Eton College 'sad' to close Dorney Lake over the summer

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

Would-be visitors to Dorney Lake have expressed disappointment at a decision to close it to the public over summer once again.

In March last year, Eton College, which owns the lake and surrounding land, announced it was going to close public access to the lake following ‘persistent incidents’ of anti-social behaviour.

This included littering, jumping off bridges and abuse of alcohol and drugs.

At the time, those who liked to use the path expressed frustration with the decision.

Now the college has once again taken the decision to close the lake to the public until September 2022, starting on Monday this week.

Janet Walker, bursar at Eton College, said the reasons were a mixture; that the college tends to be ‘overwhelmed’ in summer, plus concerns about parking overload and antisocial behaviour.

She said that since being used for the Olympics, the site has become more and more popular, bringing far more people when the warm weather comes than in previous years.

“There are only about 40 parking spaces so people park all around Dorney, which causes quite a lot of aggravation to residents,” she said. “Those that live in Dorney are actually quite relieved it’s closed.”

She added that the antisocial behaviour on Dorney Lake was worse than mere littering. There were incidents of urination into residents’ gardens and injuries from broken glass.

Others have branded the closure as an ‘excessive’ response to the poor behaviour of a few.

Maidonian Sean Haywood cycles the route on his morning commute and is disappointed to see it close.

“It’s a lovely, tranquil spot and at the weekend, so many families come to cycle and roller-skate, now that’s gone,” he said.

“There will always be a percentage of people who won’t stick to the rules and you need procedures to overcome it.

“Everyone has the same defeatist attitude of ‘we’re all left the suffer because of the few.’ But why is the community left to suffer? Why isn’t there a better system?”

He suggested some form of booking system – but Janet told the Advertiser this would likely require someone at the gate at all times and would be ‘very expensive’.

She confirmed that the lake would remain open for private events to help bring in funds for the upkeep of the lake.

“We don’t receive any Government funding and it’s not a public amenity. We have to pay for damage from vandalism ourselves,” she said.

She added that, with cyclists using the path nearest the lake intended for rowing coaches, the site’s primary purpose as a rowing lake isn’t being served.

“It was [also] envisioned as an amenity for people around Dorney, just not a group of 100 people. We’re sad that it can’t open to the public like it used to,” said Janet.

The College will look at whether to open Dorney Lake over the summer on an annual basis.

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