Author Kevin Lerwill
The Friends of St Leonardís Forest have recently spent three task days, led by the Gatwick Greenspace Project, expanding the network of small ponds in St. Leonardís Forest, a Forestry Commission site just to the east of Horsham, that were created as a result of major clear felling by the forestry contractors.
Once the timber had been extracted, a series of craters remained where the tree roots had been pulled out by the heavy machinery. These in turn, had begun to fill with rainwater over the past few months (despite the relatively low levels of rainfall that we have had this winter) and since the soil here consists mainly of heavy Weald clay, the water has remained in these holes to form semi-natural pondsÖ the perfect habitat for a variety of plants and invertebrates. There are several different mosses and sedge grasses colonizing the waterís edge and pond skaters and water boatmen are also now resident.
The main aim was to connect up these damp areas and in some cases, deepen them slightly so that they hold water for longer into the summer. They were also quite small, so by extending them, it is hoped that they will be a more attractive breeding area for the many damselflies and dragonflies that this site is already famous for. The larvae of some dragonfly species can be cannibalistic, so by enlarging these ponds, we hope to reduce the risk of overcrowding in the water. Our longer term aim is to attract less common dragonfly species here, such as black darters and small red damselflies.
The group meets at the Old Rangerís Lodge on the bridleway, south of Forest Road, Colgate (map ref TQ 221 324) on the fourth Sunday of each month.