Lying along the south-eastern boundary of Ludshott Common the area is within the Ludshott SSSI and receives special emphasis due to the lichens and fungi found on the site. The range of woodland lichens is so extensive that the site has been graded as of county importance by the British Lichen Society.
The stream which feeds the three lakes, arises from springs along Stoney Bottom in Grayshott and is a tributary of the southern part of the River Wey. Two of the lakes were made or enlarged c 1623 by John Hooke, then Lord of the Manor. He diverted the stream and flooded 'manorial waste' (not wasteland but valuable heathland grazing), which raised complaints from neighbours and tenants.
This series of three lakes, together with the surrounding semi-natural ancient woodland, were purchased for the National Trust in 1919 as a memorial to the late Sir Robert Hunter
(a founder of the Trust). He had lived locally and was instrumental in the acquisition of Ludshott Common for the nation.
The area is well known as a beauty spot and has inspired the novelist Flora Thompson and the poet
Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
The purpose of the lakes is unknown. They are often referred to as Hammer ponds - used in the iron industry (Canon Capes, 'Rural Life in Hampshire', 1901) but there is no real evidence to support this explanation unless with changing economic times they were built but never used. They may have been created to supply fish or to act as a reserve water supply for the watermeadows and mill at Passfield - very possibly for both reasons. It is certain, however, that "three large fish ponds plentifully stocked with fish" existed when the estate changed hands in 1814.
The tradition of fishing at Waggoners Wells has continued to this day, although now for recreation rather than as a valuable food source. (Although just recently it is alleged thet, at night, there is some poaching of the magnificent carp from the lake near the ford.) Fishing was even possible during the Second World War when the lakes were requisitioned by the Army as a water source for the Camps built on Ludshott Common. After the war, the middle lake was stocked with trout, with the Fishing Warden living in one half of the house at Summerden. This ended in 1988 due to the popularity of the lakes to visitors and the increasing cost of stock fish. Coarse fishing, mostly roach and perch, now takes place on all three lakes, looked after by the Angling Section of the Grayshott Social Club, who have given great help in maintaining the fishing platforms.
Ensuring the quality of the water is made difficult by the oil and grease that runs down Waggoners Wells Road, despite the existence of a large silt trap near the ford, and the annual leaf fall which causes the lakes to gradually get shallower. Major dredging to the top lake was carried out in 1980 and to the top of the middle lake a few years later. And in spring 2013, the silt trap was again emptied.
Over the years the dams have shown signs of their age, springing leaks which cause concern. Repairs were carried out to the top two dams in 1991 and during the winter of 2012 - 2013 much restoration work on the somewhat eroded upper and middle dams, required under a revised Reservoirs Act, was completed by contractors.
Contractor’s machinery - December 2012
Unfortunately the finish was not as good as hoped due to the bad weather conditions. More restoration work will therefore be needed.
A substantial grant towards this restoration was received from central funds but additional costs were kept down by using our own timber for many of the shoring baulks.
Newly restored dam - December 2012
To maintain access around the lakes, in July 2006, the foot bridge over the outflow from the middle to the downstream lake was replaced. It was built by the wardens using wind-thrown oak taken from the NT woodland at Thornhill, Passfield and prepared by a local saw mill. The project was funded by a grant from the Three Counties Association of NT members and the bridge was ceremonially opened by their Chairman, Mr Michael West.
Upkeep work continues; including the monitoring of the beech trees. In 2008 some started to show signs of a phythopthera fungal infestation, similar to 'Sudden Oak Death', which has resulted in some felling being necessary. Rhododendron has been cited as a carrier for the disease, another reason for the clearance of this non-native invasive shrub.
Waggoners Wells is a place of great beauty, which some thought could be further enhanced if swans were sailing on the water. To achieve this, a pair of swans was given to the National Trust by the Vintners Company in 1931, and an island created at the top of the middle lake as a sanctuary where they could nest. Sadly, this proved ineffective as many birds were killed over the years by dogs or foxes. Finally, the cob swan and two cygnets were found dead in 1980, so the pen was given to a bird sanctuary and no more swans were acquired.Maps and events can be found on other site pages.