We are very fortunate that, outside our back door, we have a field roughly an acre in size. Unfortunately, it consists of half bog and half stone. The stone makes cultivation difficult (some pieces weigh half a ton and would be ideal for dry stone walling), and the bog is wet all year round, except in the winter when it resembles a shallow lake! The water-logged nature of the land has meant that the ground source heat pump pipes will maintain a more even temperature even though they were more difficult to lay initially (the trenches filled with water as soon as they were dug!).
In the past we have planted Alder and Willow in an attempt to soak up some of the water, and have managed to reclaim a corner of the field where it is slightly less damp than elsewhere, but have never really made much impression on the water levels. Every winter the water table rises higher and higher until it engulfs the lower end of the chickens’ compound and the poor hens are paddling.
Needless to say we find a lot of frogs and toads on our land, local mallards occasionally visit, even a few moorhens have investigated the field. We wanted to encourage a more diverse wildlife population, perhaps have resident ducks, dragonflies and other insects.
When the trenches were being dug for the ground source heat pump, we asked if the workmen could dig us a pond, with a small island for security (should any ducks decide to make it their home), and a stream to carry water from our many small springs to the pond and another stream to take excess water away into the watercourse beyond our land. Our field had always drained into the watercourse, we just made the operation more efficient. The pond looked barren and bare to begin with, but certainly did its job; within a week or two of the pond being dug, we were able to walk across the lower part of our land, something we have been unable to do in nearly 18 years!
In only a few weeks, we have been able to start planting up the margins of the pond with Iris pseudacorus, purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris), Duck Potato (Sagittaria latifolia), Red Water Dock (Rumex sanguinea), Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos cuculi), and Lesser Spearwort (Ranunculus flammula). In the pond itself we planted Hottonia palustris and Water Soldier as oxygenating plants. I also researched the types of reed required to help purify the water, as some of the water flowing into the pond would be liquid runoff from the package sewerage plant. Eventually, we bought 150 Norfolk Reed (Phragmites australis) plants and 50 Common Reedmace (Typha latifolia) to plant along the streams and around the pond. These have been happily growing all summer and have burgeoned into a mass of vegetation.
Within weeks of the digging having finished, the grasses and sedges started to recolonise the bog, and the summer has given the growth a huge boost. Now, only six months after the pond was dug, you would not know that the land had been disturbed at all. Mallards have been spending increasing amounts of time paddling around the island or snoozing on the bank of the pond. The water’s surface has been alive with water boatmen and these have proved a source of food all summer long for the many swallow families that nest in nearby outbuildings. I have spotted rooks from the local rookeries drinking and bathing in the shallows at the edge, as well as blackbirds and wagtails. Even a heron visited us, stood on the pond bank for half an hour, then waded around the island and ate something (we couldn’t see what!)
It will be interesting to observe the visitors to the pond through the changing seasons, particularly over the coming winter.