Friday, 11 February 2011

My Wildlife Pond – A Tale of Trial and Error

I have always wanted a wildlife pond in my garden but I decided not to do anything about it until the children were old enough to be safe around water.  About seven years ago I finally took the plunge.  I decided to dig it myself, in the part of the garden that used to be my vegetable patch.  I had suffered a crisis of conscience about slug pellets a few years earlier and, despite trying every conceivable organic deterrent, had not been able to grow anything since!

I read a few books, marked out the outline of the pond, chose a liner, and began to dig.  Very quickly things began to take shape.  I enlisted my husband’s help to put in the liner and the whole family joined in as we filled it with water.  It had a deep patch in the middle, a muddy area for planting, ledges of various depths, a pebble beach, a turf bank on one side and slates around the other.

Mistake number one – I should have cemented the slates in, but I thought they would look more natural set in earth.  I have regretted this ever since as they have never looked right, but it is very hard to rectify once the pond has things living in it because if cement goes into the water it will kill everything.

I thought very carefully about planting and decided only to use natives.  Then my neighbour offered me a bucket of pond water and some of her plants to get things started – I found myself smiling and saying ‘yes please’.  Mistake number two.  One very pretty plant turned out to be a water primrose, which is an invasive alien, and a few days afterwards I noticed a tiny translucent fish swimming at the edge of the pond.  They oxygenators were full of goldfish fry!  I managed to get rid of the water primrose before it got established, but the goldfish were another matter! I gave away dozens as they grew up but the last one or two became very big, ate anything that moved, and defied all my attempts to catch them.  The last one disappeared a year ago so we are finally fish free – I am hoping that now my tadpoles stand a chance!

My last big mistake was to plant a native white water lily – I was warned that it would grow very big but did I listen?  Last summer it finally filled the whole pond so I took advantage of the early drought and low water levels to wrestle it out.  It felt like doing battle with a triffid! 

I finally have a fish free, water lily free, pond and the frogs have returned despite the hard winter.  I’m hoping that I have finally learned from my mistakes and that anyone reading this will learn from them too.

Disasters aside, my pond has giving me a great deal of pleasure over the years and it has brought some wonderful wildlife to my garden.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves...


An Explanation

Why 'Thoughts from a Dormouse'?

I was a dreamer when I was a child. One day at school a young, exasperated, teacher asked me a question. I don't know what it was, I didn't realise that she had spoken to me until I heard 'You are never awake in class, we will have to call you dormouse'.  It stuck! for the rest of my primary years I was known as 'dormouse'. In my mind I had a picture of a chubby creature sleeping in a teapot at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.

Over thirty years later I made my first acquaintance with a real dormouse.  By then I was beginning to become involved with wildlife and conservation and had been offered the opportunity to train for a dormouse licence with Avon Wildlife Trust.  I wouldn't say it was love at first sight, but it was close!  I now have my licence and am still amused at just how prophetic that thoughtless remark turned out to be.