Rudyard Lake (Reservoir), Staffordshire
HISTORY OF RUDYARD LAKE
Rudyard Lake has been a centre for leisure activities for over 200 years. The lake was built in 1797 to provide water for the canal system and is in fact a reservoir rather than a lake. The lake is still a major source of water for the Trent & Mersey canal system and is owned by British Waterways. Over 2.5 miles long is the largest straight stretch of water in England outside the Lake district
The name Rudyard came from Ralph Rudyard who is alleged to have killed Richard III. The lake gave its name to Rudyard Kipling whose parents first met at a party by its shores and had such a particular love for it that they named their child after it. He went onto become world famous for his stories such as Jungle Book and his poetry.
The Lake was developed by the North Staffordshire Railway Company as a leisure destination for the Potteries, Midlands and North West. Enormous numbers of visitors were carried to and from the small station at Rudyard with 88 trains and 20,253 passengers alone in one day in June 1913. The lake had two stations one in Rudyard village (Rudyard) and one at Cliffe Park at the North end of the lake. This mainly served a golf course built by the railway. The golf course reverted to farm land as long ago as 1926. Footpaths run right round the lake and along the old railway track bed next to the Rudyard Lake Steam Railway.
The water level in the reservoir rises in winter and falls significantly during the summer due to the demands from the need to fill the locks in the canal system. The lake is one of the longest straight lakes in England and is becoming important as a centre for rowing. Power boats are not normally seen on the lake unless powered by steam or electricity.
The lake is in the Peak District and is very easy to get to for visitors from Staffordshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire the North West and Midlands. Its located between Leek, Congleton and Macclesfield. Take the A523 for 1 mile North of Leek and turn onto the B5331 to the free car park at Rudyard station.
The lake provides an ideal location for boating, bird watching, fishing, sailing and walking. Rowing boats are available for hire in the Summer along with the sale of fishing permits. Refreshments are available at Platform 2 Cafe at Rudyard Station at weekends when the train is running. The Hotel Rudyard is located near the Dam head and serves a full range of meals and refreshments as well as providing overnight accommodation. A covered picnic area is available at Rudyard Station. A new Activity Centre building was constructed at the Dam Head in 2004 to provide meeting rooms and storage for boating. A particular aim is to provide facilities for the disabled to enjoy access to the water. This work won a national award for excellence in 2006.
A new visitor centre and toilets opened at the Dam Head in early 2000. The visitor centre tells the story of the lake and its surroundings and is well worth a visit. The steam boat The Lady Alice sometimes offered trips along the lake. It returned to the lake after restoration in late April 2002 and was is in service on Sundays in summer. A new attraction is the ex naval cutter launch Honey built in 1942. This now offers cruises along the lake most weekends. A new landing stage was in use from 2003 and greatly improved facilities for boating on the lake. There are rowing boats & bell boats available for hire on the lake. Sailability offers specialised training as well.
The Earl of Macclesfield boathouse was renovated and reopened in 2009.
The lake was the location for an episode of Top Gear where the presenters had to convert cars in to amphibious vehicles and head for Rudyard Reservoir. With substantial assistance from the Rudyard sailing club Captain Slow( James May) triumphed with his sail powered Triumph Herald after both other motor powered craft ( canal barge & pickup truck) sank. A follow up Top Gear episode at Dover produced a very different result with the sailing car unable to cope with the sea.
This BBC2 programme in 2010 gave some publicity to the lake but overlooked the key role of the railways past and present in promoting and developing the Lake; it was a haven for the workers of the Midlands and North West.
Recently the lake has become a national centre of excellence for sailing for those with disabilities. Sailability is a charity who have had great success in obtaining the specially adapted boats required.