No rocks please, we’re British

Stones make a neat edge but a poor habitat

Stones make a neat edge but a poor habitat

Rock and stone make neat, convenient and artistic edges to ponds – but they’re not much good for wildlife and pretty much sterilise one of the most important parts of your pond.

That’s because the greatest variety of plants and animals usually lives at the pond edge (not out in the deeper water) and covering this in concrete or stone greatly reduces the potential of your pond.

So if you’re trying to encourage wildlife, go easy on the rocks – very few ponds in natural world have completely rocky edges (I’ll try to find a picture of the only examples I can think of immediately – inland rock pools in South Africa and Australia!). Not many animals really like this rocky environment.

But so popular are hard edges to ponds that it’s difficult to find a picture of a garden pond without rocks.

Even the leaflet on wildlife garden ponds produced by the government conservation agency Natural England, shows ponds with concrete or rocky edges. Oops.

If you do suffer from a rock fringed pond don’t despair. I’ll talk about how to make the best of things later, mainly by letting your pond fill up wth all kinds of plants, and making sure the water is as clean as possible.



6 Responses to “No rocks please, we’re British”

  1. monado Says:

    How about gravel edges? at least for part of the pond. If I build a pond, I’m trying to think how to keep gulls from the nearby lake or raccoons from eating the fish or crayfish.

  2. Jeremy Biggs Says:

    Hi Monado
    People often talk about having gravel edges – making a little beach – to let birds (and other bigger animals) get into the water to bathe / drink. I don’t know how vital these really are – after all, creatures big and small have been making their way down to the water’s edge to drink for millions of years, and probably most of these places don’t have a convenient patch of gravel for accessing the water (I s’pose except around bigger lakes – where waves wash the shoreline).

    But interested to hear how other people rate these gravelly edges.

    As for gulls, the gulls we have over here don’t really know how to eat fish – they sit on the surface and can’t really dive – so unless the fish is dead, or extremely stupid and practically offering itself up to be eaten, I should have thought they ought not to be a problem – but interested to hear your specific situation.

    As for racoons – these are definitely something we don’t have experience with in the UK – looking on the web, I expect you’ve heard all the suggestions including putting up a strand of electric wire, covering the pond with mesh (we do that here if we’ve got valuable fish to protect from herons), stringing fine lines around the pond that they bump into, and repellents. I don’t know how well any of these work – I expect the more determined you are, the more likely they are to work.

    But how important are the fish to you? Most small wildlife ponds (how big is yours) don’t need fish – even if you do have fish, maybe its not such a bad thing if the racoonds do take a few fish? Though if you’ve bought expensive fish obviously not such a good idea.

  3. Ian Says:

    Hi, I have a wonderful pond and full of wildlife. Its edged by lumps of granite, logs-a-rotting, lawn (effectively a bog that is never dry, even in the summer) a pebble beach too! I find that the frogs and toads live amonst the rocks and the sticlkebacks like to bask in the warm shallows created by the pebble beach.

    I must admit that the soft edge look is very nice though, it might occur naturally in a depression in a flower meadow; I only wish that I had one!

    The rocks I have are from local quarries and have been used for building around here for centuries; they’re part of the landscape.

    • Karen Says:

      Hi Ian, I agree entirely with you. You know the saying “Variety is the spice of life”?……….Well, I believe this is absolutely true when creating a wildlife pond. I created my first small wildlife pond in my courtyard sized garden this spring and have a mixture of logs, grass and wildlife plants, rocks, soil, pebbles and smooth gravel edging the pond. Our first Common Frog moved in with four weeks, together with a variety of aquatic creatures.

      I am really looking forward to next Spring!

  4. Judith Says:

    I agree about using a bit of everything around the edge and my pond has rock, soil, grasses, marginal plants and a gravel ‘beach’ which was supposed to provide a firm very shallow part for small birds to bathe in, but they usually use the muddy edges anyway.
    I understand the theory of very clean water to avoid high nutrient levels so that the pond doesn’t become choked with blanket weed, but before I heard about this I have always put subsoil in the base of a pond and on the ledges and put masses of oxygenating plants in to start with, and never had a problem with algae. I have newts, frogs, beetles, and all the usual smaller invertebrates every year, in perfectly clear water so I wonder if I really need to worry about pollution?

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Hi Judith – I’d guess the subsoil ought to be low in nutrients, and the more plants you’ve got the better in terms of soaking up what nutrients there are, in out-competing algae and in providing habitats for animals.

      So – if you have few nutrients to start with and lots of plants, that’s pretty much spot on for no problems with algae and loads of life.

      By the way. if you haven’t already done it and have a few minutes to spare, it would be great to get your pond into the Big Pond Dip.


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