Ponds play a key role in our landscapes and are relied on by a wealth of flora and fauna. However, as they are no longer used for watering sheep and cattle, they often become overgrown, dry up and disappear. Back last summer, a new project was launched by Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and Herefordshire Amphibian and Reptile Team to address this and invigorate the wetland of the Bromyard Downs, Brockhampton, and Bringsty areas.
Working alongside representatives from the National Trust, Bromyard Downs Common Association and Bringsty Common Manorial Court, the project is now in full swing and is benefitting from generous funding from Heritage Lottery Fund, Biffa Award and Welcome to Our Future.
So far 18 ponds have been restored with work beginning on the remaining three in the near future. These new ponds are currently looking like muddy puddles or “like a meteorite has hit”, as described by a local resident! This is a normal stage in pond restoration projects and spring will see new life fill the pools.
It is natural to think that new or restored ponds need a helping hand to stop them remaining ‘empty habitats’. Newly restored ponds are a distinctive habitat in themselves that attract certain species such as celery-leaved buttercup and dragonflies. By ‘skipping’ this stage we could potentially be limiting this important refuge. In addition, as pointed out by Charles Darwin; many pond plants and animals are well adapted to find new sites. Bugs and beetles can often recolonise within hours of the ponds holding water. Plants and animals that colonise under their own steam are more likely to be more suited to that habitat. Finally, planting ponds can also increase the chance of introducing invasive non-native species such as New Zealand Pygmyweed (Crassula helmsii). We will be monitoring the restored ponds over the coming months and will be considering whether it is necessary to plant them. However, we would urge members of the public not to introduce plants from other ponds as they may be detrimental to these wetland habitats. We would also urge people not to introduce fish as they predate on amphibians and invertebrates.
Over the coming months we need to ‘fine tune’ the work of the diggers, this will involve getting our hands and feet muddy. We need as many people as possible to get involved with the project so please do get in touch if you would like to muck in!
Next spring we will be running training sessions on how to survey our newly restored ponds. We will also be running courses on tree bog (compost toilet!) construction in co-operation with The Cart Shed and practical pond conservation techniques. All training is free.