Ponds and Heathland work
The Countryside Team are always very busy looking after the wonderful unique environment we have at Kelling. Read what they have been up to below.
The signs of Autumn
The end of another growing season and the ponds are showing all the signs of Autumn. This is the busiest time of the year as far as maintenance goes. All our water bodies have an abundance of aquatic plants, and now is the time to undertake the works required to ensure that the ponds look their best next year.
Native aquatic plants are often fast growing and left unchecked can take over a pond. Removal of encroachment is essential and October to December maintenance allows us to restore balance without compromising the wildlife.
Over the next few weeks it will be common to see piles of reeds etc on the banks of the ponds. They are left on the edge to allow any pondlife to make their way back into the water.
In time the piles will be removed and composted. In some situations you may also see that reed beds have been cut down and the tops removed. This prevents excessive silting and will ensure a nice new lush green reed bed the following year.
Management of aquatic plants is essential and we aim to keep plenty of stock with a good mix of variety. Between them, the plants attract insects, oxygenate the water, filter the water, provide habitat and food for pond inhabitants and are aesthetically pleasing.
The root systems and submerged stems of the plants also provide sanctuary from predators for the fish. This is particularly vital in the Fishing pond which is predated by Otter, Cormorants, and Herons. You will notice semi submerged fallen trees which have a complex branch structure. Combined with the reed beds, this gives our fish the best possible chance of surviving the winter.
The ponds at Kelling Heath are used to educate School children, are utilised throughout the summer with Guest events, and enhance the biodiversity on Park. The ponds are just one part of our Countryside management plan. This exists to ensure that we are doing the best we can for the Park’s outdoor space and the wildlife.
Our newest pond and wildlife hide
It has long been recognised that wildlife thrives on diversity. Kelling Heath fully appreciates the beauty of it's surroundings and the positive impact of well managed Wetland, Heath and Woodland can have on both wildlife and visitors.
In 2016 the area which we now call our Wildlife Hide was rejuvenated to complement the southern part of the Park. The existing hide had weathered well and needed just a few modifications to make it wheelchair friendly and useable by people of all ages. The are of the Hide looks onto offered more of a challenge as it had become so overgrown. As it happened, the Countryside Team comprises of an Arboriculture Professional, a Groundworks Coordinator and an Aquatics Specialis. Coupled with supportive management a plan was contrived to bring this forgotten area of beauty back to life.
The first step was to clear the area and level the ground to gain a clear view of the scale, backdrop, required levels etc. Next was to determine the size of a pond and how this would marry in to the surroundings.
Excavation was soon underway, and a pond shell was formed. Levelled with wooden pegs it was then very easy to see how shallows could be incorporated and enabled us to see how a planting scheme would evolve to encourage all manner of wildlife to inhibit and visit the pond and the surrounding area.
With a Pond of this size it is always important to consider several factors. Obviously, it needs to be water tight, so a prefabricated rubber liner is the first choice and was promptly ordered. This liner then needed to be protected, so a base layer of sand was used to dress the excavation. This was then covered with a geotextile membrane to further protect the rubber from stones. Fitting a rubber liner always offers challenges because of access and the sheer weight of the membrane. "Many hands make light work" and the Maintenance and Countryside teams joined forces to persuade the sheet to neatly fit into the prepared hole.
Once to this point, the requirement was water and we were able to extract this from out Bottom Pond and thus introduce mature pond water into the new entity which would ensure a great start for the eco system. Filled to 75% capacity we could concentrate on the margins. Over the top of the liner and around the entire perimeter was laid another geotextile membrane onto which was placed over 200 hessian sacks full of subsoil. These would then be split and planting with aquatic plants which have been extracted and transferred from the other ponds on Park. The margins were finally covered in subsoil to hide the liners and the Pond was filled to the brim.
The surrounding area was seeded, and logs were used to create wildlife habitat piles. Frontage fencing was erected, and nettles and gorse allowed to dominate the Pond surrounds so that access is only viable via the hide front door.
Finishing touches include a chalk board for sightings, bird feeders and a convenient log lines access path to the hide. Even though the area is in it's infancy, it has already been recognised by the David Bellamy Award Scheme and was officially opened in June 2018 by Simon King OBE (Wildlife Presenter, Photographer and Author) as part of a celebration of a successfully completed and very worthwhile addition to our landscape.