By Charlotte Owen, WildCall Officer
Water. Where would we be without it? The truth is, we probably wouldn’t be at all. Water is the key to life on our blue planet but beyond our vast oceans, glaciers and underground aquifers only a tiny fraction of it (just 0.1%) is accessible on the surface in freshwater ponds, rivers, lakes and wetlands.
Burton Mill Pond © Robin Crane
Sussex is home to some stunning and unique wetland landscapes, from coastal grazing marshes and saltmarsh to reedbeds, chalk streams, wet heathlands, ancient floodplain woodlands and sandstone gills. These wet and watery places tend to be magnets for wildlife, from water voles to reed warblers, otters and amphibians: drinking, bathing, swimming, feeding, breeding, lurking, hunting and living. So if you’re keen to help wildlife in your own outdoor space, whether you’re lucky enough to have a large garden, a little patio or a tiny balcony: just add water.
A shallow dish can provide a watering hole for garden birds, who will be grateful for a drink but also need to take regular baths to keep their feathers in prime condition. This is especially important in the hot, dry summer months but also in the winter when their usual water sources freeze over.
Hedgehogs, mice, voles and other small mammals will also be grateful for a drink, as will larger garden visitors like badgers and foxes. If you’re lucky you might even see bats swooping down to scoop up a mouthful. Insects need water too, and you can make a bee-friendly water feature by adding a few pebbles or floating corks on the surface so that they have somewhere to perch safely, and can escape if they accidentally fall in.
If you have the space, a garden pond is the ultimate wildlife feature. It’s a habitat for aquatic creatures from dragonflies and damselflies to frogs, toads, newts and even grass snakes – and it’s also a wonderful place to spend time, relax and enjoy being outside. A good wildlife pond doesn’t need to be big or particularly deep, and in smaller spaces you can convert an old bucket, sink or dustbin lid into a miniature water world, teeming with life.