Historic lake is a little-known wildlife haven

Elizabeth likes to position some of her paintings by the lake which has played such a part in her family life. EMN-200128-153225001
Elizabeth likes to position some of her paintings by the lake which has played such a part in her family life. EMN-200128-153225001

The fascinating family history of a private lake has been revealed by a retired artist from Osbournby as she considers opening it up for more people to enjoy.

Painter Elizabeth Hepburn, 74, has recently inherited the historic lake in Wilsford from her brother, John King, who was a book-keeper by trade.

The lake in the grounds of the former Wilsford hall, which Elizabeth Hepburn has inherited. EMN-200128-153214001

The lake in the grounds of the former Wilsford hall, which Elizabeth Hepburn has inherited. EMN-200128-153214001

It has been owned by the family for 70 years and was originally part of the Duke of Rutland’s estate, created in the grounds of the former Wilsford Hall. Her former family home is under separate ownership.

Ms Hepburn says it is a beautiful freshwater lake sourced by a spring at West Willoughby, and a beck passes through Wilsford, under Sleaford Golf Club course before joining the River Slea.

The hidden, unspoilt lake has even attracted otters to return in the last five or six years.

It is also home to foxes, badgers, Canada Geese, swans, dragonflies and kingfishers.

The lake spans about three-quarters of an acre and is set in about three acres of grounds.

Elizabeth said: “Our lake was always stocked with roach. My father bought it in 1955 as he was a fisherman.

“When we were kids we skated on it and found freshwater pearls in it. I often liked to paint and position my pictures near it too.”

She explains that the old Wilsford Hall, built in 1640, was sold off, dismantled and shipped to America to be rebuilt. The remains of its cellars and some stonework still exist.

“Someone came and built a mock-up of the hall nearby, called Copse Hall,” she says.

“The old stable has fallen down. I would ride my pony to Sleaford Show when the road was just a lane.”

She remembers the hall’s former owner was Colonel Bolby of Culverthorpe Hall.

She is now looking at how to keep the lake and maintain it: “I would like to keep it so I can have visitors to camp and fish,” she said, but has advertised it with a view to maybe selling a share to someone to restock it and fish in it too.

She hopes the otters would not be a deterrent but could not bear a return of the otter hunts in the beck she remembers as a girl.

Elizabeth recalls: “My father would dredge the lake with a tractor to stop it silting up. It has an island with a bridge to it. A lot of the trees have preservation orders on them as part of the village conservation area.”

Elizabeth adds that her brother was a beekeeper and jars of honey were handed out at his funeral service a couple of weeks ago at the Salvation Army hall.

She says many villagers do not even know of the existence of this little bit of paradise within its walled garden: “The land has snowdrops and aconites in profusion. My brother kept bees and I painted the white waterlilies just like a Monet painting on the lake.”