Water is always the hardest part of any project, and NaturEscape is no exception.
We really wanted water for NaturEscape – it adds a dimension that benefits birds,
insects, and of course, amphibians. And, as we are bordered by the Boundary
Brook, and our species survey from Thames Valley Environmental Records office,
showed that our site had previously attracted water-loving species such as Cetti's
warbler, Grey wagtail, and even Kingfisher, there was real value in trying to increase
our habitat diversity with a pond. Our biggest issue is that unlike many nature
reserves and wildlife sites, NaturEscape is open to the public all the time that
Florence Park is open, so including water means making it safe.
We don’t want to fence off the water, so we have installed a safety grid, sitting just below the surface of the water, to prevent any accidental dippings into the deeper
part of the pool. But the pond is still accessible to our forest school and other group
leaders for pond dipping under supervision. Once the plants have grown through the
grid, and we have some rain to restore the water level, the pond will sit more
naturally in its environment. But even now it is providing a welcome source of
moisture for at least one frog!
Originally we designed a pond using a butyl liner and incorporating a bog garden.
But then we were offered a very substantial fibre-glass shell, with shelves and a
good deep section (600mm) – it seemed silly and wasteful to turn down the offer,
although we knew it would be harder to install, and harder to make suitable for
wildlife. But recycling a used pond is very much in line with our ethos, so we went
Well, we were right about the effort involved. And, as so often in the last two years
we were hampered by weather – By April the rain had stopped and we were able to
re-convene our volunteers and start digging again. Fitting the fibre-glass shell into
the 'hole' we dug for it, and making sure it was level took several days, a lot of sand,
and the hard work of in March by extreme wet which raised the already high water
table in the park to an unworkable level. We had to abandon our first attempt to dig
deep enough for the pond shell to be bedded in (although perhaps we weren't wise
to hope for drier weather)!
By the middle of May the pond was about half-full of natural rain water, but we need
it to be at its full height for the grid to be safely installed, so we took the difficult
decision to top it up with water from Flo's. Teams of volunteers with wheelbarrows
and watering cans walked from the pond to Flos, and back again, about a 800 metre
A final push from the Good Gym and regular volunteer Lucy Ginsberg, plus regular
helpers Dan and Hamish, got the water to the top by the end of the afternoon. Next
day, our pond grid suppliers arrived to install the grid. At last we could fill the pond
with oxygenators, native white water lily and frog bit, and plant marginals on the
shelves and beach area.