Walmsley: Do Ponds Succeed?

Sunday January 1st 2023 – Pond Management

We began work at Walmsley Unitarian Chapel, Egerton, thirteen years ago, back then the area beneath the cemetery, called Spring Meadows, was dominated by willow and there was no open water to speak of. So on a cold snow covered day in January 2010 we began work clearing out the willow and prepping the site for pond digging, by the end of the day there were fewer willows and plenty of scope for improvement. In March the same year we got a big digger in to dig out the ponds we see today, the site was still pretty desolate at this point but the ponds quickly filled with water. We threw in a few aquatic plants and left the site to cook for a while and when we returned in August 2013 there was a new Eden; the ponds were established, the wildlife was thriving, and the transformation from desolation to restoration was complete.

2010: Walmsley Chapel, pond work begins.
2010: Walmsley Chapel, pond work begins.

But nothing in nature ever stays static. Ponds are temporary and through the process of succession will move from open water to dry land. This progression, called a hydrosere, has seven stages: phytoplankton stage, submerged stage, floating stage, reed swamp stage, sedge-meadow stage, woodland stage, and climax stage. Not all ponds will follow this idealised pattern, the size of the pond and other factors can mean that some stages are skipped or never reached. Spring Meadows has a long history of being wet and boggy, the name itself suggests that at one time the site may have been water meadow. When BCV first started work here the site had no open water and was mainly willow carr fed by springs and run-off from the surrounding land as has been the case for decades if not centuries, it would be unlikely for this area to ever dry out completely but the ponds could still disappear if not looked after.

Once created ponds take effort to maintain. One of the things we did in previous years was to install silt traps to stop the ponds being filled in by sediment. Periodically removing the self seeded reed mace (Typha latifolia) will also stop the ponds becoming drier. Drying out happens partly through transpiration, ie the plants act like water pumps sucking up moisture and drying out the edges creating more space for plants to grow. Also, by removing the Typha and other aquatics we can stop the build up of dead material which would otherwise reduce water quality, reduce the depth of water, and form more growth medium for future generations of plants. Digging out the silt traps and digging up the Typha were the main goals of today’s task.

Do ponds succeed? Only if we let them. Thanks to everyone involved for making this task a success.