Bitterwell Lake, also referred to as Bitterwell Pond, is situated near the junction of roads leading to Coalpit Heath and Ram Hill. This man-made lake is now used as a fishing lake and is owned by Westerleigh Parish Council. It was acquired by the Parish Council in 1930 having formerly been part of land owned by the Coalpit Heath Colliery Company.
In the past the lake was used to soak the pit props for the mine, and more recently for bathing, fishing, model yachting and boat hire.
The lake is over 3 acres in extent and at the time of purchase was surrounded by numerous stone and tiled buildings and two detached cottages with gardens.
It is difficult to establish when precisely the lake was excavated but it was after 1845 as it does not appear on the Westerleigh Tithe Map 1845 and before 1881 as it is clearly shown on the 1st edition (1881) Ordnance Survey Map.
There is also uncertainty about the functions of Bitterwell Lake in relation to the mines at Henfield. It may have supplied reservoir water for the mine engines. Sluices regulated water in the lake and within living memory the overflow went to The Clamp, another reservoir pond that had been constructed near the Serridge Pit.
In the 1930s Bitterwell Lake received wide coverage in the newspapers that it was the home of Tarzan who lived in a tree-house and climbed like a monkey.
An example is provided by The Mercury, in Hobart, Tasmania, that reported on 10 October 1934 that in the woods around Bitterwell Lake, near Bristol, is a man aged 20, who lives in the tree tops wearing only a leopard skin. His name is Bernard Skuse but he is known to his friends as Tarzan. "That's my favourite tree" he told the "Daily Express" Bristol correspondent pointing out the tallest of a number of trees clustering round the lake. He was at the top in ten seconds swinging through the branches of adjacent trees to reach it.
He lives in an eyrie among the leaves which he built himself. It has a wooden floor and a thatched roof. His explanation of his predilection for this mode of life is: "I like it so I do it."
He is bronzed with a perfectly proportioned muscular body. He explained that his feet are rather flat, which makes climbing easy. When not at work he hunts with a spear, a knife and a bow and arrow. When he feels hot he dives into the lake."
Nowadays Bitterwell Lake is solely used for fishing but at the same time represents an important local amenity for the surrounding area. A record 8.5 lb eel was caught at Bitterewell Lake in 1922. This held the national record for almost half a century.
Bernard Skuse 'Tarzan'