During lockdown, I’ve had more time to sit by my pond. I tend to eat at least one meal a day, here – sometimes all three. I sit at the edge and watch backswimmer (boatmen) nymphs scissor through the water, and last week I spotted the pond’s first frog – a large adult – resting in the shallows.
The pond was dug a year ago. I had it done by professionals – landscape gardeners that specialise in wildlife gardening – because I wanted a really good job doing. It’s perfect. Kidney shaped, it has shallow beach areas at either end and the perfect dragonfly perch, which also takes the weight of house sparrows, goldfinches and – once – a chiff chaff. It’s planted only with native pond plants, such as water forget-me-not, brooklime and marsh marigold, and is full of oxygenating hornwort and spiked water milfoil. These plants are slowly knitting together to cover the water’s surface (ideally, two thirds of the water should be covered with plants).
From the house I watch birds bathe and drink from the pond. At night my trail cameras pick up foxes and hedgehogs stopping for a drink. A pond dip last summer revealed mayfly, dragonfly and damselfly larvae, plus water springtails, water hoglice, diving and whirligig beetles. There are huge backswimmers that patrol the water and eat a lot of this invertebrate life, but I’ve never seen a pond skater on the surface. A pond benefits almost all wildlife – as I write, hundreds of red mason bees are taking mud from the edges of the pond to line their nests in my bee hotel.
I love my pond. It’s the perfect place to sit and while away the hours, and there’s always something new to see or discover, to distract me from the News. I’m going to do a lockdown pond dip and see what’s arrived since I last had a look, and will write about what I find in my next blog.
If you want to dig a pond, now’s the perfect time. You can buy pond liner, underlay and pond plants online, and find a design you like with details on how to dig one *there’s also a step-by-step in my book.
There’s no need to dig really deep – a maximum depth of 60cm is fine. The main thing is to make sure there are plenty of shallows at the edge. This is where the fun is! You’ll spot birds bathing here and frogs spawning here. Hedgehogs will be able to drink safely from the water’s edge without accidentally falling into the pond. Invertebrate life tends to congregate in the shallows, too. The best ponds have the most shallows. Just think of all that lovely time you’ll have sitting by the pond whiling away the hours watching the wildlife, as I do.
Read Froglife’s Just Add Water guide to learn more about creating your own wildlife pond.