Country diary: egrets are enchanting at this great watery expanse

Rutland Water, Rutland: Along the margin a loose flock stalks the shallows, their unblemished plumage shining in the gathering gloom

An unfamiliar sonorous rattle passes over the yellowing aspens, emitted by an elegantly expansive bird as immaculate as virgin snow, a great white egret. It drops down behind the autumnal trees to alight in the shallows of a freshwater lagoon that abuts the largest artificial lake in western Europe.

Rutland Water was constructed in the valley of the River Gwash in the 1970s to store water for the growing population of the East Midlands. A huge clay dam piled up at Empingham flooded 10.86 square kilometres of farmland and a small village. As a body of water in England the resulting lake is second only to Windermere in surface area.

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