Froglife follower and pond-enthusiast, Matt Turpin has been busy building and restoring his neighbours ponds in Nottingham whilst he has been on furlough. Learn more about why he was inspired to do so by his article below!
I was furloughed from my job with an educational charity in June. While I was happy to devote most of the free time I now had to looking after my three year old son, I felt a real need to do something, anything to make the world a better place. It didn’t take long to figure out what that was.
When I moved into a new house a year ago, one of the first things I did – before I’d unfinished unpacking everything – was to get into the back garden and dig a wildlife pond. I’ve been digging ponds since childhood, when my gran I would have varying degrees of success creating frog-friendly habitats for her garden. I would sit by the completed pond for hours once it was finished, taking a sense of peace and serenity from being near water that I still find. Sitting by water, and seeing life beneath the surface – the amphibians, the invertebrates, the tiny, barely-visible tiny creatures – and above the surface – the visiting dragonflies, bees, hoverflies and, if lucky to be out at dusk, bats – was, and has remained one of my favourite ways to relax.
Put water in a garden, and life will proliferate: it’s that simple. I had seen the benefits in my own garden; why not spread that elsewhere? After all, the weather was nice, the gyms were closed and a promising summer lay ahead. It was time to grab some tools, visit some gardens and break some ground. I put out a call over the internet that I would only charge for materials and minor expenses – enough to cover what I lost through furlough, at most – and the offers began to arrive into my inbox.
Some people wanted a pond from scratch, and we’d carefully work out the best place: away from trees and their subterranean roots; plenty of sunlight; near foliage to shade and hide creatures. Often, gardens are full of what seems like rubbish: old rocks, slabs, roof tiles, bricks, remnants from long-completed garden projects. I’d incorporate these into the design, creating caves, banks and other features that would provide the best possible habitat for a range of species. Every pond would have a ‘beach’ – a gently sloping area of shingle that would allow easy entry and exit from the pond -as well as providing a handy area for garden mammals to drink from.
Other clients would want an old long neglected pond rescuing and transformed into a nature pond. The reeds, sedges and grasses that had run riot in these places would be cut back, replanted and passed onto the new ponds to give them a vegetative kick. I’d spend days thigh- deep in mud, turning an ugly, sterile area into a thriving wildlife sanctuary. It was hugely satisfying, even if my knees were never truly clean during the whole Summer.
After finishing each job, i’d ask the client to keep in touch: partly because I could monitor any issues that arose, partly because I could therefore share any foliage or tips with a growing network of local wildlife pond owners, but mainly because I wanted to find out what happened to the garden once I’d gone.
“Went out this afternoon: never seen so many birds visit, all drinking from the pond. Then this evening three frogs!” said one client, who I’d built a large, rockery lined pond for. “How could we already have newts??” queried another. A swell of pride accompanied these messages: in some tiny way I’d given wildlife a hand, and sported a decent tan too.
Yet the greatest seal of approval came recently, with a pond rescue. After turning a drained and leaf-bound old pond back into a haven for life, I revisited to see how it was a week after the build.
As I sat by the pond, assessing water levels, seeing if the water buttercups I’d potted and positioned would be better elsewhere, I felt that curious feeling you get when you are being looked at. I glanced to my side, and there, sitting on a rock overhanging the water, was an adult frog, surveying her domain. She seemed oblivious to me, rather she seemed to be joining me in appreciation. We both sat there for a good ten minutes, before I decided I better head off to my next job, and she decided to go check out a little more of her new home. It felt remarkably satisfying. Next spring, once the ground softens and warms, I’ll be out there again, creating frogtopias across my town.
If you feel inspired to make your own wildlife pond, feel free to download our FREE Just Add Water guide.