Seven Ponds in Seven Days

Next week the recently launched Norfolk Ponds Project will take on the challenge of restoring seven ponds in seven days and we invite people to come and see what we are up to: 20th September at 2 pm in the Parish, Rooms at Heydon (NR11 6AD).

Norfolk has more ponds than any other English county, but we have forgotten them! There are 23,000+ ponds; former marl pits, clay pits, hemp-retting ponds and livestock watering ponds. In fact in some parts of the county it is not uncommon to find a pond in almost every field.

An overgrown pond at Beckett's Farm, in the upper Glaven. Willow shrouds the water which is dark and anoxic.
An overgrown pond at Beckett’s Farm, in the upper Glaven. Willow shrouds the water which is dark and anoxic.

But all is not well with Norfolk’s farm ponds as decades of neglect has seen them grow over with willow scrub making for dark, oxygen poor water. Surveys have shown these overgrown ponds to be low in species, whereas ponds that are buffered from the fields and kept open through scrub management, can be incredibly species-rich. A dense tangle of  water plants affords good habitat for frogs, toads, newts, invertebrates and fishes and such ponds even feed our farmland birds and bats via chimneys of emerging insects.

The recently formed Norfolk Ponds Project (NPP) aims to reverse the decline of Norfolk’s ponds by promoting pond restoration via scrub and mud removal. Inspired by the work of Richard Waddingham at Manor Farm, Briston, the project has so far restored around 20 ponds and next week an ambitious event will see 7 Ponds restored in 7 days in the villages of Heydon and Brisley. The Pond Restoration Research Group at University College London are leading the event and a host of volunteers will do the work with support from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the Norfolk Rivers Trust.

Attacking the scrub - the Glaven's own Henry Crawley on chainsaw and UCL pond restoration stalwart Ian Patmore working hard.
Attacking the scrub – the Glaven’s own Henry Crawley on chainsaw and UCL pond restoration stalwart Ian Patmore working hard.

Last September the NPP restored two ponds in the headwaters of the Glaven at Beckett’s Farm, Baconsthorpe and they are now absolutely spectacular, with many rare species already present. By Spring both ponds were colonised by stoneworts, pondweeds and water-crowfoots and one of the ponds was black with tadpoles. By Summer dragonflies were prolific and bees and butterflies went crazy for beds of mint, gypsywork and scented mayweed at the open pond edges – wildlife heaven! So cheap and quick to achieve with no loss of farmland. The farmers we work with always feel proud of the restored ponds and re-connect with them again.

We welcome visitors to the Seven Ponds event on 20th September at 2 pm in the Parish, Rooms at Heydon (NR11 6AD) where Helen Greaves from UCL will give a talk on pond restoration and its benefits, to be followed by a tour of the ponds led by Dr. Carl Sayer.

One year on - a spectacular pond restored by the Norfolk Ponds Project.
One year on – a spectacular pond restored by the Norfolk Ponds Project.

Thanks to the Heydon estate, Clifford Pyes Ltd and Brisley Parish Council for all their support so far with Seven Ponds and wish us luck next week!

Follow the Norfolk Ponds Project on Twitter – www.twitter.com/norfolkponds

Carl Sayer