How Carl is bring Norfolk ponds back to life

PUBLISHED: 12:18 21 March 2018

Carl Sayer at a restored pond. Picture: Chris Hill

Carl Sayer at a restored pond. Picture: Chris Hill

Chris Hill

Pam Taylor hails the pond-reviving work of Carl Sayer.

Carl Sayer’s Norfolk ponds project grew from the inspirational work of farmer Richard Waddingham. Richard has 40 ponds and now manages four of these each year. The resulting diversity of successional stages in pond development is now matched only by the rich diversity of wildlife to be found on his farm.

There are potentially 23,000 ponds in Norfolk, but many look far more like small copses of woodland than a pond. This is because scrub has grown around the edges for the last forty years, to the point where these ponds are now little more than small, dark pools full of leaf litter and fallen branches. Richard has shown that by simply clearing back the trees, especially on the south and west sides, and removing the silt, these ponds can be encouraged to burst back into life.

Carl began by renovating a pond on his father’s farm in the same way and the results just one year on were astonishing. Carl has gone on to restore many more ponds, but has also taken the project one step further. His ghost pond project looks to restore ponds that have almost entirely disappeared from the landscape. Recognisable now only as damp patches in a field or as sunken depressions, these ponds have long since been filled in with debris and soil. Some ghost ponds are indicated simply by strange kinks in a hedgerow line.

By digging down, the former shape of the pond can be found and the more recent fill removed. It’s important to keep the original shape of the pond though, and not dig into the lining of clay or marl. These recovered ponds soon fill with rainwater and within months aquatic plants start returning. One pond had been filled in and dry for a 150 years, but eight species of aquatic plant were still preserved in the seed bank and capable of regrowth. The rejuvenation abilities of nature are amazing.

Restoring ponds not only benefits wildlife such as diving beetles and dragonflies, it also increases farmland birds, because more food becomes available. Wildflowers springing back on the pond margins benefit pollinators such as butterflies and bees.

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