Discovering Langham Pond

Ed Tebbs, Runnymede Explored project volunteer Ed Tebbs Runnymede Explored project volunteer
Langham Pond Runnymede

Immortalised in Rudyard Kipling's poem 'The Reeds of Runnymede', Langham Pond at Runnymede is a perfect place for you to head towards if you're looking for a varied countryside walk through beautiful meadows.

As you park and secure your car in South Lodge car park, you expose yourself to the wuthering autumnal weather. This is a walk that will require a change into some sturdy walking boots or wellies, and a cosy raincoat. Making your way onto the adjacent field you’re struck by a fierce gust of wind that ripples the grasses, bringing loose leaves tumbling along with it. Looking out beyond the Jurors you pause to admire the beauty of the Runnymede tree line—how the plethora of auburn, yellow and green hues weave upwards together to meet the sky’s endless grey. Wary of the squelching mud underfoot, you carefully make your way across the field. You pick the yellow marked footpath route from the handy marker near the kissing gate. Passing through the gate, you circumvent Writ in Water and head into the woods.

The woodlands are relatively quiet this time of year, giving the illusion that the local wildlife are hibernating or hiding. But should you peer deeper you’ll be well rewarded. The character of the landscape is evidence to the contrary. Mushrooms have sprouted in delicate fairy rings off the beaten path. Squirrels scuttle between branches and thrushes dart overhead. In the upper canopy you spot what might once have been a sparrowhawk nest, now a forlorn clutter of thatched twigs. As you walk further along the trail the earthy sights and smells ignite your imagination. When you spot a hollow in the bulk of a grand oak tree, you cannot help but picture a weathered Tawny Owl, peering out sagely, studying you from his homely shelter. Kicking your way through piles of littered leaves, you turn left at the next yellow marker and continue on through the next gate.

The mud by the gate is thick and oozes out from underfoot. Careful of your balance, you duck through a narrow passage of close-knit branches that open up into a clearing. The wind whips at you again and you realise you’ve breached the invisible barrier between woodland and open plain. In the background to the left, cars trundle by on the A308. The hum of traffic comes to the forefront of your mind—the faint throb of engines grinding over tarmac—but the noise is repressed and gives way to the stillness of the scenery. The livestock in the field parallel to your position stand firm and stoic, unaffected by the intermittent gusts of wind pulling at the reeds in front of you. You wave to a woman who is sensibly walking her dog on a lead and approach Langham pond.

The pond itself, not unlike the woodlands of Runnymede, holds more to it than meets the eye. While the pond may only be a couple of feet deep, it is best to be wary of the water’s edge and of the potentially unstable ground. Watching closely you glimpse the fleeting rings of ripples made by midges and flies that disturb the otherwise pristine surface. You walk over the helpful wooden bridge on the left hand side of the pond, taking care to avoid the romantically overgrown thorns that have started to creep onto the woodwork. The informative plaque there tells you that, were this a Summer month, the fragile foliage at the perimeter of the water would be alive with Dragonflies and Damselflies. Throughout Runnymede and Ankerwycke there are over 27 species indigenous to these local areas.

You make a mental note to revisit Runnymede and Langham Pond in season, when it’s generally warmer and less windy. Back over the bridge and trailing along beside the pond, you pause to admire something at your feet. A Smooth Newt is padding along the boggy terrain, but you lose sight of him as he darts seamlessly into the taller grasses. As the first raindrops splatter and disappear into the pond’s surface, you turn and make your way back towards the gate. Perhaps to take a moment’s shelter in the woodland before heading back to the car.