I need to fill in my pond, what shall I do with the creatures in it?
Filling in a pond is an absolute last resort – there are plenty of ways to make sure your pond is safe.
Froglife encourages you not to fill in your pond unless there is absolutely no other alternative. If you are filling in the pond because you’re worried about safety, there are other options to consider and if you’re concerned about having to maintain it, ponds really don’t require that much work.
Ponds have enormous value for wildlife, particularly in urban areas where they help populations of amphibians thrive as well as providing important places for dragonflies and other invertebrates to live and breed. Ponds also provide stepping stones for other species to come into urban areas, including birds, bats and even grass snakes. Urban ponds can help buffer the disappearance of natural ponds in the wider countryside – the number of ponds in the UK countryside is estimated to have declined by over a third in the last century.
Ponds can be of incredible importance for educating young people. Under supervision, children can see real life examples of many of the things they learn in the classroom, including ecosystems, foodchains, biodiversity and wildlife identification. Plus potential pond-dippers develop a confidence in the wider world, and an appreciation of and respect for local nature.
Froglife maintains that other options exist to make ponds safe and often these work out cheaper and actually take less time, money and effort than filling in a pond.
If you do choose to fill in your pond, we advise that you wait until autumn when there will be least amphibians in the water to disturb. Be sure to complete all the work in one go – do not leave a drained, empty pond as this can trap amphibians and other wildlife. After filling in a pond please note that you may find amphibians returning to the garden the following spring to breed. You might like to think about installing an alternative water feature as a replacement.
If you are emptying your pond before autumn, and you have come across frogspawn or tadpoles we would advise that you transfer them to a neighbour’s garden pond (preferably within one mile). Do not release spawn or tadpoles into a public water body (reservoirs, lakes/ponds in nature reserves) without permission, and avoid moving water (streams, rivers, canals).
There is no organisation that will be able to come and take spawn, tadpoles or adult amphibians from you.
How can I make my pond safer?
A fence or pond grille will make a pond completely safe, or a raised pond is a good alternative.
Froglife believes that filling-in ponds should always be a last resort, since the damage this can do to wildlife communities locally can be enormous. Ponds can be made safe by following the points outlined below:
Never leave young children unsupervised near any large container holding water. This includes large plant pots, tub-ponds, paddling pools, swimming pools and garden ponds; many more drownings occur in water bodies other than ponds. Encourage children at every opportunity to respect water. This will benefit many children as they grow and could have wider positive impact.
Put a fence around the pond. The fence can be made of strong wood, unclimbable grating or vertical railings no more than 10cm apart; it should be at least 1.1m high. Don’t forget to leave a small gap between the ground and fence to allow wildlife access. A childproof, lockable gate should also be installed. Some people find willow-fencing more aesthetically pleasing.
Install a pond grille. A rigid mesh or grille across the pond creates a secure over which wildlife can still get through. The grille needs to be able to support the weight of a child and should remain above the surface of the water at all times. Garden centres stock grates and newer products are easy to install.
Consider the design of your pond. Gently sloping sides are important for wildlife and for people should they fall in and need to get out easily. An alternative to a ‘traditional’ pond is a raised or free-standing pond – if you decide to go down this route simply make sure there wildlife can still access the water by building up logs and pebbles on the outside and inside of the pond.
You could consider many of the points above as temporary measures while children are smaller. Once children are older you can remove many of these features, promoting the pond as a place for enjoying and learning about the natural world.