Sharing our passion for ponds

15th June 2017

We know ponds. We love ponds. And we want to share them with you!

For nearly 30 years, we’ve been studying ponds. When we started, ponds were judged by their size, and dismissed as unimportant for wildlife. The theory was that the larger waters – the rivers and lakes – must be more important simply because they were bigger.

We’ve proved that to be wrong. And along the way, we’ve learnt a lot about ponds. How to make them. How to care for them. How insanely lovely they can be, stacked with all manner of fascinating and rare plants and animals. Our wish is to share that with you, so you can love them, make them, and care for them too.

Sharing our knowledge

Earlier this month, we ran a workshop on pond creation and management with the Meres and Mosses project. Landowners and mangers from across the region came armed with questions about their own ponds, and we had a great time unpicking all our received wisdom and preconceptions about good wildlife ponds.

Myths smashed!

Preconceptions such as…

Duckweed is always a bad sign? It’s actually a normal part of pond wildlife, and provides shelter and food to a range of animals.

Open or deep water is vital for a good pond? Generally not. One or two species may like it, but most animals will be lurking in the shallow, weedy water where they can find food, shelter, and protection from predators.

Clear water is clean water? You can’t judge a book by it cover. Gloopy green or brown water full of algae probably means there is a nutrient pollution problem, but clear water could be polluted too.

An afternoon in the Cheshire countryside

Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s Bickley Hall Farm was a brilliant spot for the workshop. A great classroom, and three contrasting ponds within 100 metres which offered lots of talking points.

We had engaging discussions about when active management might be helpful. How important it is to think about WHY we want to manage ponds. When pond management is a waste of time. And how making new ponds is a great solution to many issues…

Making new ponds is our answer to everything!

Dogs running through a pond every day and causing plants and animals to disappear? Let it be an amenity pond, and dig a new wildlife pond somewhere out of the way.

Heavily polluted pond? Desilting impractical or can’t remove the pollution source? Dig a new pond where the water will be clean.

Pond dries up in the summer but you really want a permanent pond? Please don’t deepen the temporary pond – it’s a fantastic home for wildlife. Dig a new pond, just the way you want it.

(c) Cheshire Wildlife Trust

Making new ponds is a brilliant way of putting clean water back into the landscape. New ponds provide a home for many rare plants and animals that simply cannot survive  in most of the countryside where a shocking 90% of ponds are in a degraded condition. We know it works because we tried it out. And we’ve written a toolkit to help everyone else do it too. It was great to share it with everyone on the workshop.

Clean Water for Wildlife

Our Clean Water for Wildlife test kits gave us useful insight into the ponds. These  kits are very quick and simple to use. In just five minutes, we had results that helped us understand what’s happening in the ponds.

All three ponds have low levels of nitrates. But the phosphate levels are too high. That might help explain the lack of submerged plants in the ponds. Something for the site manager to look into.

Thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, we can provide kits for free, giving everyone the chance to find the clean and polluted ponds, streams, rivers and lakes in their area. We’ve even made a video to show you how to use them. And we’ve got results from all over the country that are revealing the scale of pollution issues as well as finding the clean water sites we need to protect, and helping people look after their sites.

Take away

We ended the sun-soaked day with one-to-one sessions for anyone who had pond issues they needed help with. But it seemed we had answered most questions through our discussions, and everyone felt well armed with their new knowledge and knew where to get more information.

If you would like to learn more about making and caring for ponds and their fabulous wildlife, there’s no better starting place that our Advice Centre.

…for guidance on making the best clean water ponds for wildlife, in gardens or the wider countryside.

…for understanding and tackling a range of common pond problems.

…for a copy of The Pond Book, our comprehensive guide to the management and creation of ponds.

Thank you to everyone who made the day fun and reassurance that together we can make a difference for freshwater wildlife.