Keele Icons – Keele Lakes and woodland walks
Keele is at its best, I think, on crisp autumn days, like the one we had yesterday. With the sun shining and just a hint of approaching winter the air, there are fewer places better to stroll around than Keele Lakes
The University is situated on an estate of 650 acres, with extensive woods, lakes and parkland. The second Ralph Sneyd, who inherited the estate in 1829, planted over 100,000 trees, completely altering the previous parkland landscape
Behind Keele Hall there are 5 lakes with two circular trails; one an all weather trail suitable for wheelchair users, the other rougher, muddier and slightly more challenging. There’s a third trail, which is rougher and hillier terrain, in the woods and three more lakes to the north and east of Keele Hall
The area between Keele Hall and Lake 5 is planted predominantly with Pedunculate Oak, with scattered Beech, Yew and Sycamore. Barnes dell, near lake 5 has several unusual plants such as Skunk Cabbage, Handkerchief Tree and Katsura Tree. The area is home to a variety of common woodland birds such as Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail, while the woodland around lakes 6-8 is planted with Larch and Norway Spruce and attracts birds such as Goldcrest, Siskin and Coal Tit
Bluebells, the indicator of ancient woodland, form an impressive carpet in spring, while in summer Lake 3 is covered in yellow waterlilies. Clockhouse Drive was planted with sweet chestnuts in the 1830s. It was originally the route to the old Keele Racecourse, which was just to the north of where the M6 runs today!
Besides their natural beauty Keele Lakes have been the scene of many quirky events. In the early days and right up to the 80s, the lakes were famous for the swans that followed the introduction of a single pair donated by the Queen in Coronation Year. Professor Gemmell had to act as guarantor. The swans were closely followed by the ceremonial post of Swanmaster, inaugurated in 1954. the post, together with the swans, disappeared in the 80s, but was revived, sans swans, in 2010.
Many plays have been held on the fringes of the lake, notably The Tempest. There was naturally many incidents of students swimming in the Lakes, not always appropriately clothed (or, indeed, clothed at all!), not always in full control of their faculties, and, in the 1990s, raft races were frequently held on the lakes, a tradition revived in 2015