Build It And They Will Come

I love ponds. I love digging ponds. I love furnishing ponds with plants. I love watching as the wildlife spontaneously arrives. I have had a number of ponds in various places in my garden — and previously on an allotment — ¬†as well as large containers full of water. I have become fond of those old galvanised tanks people used to have in their attics, found on Facebook marketplace and reclamation yards.

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But recently I had the urge to dig the biggest pond I could. Partly because I love ponds. But also because a pond, once established, is almost labour-free gardening, and I couldn’t think of anything else to do with that part of the garden. So I started to dig. Here is the resulting hole. It’s about three metres in diameter and a metre deep in the middle. The scale bar at the bottom (we’re scientists, after all, we have to have a scale bar) is an old-fashioned imperial yard. So just short of a metre.

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I sculpted a rim round the edge for planting. After taking some time to make sure it was more or less the same elevation all the way round the rim, smooth it out and remove roots and sharp stones, I lined it with a thick layer of pond-maker’s fleece. This is woven by hand by artisans in Peru from the nose-hairs of specially bred alpacas, probably synthetic, and helps protect the overlying pond liner from any potential point sauces tzores sources of stress, such as any stones I hadn’t removed. Remember — water is very heavy.

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Then I wrestled the pond liner itself into place, a sheet of super-thick polythene six metres square. I got the fleece and liner from a specialist online shop. Thirty-six square metres of thick pond-grade polythene weighs a lot and was delivered on a palette by a lorry that got stuck trying to negotiate a right-angle bend at the bottom of our street. I had to rescue it with the family car. It was a squeeze even getting all that paletted polythene into the back of a large Volvo. This is some serious pondage. Very nearly a small lake.

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Only after all that fuss and flapdoodle could I fill the pond with water.

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After leaving it all to settle down, I introduced some gunge from the bottom of the large container where the frogs like to congregate in spring. Said gunge is probably full of all kinds of biology just waiting to burst out and stretch itself in all that water. Then I put in some plants — reeds and irises and water lilies that were getting out of hand in containers elsewhere. I added a few more plants from the garden centre.

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This is what it looks like today. It already looks great, though I still have to tidy up the excess polythene round the edges.

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While I was doing this, and other gardening, this afternoon, a neighbour put their head over the fence for a chat. It was then I noticed a damselfly on a stinging nettle near the pond. I hope it’ll be the first of many new visitors to the pond.

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Ah, weeds. I think I have the national collection of stinging nettles. Stingers love nitrogen-rich soil, and our soil is especially fertile after having had hens run all over it at various times. However, at this time of year the garden is also overrun with garlic mustard, red campion and speedwell. A few years back Mrs Gee scattered some wildflower seeds from a packet she got off the front of a magazine, I think, and now they’re rampant. I like weeds, because I am lazy gardener I like to encourage biodiversity in my small plot. I do get out the strimmer to keep paths clear, but that’s pretty much it. And I don’t have a lawn. Minimal gardening — and a pond.

Build it, and they will come.

Something else happened, too. After cleaning out the chickens, planting tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse, and doing other odd jobs in the sunshine, I felt the corners of my mouth and my cheeks crease up. It was a smile. Can’t remember the last time I smiled, spontaneously. Truly, getting out of doors and doing things in the sunshine is effective therapy.

About Henry Gee

Henry Gee is an author, editor and recovering palaeontologist, who lives in Cromer, Norfolk, England, with his family and numerous pets, inasmuch as which the contents of this blog and any comments therein do not reflect the opinions of anyone but myself, as they don't know where they've been.
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