Author Kevin Lerwill
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 I’m looking forward to a volunteer task in February at St Leonard’s Forest, near Horsham. With Natural England’s 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 for…I 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:
- Cut back overhanging branches in winter to improve light levels
- 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)
- Plant a variety of plants at each level - margins, surface, mid-floating and fully submerged
- Ensure you have at least one shallow edge to allow access to and from the water
- Ensure you have a deeper part which does not freeze in winter
- Provide homes for wildlife nearby- rock piles / old logs / tall grass etc
- Ideally use rainwater to top up water levels - tap water costs money and is treated
- Remove blanket weed in summer by wrapping it around a stick
- Ensure it is free from disturbance from cats and dogs where possible
- Ensure it is fenced off if small children use the area
Finally, don’t forget to spend time in the summer watching the wildlife that uses your pond… It will be time well spent!