Whiteknights Lake is believed to have been created in the mid-17th century by damming the natural springs which occur in the area. The lake was further enhanced by the Marquis of Blandford and is now approximately 5.85 hectares in size. The size and length of the lake provides a degree of separation between the north and south of the campus grounds.
Eutrophic in nature, the lake lies towards the centre of Whiteknights. It is a dominant landscape feature and is an important habitat. The lake edges were dense with trees and scrub, but where Laurel and Rhododendron have been removed or trees lost improvement in colonisation and variety of marginal plants has been observed. Yellow Flag Iris and Common Reed are establishing successfully. Due to safety concerns and to provide more opportunities for “wilding” a new strategy of minimal intervention has been implemented since 2020.
There are four pedestrian crossing points that link into a footpath network around the perimeter of the lake and the core academic areas beyond.
Overwintering ducks and gulls are a particular feature of the lake during the autumn and spring terms, particularly on the main lake. Species to look out for include Shovelers, which can be seen swishing their broad spatulate beaks through the water to filter out small invertebrates and seeds. Tufted Duck is the most regular diving duck, along with occasional Pochards. A large flock of gulls winters on campus, dividing their time between resting on the lake and feeding on the playing fields. Among 50 – 100 Black-headed Gulls (which only have their chocolate brown – not black – heads in the breeding season) there are usually a few Common Gulls, which are slightly larger with a pale green-yellow that has a dark smudge about two-thirds of the way to the tip. Little Egrets are increasingly regular in the winter, and a Grey Wagtail can sometimes be seen on the small dam by the pumping station near Stenton Hall.