Friday, 19 September 2014

Dragonfly Pond

In the old days we would have invited the bishop to bless our new buildings or structures or perhaps asked the lady mayoress to crack a bottle of cheap champagne over the "prow" of our viewing deck, but we are more democratic than that. We invited those who had paid for, planned-for and built our dragonfly pond and the platform that overlooks it.

The whole pond project was managed by the Friends of Paxton Pits to provide something new for visitors, especially those who are perhaps more prone to sitting and looking rather than constantly moving on.

In high summer, song-birds go silent and moult, skulking under bushes and generally becoming invisible, while all kinds of insects emerge to hum, flutter, jump, bite and sting their way about the Reserve. Butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies are at their best in July, August and even September so this facility is a big hit with our visitors at that time.

We originally asked Aggregate Industries to dig the pond to provide an educational opportunity along-side our Environmental Education Centre but things moved on and, for many good reasons, it was decided to focus on smaller ponds where a successful and safe educational experience could be guaranteed. Instead we decided to make the pond a feature for its flowers and insect life, but it was too far from the path to be viewed intimately so, with John Steel, who has built a lot of bridges and paths for us in the past, we designed an easy-to-assemble platform that could sit on a steel frame. Driving supports into the soft ground would have been easy, but they would have had to be long and they would have punctured our pond lining.

The pond lining was put in by Waterlines Solutions from Oundle and it was all paid for with grants from the local Cooperative Society, the Friends of Paxton Pits Nature Reserve and the Aggregate Levy Fund. Of course we had to obtain permissions from Natural England and the Environment Agency and we sped on with the job using Rangers and Volunteers to get it finished to quite a high standard.

Julie Slatter, Ray Matthews Debbie McKenzie and Jo Cobain.
Today we held a little celebration on the site with the partnership represented by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire; The Environment Agency; The Friends of Paxton Pits Nature Reserve; The Co-operative Society; Huntingdonshire District Council and some of our volunteers. We gathered for a briefing in the visitors' centre before moving to the pond for a photo opportunity. Dragonflies were scarce but we spotted a migrant hawker or two and a ruddy darter. A rather large splash in the middle of this (supposedly fishless) pond revealed a shoal of small carp which someone must have "donated" to us. These are most unwelcome as any fish in such a small pond will soon deplete it's insect life. We will have to net them out in the winter.

With the business over, we took a stroll with Education Manager Debbie Mackenzie through the garden of the Environmental Education Centre. It was all a leisurely affair so we had plenty of time to catch up with each other and "network" with colleagues.