Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically, which we share with Chickens, Cats, Guinea Pigs and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I work as an environmental educator, lecturer, writer and Forest School leader at Moors Wood . I am a Master Composter and have spent the last 11 years as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council. I offer talks and run workshops and events where we talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. We also make crafts and have fun.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun. To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Reflections on a Pond


When we first moved in to Compost Mansions, 16 years ago, one of the things which made us fall in love with the place was the pond (the other was the wood!)


The view from the Study window as it used to be.


Having a pond or a pondlet ( that's my word for a very very small pond - think a sunken Belfast sink type size) in your garden creates so much scope for enjoyment - attracting wildlife, helping birds drink, bathe and collect mud for nests, the joy of watching the changing plant life as the year progresses -


We used to have so much wildlife here which was only in our garden due to having a body of water for it to hunt over, lay eggs in and live in. We had wild Ducks, Geese, Coots, Moorhens all nesting and feeding, Herons came regularly and we even saw a Kingfisher one summer. Swallows swooped low over the water on hot summer days, catching insects and scooping a drink.


Huge Dragonflies used to hover and zip over our heads, wanting to see who had entered their territory - did you know Dragonflies have their own territory, and hunt in the same places?



See how huge this one is? It came and sat on the kneeler when I was working in the garden.



Every spring we had hoards of Frogs and Toads all over the drive, all looking for a mate  - and making their desires heard VERY loudly - Frogs in particular are very vocal!


I once counted 128 Toads on the drive at the same time!



And of course after the Toads and Frogs had mated would come the tapioca-like blobs of Frog and ribbons of Toad spawn - in this picture we have carefully taken out a bucket of water from the pond so as to show Toadspawn ( and a Toad!) to children at a local school



Water adds a whole new dimension to a garden - here I was mesmerised by the sunset over the pond.

Our pond  is fed by natural drainage from water running off the surrounding fields and welling up from the ground as well as water falling from the sky.  We spent a lot of time, effort and money in the first year we lived here, making sure we could manage the water levels properly and could divert the inflow from over filling the pond by putting in a large bypass pipe and weir system. This made sure that even if it was very wet the pond would not overflow onto ours or our neighbours land.

However our pond was constructed as a large (20 x 40 metres) man made dug out depression in the clay soil with no pond liner and not even puddled or lined with bentonite - so in the very hot summer of 2003 it dried up completely and the bottom clay cracked open. Over the next few years, although it filled up with water in the winter and spring, as the summer progressed the water slowly drained away through the cracks in the bottom. Even in the very wet summer of 2012 it  filled up but rapidly drained away again into the soil. We could not do much about this - we can control too much water from going in but not stop it draining away through the soil. You can't repair cracks in the soil.

This meant there was no longer a reliable water level for Frog and Toad spawn to survive - often the water level would drop in Spring leaving the spawn to dry out and die on the newly exposed mud. Aquatic plants which need to be either in the water or in the mud could not cope with the changing water levels and slowly but surely our Pool began to wither and die.

For the last few years we have no longer seen or heard the Frogs courting, we have a few adult Toads around but they now spawn in the pool up the lane - the sight of a Dragonfly is something we now exclaim over with excitement because it is so unusual and the pond area itself is just a bramble filled weed infested hole in the ground for most of the year. Even the wild flowers which liked to grow beside a body of water have gone - smothered out by the brambles. In order to stop the soil from becoming waterlogged around the Pool area we actually now divert the inflow water down the drainage pipes most of the time.And we have to spend a lot of time and effort in clearing weeds and brambles.

So - we want to do something with the area to bring it back to life.We also would like to be able to look out on a pleasant view again



Part of the reason for buying the JCB was to re generate and bring back the pool meadow to how we remembered it at its best when it was teeming with wildlife and a beautiful place to sit and watch the world go by. 

So the plan is to dig out a smaller pond (10 x 15 meters),at the inflow end where the pond is now, and put in a pond liner , then allow any water left from the old pond into the new one. Putting in a liner will allow the water  to stay at a fairly constant level and we can hopefully soon welcome back all the Frogs, Toads, Dragonflies etc which used to call us home. We will also move as many of the surviving aquatic and pond loving plants as we can.

This pond will be fed by the same means as before (rainfall and a natural water feed)  and it is designed as a nature pond rather than a more formal, ornamental pond so we probably won't need a pond pump  or a pond filter but if we did need either I would not use mains electricity to power them but would use one of the many solar powered versions available. 

We can then start levelling the man made rise at the far end of where the Pond used to be - filling  in and lowering and levelling the ground to create a meadow area next to the new Pond, which we can re seed with native wildflowers to restore what was once there.

We wanted to get on with all this work last year - we bought the JCB and Compostman restored it with this in mind - but we all know what the weather was like in 2012! And it was just too wet to contemplate using the JCB in the area. 

But IF ( big if) we get some drier weather this year we maybe can get on with the earth moving and suchlike. And then we can welcome back the wildlife we have so missed in recent years.

 












If you are thinking about adding a pond (ornamental or more natural)  in your garden a very good guide can be found here from Bradshaws Direct, along with all manner of equipment available to do with ponds. You can also get lots of advice about wildlife pond making and planting from the Wildlife Trust  here , from Pond Conservation here,  from the RHS here and The RSPB here.







As part of my review of their site I was paid to add the link to Bradshaws Direct in this post, but had already come across them during my Internet trawling on pond related items. As always here in The Compost Bin my words and opinions are entirely my own :-)

6 comments:

  1. Good luck with your pond! I look forward to seeing your progress.

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  2. That would be so good if you can do that. Like you, we have ponds. A small shaped black thing in the front garden. It is surrounded by stones that we have acquired over the years. There are no plants or fish in there but it does usually get lots of frog spawn in it and around 8 - 10 frogs in it in the warmer months. The back 'pond' is a sunken black dustbin with just its upper rim exposed. It too has stones around it and that area is planted up as a more wet area. It rarely gets frogs spawning in it but does get frogs in it. They have become used to me. If they are 'our' frogs we can say hello to them and look at them and they look back. If they are visitors, they dive down straight away!

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  3. Can't wait to see how your new pond turns out! The first was truly beautiful. I would love to do something like that here where we live also - we have frogs breeding in buckets filled with rainwater and the doggy pool. I think they are begging for a real home!

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  4. Very interesting post. Enjoyed it much. Good luck with the new pond and hopefully all the critters will be back.

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  5. We have a very large pond and I'm pretty much petrified of everything in it or that lands on it lol. I wouldn't be without it all though, it's a lovely place to sit and think,until the frogs n toads start croaking of course and then I leg it lol.
    And that is one monstrous sized dragon fly you go there.

    Thanks for sharing

    linda

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  6. hello all :-)

    Well, the ground is beginning to dry out so if the weather holds we may well get started on the earthmoving soon.

    That Dragonfly was the biggest one I have *ever* seen - it landed on my head at one point :-)

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