Ponds Old and New

Alvecote Wood was blessed with just a single pond when we took over ownership in 2007.  But if you want to improve biodiversity and create new habitat, then ponds are a fantastic way to go about it.  During 2008 we created 5 more ponds:  three near our building in the boggy area of meadow, and two more terraced ponds in the silted-up remains of the original pond.  At the time we took advice from Pond Conservation – and very good advice it was too.

Instead of putting in one huge pond, we put in several ponds, of different shapes, sizes and depths, with different sources of water:  rainwater, groundwater and ditchwater.  Some areas were designed to dry out during the Summer and some to stay wet all year round.  Scalloped sloping edges were designed to give access to animals and birds for drinking, and to allow amphibians to exit the ponds, as well as provide varied pond margin habitat.

We started the ponds off with a few native pond plants that we bought in, and also transported some plants from our single existing pond to help populate the new ponds.  Then we sat and waited…

With the acquisition of Betty’s Wood, our arable field adjacent to Alvecote Wood, putting in ponds and wet woodland was the obvious choice in the damper areas of the field.  Indeed, there were areas waterlogged even during a drought in this field, so ponds were the ideal solution to this waterlogging.

Today, afer a number of months of planning, and discussion, and waiting for planning permission, we were finally able to start digging the ponds.  Jeremy Biggs from Pond Conservation visited us, and helped advise on the shape, location, size and depth of the ponds to be created.  With a large area unconstrained by existing trees, we were able to plan two large 30m x 10m ponds, and a few smaller ones as well.  On a cold, windy and rainy day, it was exciting to see the digger making its mark, and the new ponds starting their new life.

We didn’t stop with the new ponds though – while Bill and his digger were changing the landscape, we visited our older ponds and did conductivity tests and some pond dipping.  Even in the rain and wind, pond dipping is huge fun.  We were delighted that our plan of stacking our ponds resulted in the gradual removal of contaminants as you worked down the hill towards the lower end of the stack.

The pond dipping was also excellent:  a whole host of different types of snails (including ramshorn snails) were found, along with a variety of dragonfly and damselfly larvae, some amazing caddis fly larvae, mayfly larvae, water-boatmen and back-swimmers, pond skater larvae and flatworms.  We were surprised to find a pair of smooth newt in the pond most susceptible to drying out.  Best of all was the huge diving beetle nearly 5cm long that we found in Pond One.

As well as the creatures, the flora are also developing nicely, with a number of species arriving of their own accord, including watercress.  All of this bodes well for the development of the new ponds, which we will be following closely over the coming months and years.  There is nothing more wonderful than a pond alive with dragonflies in the summer.  We hope that this new habitat will significantly improve the diversity of the area, bring in new species, extend the options for existing species and provide endless enjoyment.  And we hope for lots, lots more pond-dipping opportunities!

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