The Waterworks

The South Down area can boast many splendid natural attractions for visitors and residents
alike. I was aware of many of these before moving there several decades ago but one was a
delightful surprise when I discovered it less than a mile from my home.
The Donaghaguy Reservoir – or The Waterworks to locals – is a small, spring-fed,
inland lake, set in the tranquil townland of Donaghaguy, on the outskirts of the seaside town
of Warrenpoint. It’s tucked discreetly into the angle made by two country roads that meet at a
crossroads and if you didn’t know it was there you could easily miss it and that would be a
Nowadays, no longer a reservoir, it’s managed by the Newry, Mourne and Down
Council as a wildlife reserve. The area around it has been nicely developed with a pleasant
walk around the lake, a picnic area and car park. The facility is well used, mostly by locals
who frequent it the year round for casual strolls, more robust walks or just enjoyment of the
wildlife. But I suspect that inquisitive visitors may also leave the main coastal route on their
travels from Newry and beyond to Kilkeel and Newcastle and find their way to the secluded
attraction. If they do, they’re well rewarded for their trouble by the tranquil beauty of the
The Waterworks is also a fishery – the rights are owned by a local angling club which
stocks it regularly with rainbow and brown trout. Worm and fly fishing are allowed during
the season. Several angling platforms jut into the water to facilitate fishing.
No matter when you visit, you’re sure to notice parents come with children to watch
and feed the many swans, mallards and coots that inhabit the 1.5-hectare lake and the reeds
and lush vegetation surrounding it. They remind me of when I brought my own children,
clutching their bags of bread for the birds. Nowadays, I take my grandchildren there when
they visit from abroad and enjoy their excitement at getting close to swans resting on the
grass by the edge of the water preening themselves or seeing coots compete with ducks for
soggy pieces of bread.
In recent times I’ve had more opportunity to drop by and noticed for the first time a
rookery in a cluster of tall trees just off the path at one end of the lake. The raucous cawing of
the birds is hard on the ears as you pass underneath, hoping not to get dropped on. At the
opposite end of the lake a wooden bridge spans an area of dark stagnant water separated by
dense reeds from the rest of the lake. It reminds me of images I’ve seen of Florida’s
Everglades and I almost expect a crocodile to emerge from it one day. In other reedy parts,
you will see enormous nests in spring where pairs of swans incubate eggs that will hatch into
grey cygnets before long. A regular visitor can follow the progress of the offspring as they
mature but might be dismayed to find that they usually decrease in number over the summer,
probably falling prey to predators.
The circular path brings you by hawthorn, ivy, honeysuckle and holly bushes. Several
crab apple trees litter it with green fruit in autumn. Depending on the season, it’s bordered by
bluebells, cow parsley, and leafy ferns.
The old reservoir is a virtual outdoor classroom, where young and old can learn
something new about the natural world on every visit. I love it especially as a peaceful haven,
always thankful that it’s almost on my doorstep.