by Ian Bushell
The original intention was to do the work on the Iris Pond on Friday 21st January, but the Water Team’s Connor Goddard contacted me on the Tuesday afternoon to say that they were ahead of schedule and could begin on Wednesday 19th. I let the digger in through the Allotment gate right away so that it would be there and ready to start work by 8.30am the next morning. The work would be carried out by Max and James of Ecolibrium Environmental Contracting based at Melksham.
Soft rush and yellow iris
The pond, before we began work, was surrounded by trees and bushes with a couple of substantial Crack Willows [Salix fragilis], one on the edge and one in the centre. The water was only about 60cm deep with Soft Rush [Juncus effusus] and Yellow Iris [Iris pseudacorus] growing on its edges. The countryside Team and the friends had at different times, over the years, explored the pond but had never seen any sign of life in it: no frogs or newts or their tadpoles. The only things I had seen were a couple of Damselflies last year.
Removing the crack willow stumps from the pond
Max waded in to assess the depths and with the chain saw trimmed the willow trunks. James operating the digger with great finesse, carefully scooped out the Soft Rush and some of the Yellow Iris for replacing when the pond was finished and then used straps to pull the rooted trunks out of the pond and dump them on the side as the basis of a protective barrier.
Now the main job was to deepen the pool. At its deepest it would need to be about 1.5 metres with shallower areas towards the banks.
The stench of years of rotting willow leaves and vegetable matter was horrendous – no wonder we had found nothing living in there. The detritus was dredged up and dumped on the side to help form the barrier. As the digger got deeper, bricks, stones and other rubbish was brought up – the pond had obviously been used as a dump at some time when it was still part of the farm.
Digging out the pond and erecting the barrier
Eventually satisfied that the pond looked good, James returned the Soft Rush and Iris to the shallow edges. He brought the digger out from beside the pond and helped restore the barrier with dead wood and bramble to deter dogs from going into the pond.
A really good mornings work! This is a wonderful new and different environment within the reserve. Now we will let it settle down and hopefully newts and other aquatic invertebrates and amphibians will sense a new place and travel from around the area to colonise it. In a couple of months time, after the Great Crested Newt breeding season, Connor will return and take a sample of the water for DNA analysis, which will tell how successful we have been.
All pictures of the pond by Simon Knight of Skynamite and Ian Bushell
Header picture: Connor from WWT Water Team by Simon Knight.