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Ponds for Life

Author Kevin Lerwill

toad at his \'Local\' / Alan Price

I would like to suggest that the one of the most valuable habitats to have in your garden is a pond. I would even go as far as to suggest that a garden without a pond is like a village without a pub and as you might visit your local pub on a Friday night for a few quiet jars, a gossip with your mates and a bite to eat, so does the wildlife in and around a pond.

Sussex is fortunate to have a network of ponds, both natural and man-made as well as mill ponds, lakes and reservoirs. I see these as the hearts of a Living Landscape. The streams and rivers that flow to and from them are the veins and arteries, transporting wildlife around our natural environment, providing food and shelter for a complex eco-system.

There is something very satisfying about creating a new pond for wildlife (or improving an existing one) and Im looking forward to a volunteer task in February at St Leonards Forest, near Horsham. With Natural Englands blessing, we are planning to enlarge a few ponds that have been accidently created by recent clear felling operations in one of the plantation areas. This area will be a magnet for all kinds of wildlife, especially the many dragonfly species that this site is famous forI will be keeping an eye out for black darters and small red damselflies especially!

If you have a pond, or want to make one, here are my top 10 tips:

  1. Cut back overhanging branches in winter to improve light levels
  2. Carefully remove up to 50% of any dominant pond weeds each autumn

    (These should be left by the pond to allow any invertebrates caught up to find their way back into the water)

  3. Plant a variety of plants at each level - margins, surface, mid-floating and fully submerged
  4. Ensure you have at least one shallow edge to allow access to and from the water
  5. Ensure you have a deeper part which does not freeze in winter
  6. Provide homes for wildlife nearby- rock piles / old logs / tall grass etc
  7. Ideally use rainwater to top up water levels - tap water costs money and is treated
  8. Remove blanket weed in summer by wrapping it around a stick
  9. Ensure it is free from disturbance from cats and dogs where possible
  10. Ensure it is fenced off if small children use the area

Finally, dont forget to spend time in the summer watching the wildlife that uses your pond It will be time well spent!

Click here for our pond factsheet


  • 03 Feb 2012 09:27:30

    We have had a number of requests asking what species of native plants are suitable for a pond. Kevin has kindly provided this list. Invasive plants such as Parrots Feather should be avoidedClick here for more information

    Native Plant List

    Marginal plants the marsh plants will all grow happily around the edge of the pond. The following will cope with water as much as 15cm deep.

    Yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus)
    Water mint (Mentha aquatica
    Water plaintain (Alisma plantago-aquatica)
    Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga)
    Water forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides)
    Lesser spearwort (Ranunculus flammula)

    Native wildflowers for the marsh:

    Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
    Meadowsweet (Fillipendula ulmaria)
    Salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor)
    Ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi)
    Meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris)
    Hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum)
    Codlins and cream or Hairy willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum)
    Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)
    Marsh woundwort (Stachys palustris)
    Bugle (Ajuga reptans)
    Creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)

    Emergent plants these wildflowers will grow in deeper water and send their leaves and stems up above the water surface.

    Bog bean (Menyanthes trifoliate)
    Greater spearwort (Ranuncukus lingua)
    Flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus)
    Burr Reed (Sparganium erectum)
    Lesser reedmace (Typha latifolia)

    Plants which are floating leaved and bottom- rooted

    White waterlily (Nymphaea alba)
    Yellow waterlily (Nymphaea lutea)
    Broad-leaved pondweed (Potamogeton natans)
    Amphibious bistort ((Polygonum amphibium)
    Water crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis)

    Submerged aquatic plants providing oxygen and cover for the more secretive pondlife.

    Spiked water milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum)
    Curly pondweed (Potamogeton crispus)
    Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)
    Water starwort (Callitriche spp)

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