Over the years, a series of ponds on an organic farm in Norfolk had dried out and become overgrown. Many were constructed 30-40 years ago, though one may date back to 1780, when the Enclosure Act covering the farm was passed, or even earlier, when the southern part of the farm was rough grazing (‘Sheeps Ling’).
The Ecology Consultancy developed a restoration plan which was submitted to Natural England with the aim of securing special project funding. Our application was successful, and we conducted surveys during the summer of 2009. The main restoration works were carried out in the winter 2009. Working with the Fen Ditching Company, we undertook vegetation clearance before relining the ponds, which varied in size from 10m2 to 330m2, with bentonite, a natural clay that forms a strong seal on wetting, we also re-profiled some of the ponds to create a greater diversity of micro-habitats. Some of the ponds were attracting wildfowl even before our work was finished.
In spring 2010 we seeded the banks with a wildflower mix and added native wetland plants as plugs along the margins. The ponds will be monitored for three years to track colonising species and assess the efficacy of the restoration programme. As the ponds establish year on year, they will attract invertebrates, frogs, toads and newts and will help support endangered farmland birds such as reed bunting and tree sparrow.
The ponds are now all holding water well, despite the relatively dry season, and the paddock pond, which receives some run off from water use around the farm buildings, has stayed almost full following weeks of little or no rain in East Anglia. A mallard raised young on the pond for the first time in years and the other ponds all had a good population of tadpoles.