Ponds And Heathland Work
The Countryside Team are always very busy looking after the unique environment 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 work required to ensure that the ponds look their best next year.
Native aquatic plants are often fast-growing, and, if left unchecked, can take over a pond. The removal to prevent 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 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 are 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 for the fish. This is particularly vital in the Fishing pond, which is predated by otters, Cormorants, and Herons. You may notice semi-submerged fallen trees with complex branch structures - combined with the reed beds, these give our fish the best chance of surviving the winter.
The ponds at Kelling Heath are used to educate School children, utilised throughout the summer with Guest events, and enhance the biodiversity on the 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 its surroundings, and the positive impact of well-managed Wetland, Heath, and Woodland can have on wildlife and visitors.
In 2016, the area 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 area the Hide looks on to, offered more of a challenge as it had become so overgrown. As it happened, the Countryside Team (comprising of an Arboriculture Professional, a Groundworks Coordinator and an Aquatics Specialist), coupled with a supportive management plan, 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, and required levels. Next was to determine the size of a pond and how this would marry into the surroundings.
Excavation was soon underway, and a pond shell was formed and levelled with wooden pegs. It was then very easy to see how shallows could be incorporated, and it 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 watertight, so a prefabricated rubber liner was the first choice and promptly ordered. This liner needed to be protected, so we installed a base layer of sand to dress the excavation. This was then covered with a geotextile membrane for further protection. Fitting a rubber liner always offers challenges because of access and the sheer weight of the membrane. "Many hands make light work", as the saying goes, and the Maintenance and Countryside teams joined forces to persuade the sheet to fall nicely into place.
Once at this point, the requirement was water, and we were able to extract this from our Bottom Pond and thus introduce mature pond water into the new entity. This mature water ensured a great start for the new ecosystem. Filled to 75% capacity, we could concentrate on the margins. Over the top of the liner and around the entire perimeter, we laid another geotextile membrane over 200 hessian sacks full of subsoil. These were then split and planted with aquatic plants extracted and transferred from the other ponds on the 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 were allowed to dominate the Pond surrounds so that access is only viable via the hide front door.
Finishing touches included a chalkboard for sightings, bird feeders and a convenient log lines access path to the hide. Even though the area is in its 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 completed and very worthwhile addition to our landscape.