Bewl Water

The Waters We Live By

Leah Lee Mills

As I was trawling through Google Maps, searching for local areas I could potentially do an article on, my cursor briefly hovered over a particular place. I moved on to look at other local areas of interest, but I found my cursor clawing back to (yet another of) one of my childhood haunts.

When I was young and tiny, Bewl Water had always seemed gigantic – a vast land all for me to explore. The memories I have of the reservoir are of hot, sticky summer days filled with families taking their kids on bike-rides along the lip of the reservoir, or eating sandwiches made by grandma on the sandy shores, with the clear blue pool of water seemingly stretching on for miles. When my mother worked at my first primary school, they organised an annual ‘Dragon Boat Race’. It was exactly what it said on the tin – adults packed into thin boats and raced each other, the bow decorated with the head of a dragon.  Needless to say, I had not been back to Bewl Water in a long time. Furtherly needless to say, I was very excited when we drove up just as the day was ending, and found this spectacular view as we parked:


The view had not changed a jot, but when I entered the main building I was disheartened to find the exhibition about water – complete with dousing rods I used to hit people with – had transformed into a fancy function room. It looked pretty, but I wondered if anyone who sat in that wide-open space had any idea of the winding maze of boards that once littered the hall, displaying facts about the reservoir and the world’s supply of water.


To avoid depressing myself further, I stepped back out to the shores, and was amazed by the hue of the water. It rippled so perfectly, was coloured such a perfect, deep shade of blue that I was reminded of water bottle ads that boasted the pure appearance of their water. The only other body of water I had ever seen that shade had been the deep waters up by the chilly harbour-city of Stavanger, Norway.  It was so strange to see it so still, the area so quiet; the only people who seemed to be populating Bewl Water at the time I visited were families having their dinnertime picnics. Luckily, the stillness presented me with plenty of opportunities to take arty photos.


There was one place I had to check before I left Bewl Water. As we had pulled up to the reservoir, I saw the impressive, towering, recreational structures that did not exist when I was a kid. This new playpark had instilled irrational fear in me that the old playpark, far away from the shores, had been destroyed. I was very aware of how strange I looked, jogging over to the area that was so deeply ingrained into my brain, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw it was still there.


The old playpark is very run down, but still impressive to me. Even as a young adult, seeing the giant wooden ship covered in sand from years of plimsolls thudding across the top of it, I felt in awe of the creativeness of the park. With regret, I did not test the long slide out, or creak on the rusty swings, due to actual children with their parents using the park. But there was one place I felt able to explore. Making sure it was completely empty, I crouch-walked into the wooden structure shaded by trees that had once been the hang-out spot for six year-old me.  The house is based on the Goldilocks story; there are different rooms with different-sized beds and chairs. While I could not even attempt to get into baby bear’s room, I was quite at home in Daddy Bear’s chair:

I’m wearing really small shorts. I swear.

Sitting in there, I was overwhelmed by so much nostalgia that I had to flee and take my lighter photo. It was all too much.  The lighter I chose was from the Poundland pack I bought in Hailsham; the design on it reminds me of the ending Summer, of how deserted the place had seemed to me upon revisiting it. It reminded me of how kids are still enjoying the reservoir, as I once did. If you need me, I’ll be drinking Panda Pops and listening to the Spice Girls…

Editor: Floss Hafter-Smith


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