted around the lake. Rangers also carry their own life line and a knife if they have to cut any rope.
“In my 33 years I have only ever had to rescue one dog but there are other rangers who have had to come to the aid of people.
“The biggest problem is in winter when there is ice and dogs and sometimes people venture out onto it and fall through. Obviously, it is very cold which increases the risk further.
“Some younger people will get a bit boisterous and we have had problems with them jumping from the bridge in the past but we now have signs up warning people not to swim or jump.”
Tales from the lake
There are a couple of standout memories for Mr Flitton during his 33 years patrolling East Park’s lake.
“Once, before the animal centre opened we had a compound for the wallabies,” he said.
“One day someone had decided to cut a hole in the fence and one or two escaped.
Watch: launch of the swan boats at East Park
“One wallaby swam across the lake onto one of the islands. We had to go over and rescue it but it was very difficult as it fought back and kicked us with its powerful legs.”
During the time when the lake had lots of boats, one day proved carnage.
“There used to be 33 rowing boats and ten motorboats on the lake,” Mr Flitton said.
“One Sunday it ended up like the Battle of Trafalgar.
“Kids used to like to rock the boats and let water in. On this day 13 of the boats sank. I’d never seen anything like it. It took us four hours to drag them all out.”
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