Saturday, 7 February 2009

New pond

After clearing away all the soil-heaps from the Great Meadow Project, our contractors finished up by creating a new pond for us on the site of the old gravel storage area. They first dug down a couple of metres to see what was underneath, but only found waste "pea-gravel" mixed with sand, the odd tyre and tractor part. They also struck water, which, as expected, keeps the level of the nearby Heronry Lake. Now, this can rise or fall by about a metre, which is not good for a lake that will only be about a metre and a half deep in the middle. We will have to line the pond so that we can fill it to a more or less constant level to suit our needs.

The pea gravel is very soft and collapses easily so we are keeping people off until the lining is in place. At the moment there is a temporary fence around the area, but in the next few weeks we will put up a permanent post-and-rail fence. The public will still have access to the permissive path that leads behind the Lafarge plant but there is a slight detour where you leave the Heron Trail. All will be obvious when you see it.

Why another pond? You may think that we have plenty of ponds already, and lots more to come, but we don't really. We have a lot of deep lakes, all with predatory fish in them. We also have a lot of temporary puddles that dry up, but we only have a few ponds suitable for amphibians. We hope that this pond will be better for frogs than most of our existing ones. Frogs have almost disappeared from Paxton in recent years. By having a lined, self-contained pond away from the road, we also hope to avoid pollution from run off.

However, the main reason we wanted this pond was for educational purposes. The adjoining enclosure is to become our new hands-on educational area. We need to have a reasonably large pond, handy for pond dipping with schools who may only be with us for a couple of hours. Of course, the pond will not be ready for use for a year or two. We need to let the wildlife and the plants colonise it first.

We do not introduce any plants or animals to the reserve, not even frogs, as these might carry a disease such as "red-leg" which has wiped out many wild populations. We already have a lot of invasive "alien" plants and a few unwanted animals such as terrapins and zebra mussels.

I'm excited about the pond. It will be a lovely feature in future years.