Ponds play host to a wide variety of life
NATURE COLUMN: Bill Cawley
MY wife and I went to the John Hall Gardens last Saturday. I had never visited it before and, in my opinion, it has to be considered Leek’s hidden gem.
It is not particularly secluded as it is situated between Brough Park Leisure Centre and the recycling centre at Fowlchurch; and is open to the public on two days a week
The garden was built to produce for the occupants of Brough Hall who lived on a site now occupied by the leisure centre, and the tradition continues with a fine collection of cabbages to take away for free .
A notice gave the date of 1853 and certainly it is in the form of a midvictorian garden of a type I have seen at many large 19th century houses.
We visited on a fine day and chatted to one of the workers on the estate. It is run by the mental health charity Rethink which has embraced fully the concept of the recuperative powers of gardens and working the land.
There were also some bee hives tucked away in the corner of the walled garden and one appeared to be occupied.
I was drawn to the pond on the edge of the garden. On this autumn day it was covered with pond weed and algae so it was difficult to see what life existed beneath its murky waters.
At this time of year most of the water beetles will have developed into adults and will be seen until the first cold spells of winter.
On such mild, autumn days as we have been having recently, dragonflies can occasionally be seen on the wing.
In the water itself small nymphs will be hatched from eggs laid earlier in the year. The vegetation around the pond had begun to die back and the creatures will have either died or have begun the process of hibernation.
At the bottom of the pond you will find worms feeding on a wealth of dead organic matter. Soon, as the winter turns to spring, the cycle of life begins again.
Many ponds are artificial, as is the one here, providing a water source for the garden.
Village ponds on the other hand, were created for washing off working horses, there is a nice example at Hartington
Unmaintained, field ponds may only last around 100 years, as they gradually fill with silt – fine, sludgy mud that gets swept in by rain and settles at the bottom.
Small ponds can be completely transformed in this way by a single spell of heavy rain.
However, some natural ponds may be ancient – pools known as pingos were created when ice-hills, formed by trapped water freezing and expanding, eventually melted, leaving water-filled depressions. They may be up to 14,000 years old.
The pond at John Hall Gardens in Leek.