Natural pools: how they help understand the design of wildlife garden ponds

Very shallow ponds and pools, like the one above that we were looking in today in the New Forest, are an important guide to the design of good wildlife garden ponds.

They show the depth, cross section and size that is typical of small natural pools that have existed for countless millions of years around the world.

In the modern landscape they are especially common where grazing keeps ground vegetation low and there is little land drainage.

In Britain it is now very difficult to find landscapes which are free from the networks of drains – essential for efficient modern farming, but common in woodland too – that quickly and efficiently remove shallow pools like the one above.

The New Forest, although more drained than one might immediately suspect, is still wetter than most other parts of lowland Britain.

In the pond above there were caddis flies, water beetles, freshwater shrimps, pond skaters and stoneflies. There were also a few frog tadpoles and ponds only a little deeper than this often have smooth newts in the Forest. It goes without saying that this pond is fed by unpolluted water draining from the forest and heathland around it.

You can see the depth, which comes about half-way up mine and Katy’s wellies.

This is probably a little too shallow for the ordinary garden pond – it will dry out in the summer – no problem for maybe half of all freshwater plants and animals, but not ideal if you want to go pond dipping in the middle of summer. Ponds which dry out are entirely natural but, of course, are no use at all for fish keeping.


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