Ponds play host to a wide va­ri­ety of life

NA­TURE COL­UMN: Bill Caw­ley

Leek Post & Times - - FARMING & COUNTRYSIDE -

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.

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