It’s the start of great things, you can feel it in the air, the anticipation on everyone’s faces… or was that just the look of relief after re-positioning Bodham’s Church toilet on its foundations following Storm Doris? Either way, every good project should start with ‘Team Building’ session and in Norfolk this was it on 25th March, 2017.
Our project, the Great Twin Pond Dig, is twinning the ponds of North Norfolk with those of West Lancashire – two areas of the UK that are rich in “marl pit” ponds. The project, funded by the British Ecological Society and applied for by me, is being overseen by the UCL Pond Restoration Research Group and run with the help and support of many brilliant and keen “Citizen Science” volunteers.
Together we are trialling our “Adopt a Pond” pond monitoring and restoration approach in Bodham, Norfolk (Carl Sayer’s centre of the universe, apparently) and Halsall, Lancashire for me (the actual centre of the universe!), with the aim of re-connecting farmers and people with their local farmland ponds and with pond ecology and restoration. Years ago village children used to mess about in ponds and adults used to use them and manage them, bit nowadays, farmland ponds are mostly forgotten places. Our aim is to change this!
The original plan for the project was to select 3 very overgrown, shaded ponds in both of Norfolk and Lancashire for monitoring. In reality, Carl had to go above and beyond and find four ponds instead! So of course I therefore had to do the same – *Not competitive in the slightest*
The plan now is to monitor the chosen ponds for wildlife for a number of months before 2 of the 4 are restored, via scrub and mud removal this Autumn. Monitoring of the ponds will then continue for 12-18 months post-restoration. The aim of the project is to highlight the potential benefit of these historical farmland features for farmland biodiversity. Our team has already had considerable success with pond restoration in Norfolk and are keen to see if the same huge gains for wildlife can be achieved in similar Lancashire ponds.
Because of our good reputation in Norfolk and our research in the area, we already had great contacts for volunteer surveyors through the local community and through the Norfolk Ponds Project. In Lancashire, it has taken a bit more time so the Norfolk guys have had a bit of head start; which leads me back to where I began, our first day with our Bodham volunteers…
Following our impromptu team building session (thank you Storm Doris) at Bodham Church we headed over to the pond sites for an introduction to the monitoring techniques. At each pond simple markers have been added to monitor water level fluctuations over the course of the project. The volunteers are a merry band of keen locals from the village. The majority of the group are familiar with the ponds in the area, but everyone enjoyed exploring the habitats in more detail with Carl demonstrating the apparatus and test kits for the water chemistry at the first pond. At the subsequent ponds we handed over the helm to the group so they could have a go themselves. We’ve developed a recording form for the project so that we can make sure we collect the same information in both counties. By the send of the session, the group was feeling confident and happy to continue by themselves. A successful day all round, you could say – the project started.
Thus far the Bodham ponders have been recoding water chemistry, amphibians and filming wildlife visiting the ponds using camera traps. They have also made a start on recording the plants present in and around the pond margins and have been observing parallel work by UCL PhD students on birds and pollinators visiting the ponds. Much fun is being had and they also started to use water quality test kits provided by the Freshwater Habitats Trust.
Meanwhile, up north in the rural area of Halsall, the Lancashire team are fully underway and quickly catching up with the ‘Bodhamers’. We will politely ask both of the teams to write some blog posts on their progress this summer.
To follow the progress of the project do log on to Twitter and search using #pondtwins and #adoptapond
Great Twin Pond Dig Project timeline:
- April 2017 – Monitoring of overgrown ponds begins
- June-July 2017 – One day BioBlitz – recording as many species as possible in and around the 4 ponds
- September/October 2017 – Restoration of 2 of ponds takes place and regular monitoring continues
- June-July 2018 – Post-restoration BioBlitz takes place – recording as many species as possible to compare with pre-restoration
- October 2018 (or 2019 depending on enthusiasm!) – End of project celebratory talk/workshop and pond swapping!