The Pond at the End of our Garden

by Anne Napthine and Paula Tomlinson

Digging the pond

Photos by Paula Tomlinson.

Ever since the Barbican Wildlife Group began working in our Fann Street Garden, we have discussed the need for a pond – to attract more wildlife – provide water for small birds – and a safe haven for our Barbican frogs (yes, there are a good number of them!), and to attract new species.

How do we know we have frogs in the garden? When Beth Tilson comes to scythe the meadow, volunteers spend a lot of time chasing and catching frogs (up to 8 during one session) and placing out of the way of the swishing blade.

With the materials provided by the BEO and the labour provided by our volunteers, our regular City Gardener, and Jenny Humberstone from City Gardens, the dream of having a wildlife friendly pond began to become a reality when the first spadefuls of soil were dug in March 2011.

Creating the pondThe pond was designed, the soil dug, the linings put in over several Wednesday mornings. We worked to a plan which provided for a pond 4.5m long and 3m wide, with a depth of about 0.6m in the middle.

The soil here is heavy and stony, and we had to put a protective layer of sand and a sheet of geotextile under the liner and then more sand on top. We tried hard to find a source of fresh rain water, but in the end had to make do with the stuff that comes out of the tap.

Around the pond you can see, in season, ragged robin, lesser spearwort, bugle, yellow loosestrife, water forget-me-not and flowering rush, with water violet as oxygenator. In spring the marsh marigolds take over the scene and have had to be cut back.

Marsh Marigolds

Marsh Marigolds. Photo by Anne Napthine.

As with any garden, some things win and others lose – in our case we have problems keeping ragged robin from being overrun by creeping buttercup, and low-growing bugle by everything.

Birds certainly use the pond at all times – bluetits, great tits, wrens, chaffinches, goldfinches, greenfinches, blackbirds and robins perch on the stones and splash vigorously. Of course there are pigeons too (feral and wood).

There are plenty of squirrels in the garden (one was spotted taking an accidental bath) and foxes; a heron has also been spotted.

We were so delighted to see in Spring 2012, only one year after the pond’s completion, the first appearance of frogspawn. But very quickly it all disappeared as, for the first and until now only time, a pair of mallards took up residence. We soon found out why – to take advantage of our first frogspawn. Unfortunately they mopped up the lot very quickly.

Frogspawn

Frogspawn.

When more frogspawn came last year, we had learned that ducks can spot the spawn as they fly over, so we needed to “camouflage” its existence. So we made a rough stretcher of netting and long stakes to cover and save some of the spawn; this was fairly successful, although some was still eaten.

However, this is a wildlife pond and that’s just part of the wildlife cycle…..this year there are now three largish clumps of spawn in the pond, one of which has been protected (we hope).

BUT… Just before this article went to press, the mallards came back: both were seen sitting calmly on the bank, having completely stirred up the pond, dislodged the bricks from the stretcher and (probably) taken all the spawn not underneath it (water too murky to see).

Is other wildlife around?

There are plenty of hoverflies and bees and occasional damselflies; we should like to see more, although an occasional sighting of larvae in the water suggests that perhaps they do turn up more often than we realise.
The vigorous hemp agrimony growing beside the pond attracts a few butterflies later in the season, and we have seen common blue, speckled wood, and even a skipper.

The pond in last winter’s big freeze

The pond in last winter’s big freeze

There is no chain of local waterways to provide an access route for invertebrate visitors; our frogs certainly came from the Bryer Court pond, but there are no newts. Of course, if there were, they would also compete to feed on the frogspawn, but that is wildlife competition in action and we can only hope to see (and record) more of it.

Please join us!

We know many of you have extensive knowledge of and enthusiasm for birds, bees, trees, shrubs, etc and we would welcome you to join with us in creating long-term plans for the Garden and the rest of our Estate. For further information do contact Anne Napthine at anne.napthine@btinternet.com or Paula Tomlinson at john@johnandpaula.com.