How to Rewild

Dig Small Ponds and Scrapes

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Dig Small Ponds and Scrapes

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Seasonality

What You Can Do

When the ground is still wet, and easy to dig, but the air is mild and it’s pleasant enough to spend time working outside – it’s the perfect time for making a pond! This will attract a huge range of wildlife to your project – both in and out of the water, from birds to butterflies to dragonflies and frogs.

Seasonal Ponds

Small ponds and scrapes that dry up in summer (‘ephemeral ponds’) are a valuable habitat that add structural diversity to your land. Both the hole and the lump created by the spoil create variability in drainage, shade and humidity. This creates niches for lots of different species, and the disturbance allows new plants to get established. It might feel strange to be creating a pond that ‘doesn’t last’, but a lot of wildlife is adapted to live in just this kind of habitat!

Locating Your Pond

It’s best to locate new ponds in lower areas, where the water table is already high. This is most effective on clay soils, where the ground is more likely to hold water. In other areas, pond liner can be useful, though it may also be worth experimenting with simple hollows to see what difference they make to local biodiversity. Don’t forget that shady water can be a valuable habitat too – a wood pond is a good pond!

Sloping Sides

Just like any pond, your seasonal pool will benefit from shallow sloping sides (on at least one edge). This not only allows wildlife to easily get in and out, but also creates a slow transition from water to dry land. That’s an ‘ecotone’ – a gradient of high biodiversity with dry-adapted species at the top and wet-adapted species at the bottom. The shallow slope will also encourage newts and frogs to breed in the rapidly-warming water.

Planting Out

You can either plant your pond out or wait and see what arrives naturally. If you put in plants, be sure to check that they’re native, as non-natives can be invasive. Wildflower seed mixes for pond edges may be worth considering. Even some natives can tend to take over rapidly, though they’ll do so while creating valuable habitat, like Reedmace and Common Reed. Be careful not to introduce duckweed by accident – even a single leaf will cover the whole surface and choke the system over time (especially without ducks to control it!).

Example

We’ve been creating small ponds and ditches across our project for two years now and these are home to a huge range of wildlife. They’ve been visited by ducks, frogs and moorhens. And the spoil has been useful for building up the height of neighbouring footpaths and tracks to reduce waterlogging and flooding on access routes.

Rewilded pond
A newly-dug ephemeral pond - this holds water for about half the year on our pilot project.

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