Black Park is a country park near Slough in Buckinghamshire, just a stones thrown from the famous Pinewood Studios.
Part of the park was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1990 for its heathland habitat – a tiny remaining fragment of what would once have been an extensive feature in this part of the county. This heathland also supports a range of uncommon freshwater species in the numerous ponds, some of which are historic and some which have been newly created in recent years.
Freshwater Habitats Trust’s interest in Black Park dates back to the 1990s when the critically endangered aquatic plant Starfruit Damasonium alisma was introduced to the site as part of a conservation plan to help save this species from extinction. Starfruit is one of the rarest pond plants in the UK – its name derives from the six-pronged fruit which are produced after the small and delicate white flowers have finished flowering. Whilst Starfruit does show up at Black Park occasionally, the population is not healthy. The exact reasons for this are unclear. The Flagship Ponds project has enabled experimental management to take place on the Starfruit pond, the results of which will be carefully documented over the coming years.
In Spring 2016 the Flagship volunteer group at Black Park surveyed most of the ponds on the site for Great Crested Newts using eDNA test kits. Great Crested Newts had never previously been recorded at the site but amazingly this work generated positive results from one of the ponds. A citizen science project led by one of the volunteers from the group also mapped and tested all the water on the site using quick test kits for nitrate and phosphate to trace and map any pollution threatening the site. This work showed that all ponds were free from nutrients, yet ditches draining into the site were often highly polluted with nitrate which has implications for management of water at this important site.