Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Improving Debdale Pond

Julie Howell holding loppers
Not sure I intended to be so 'hands on' but I really enjoyed it!

An exciting update for you.

Just over a year ago I wrote a blog entitled 'Watch These Spaces'. In the blog, I talked about the pond at Debdale in Orton Waterville and the parish council's plans to return it to a better state for the benefit of local wildlife.

This is how the pond looked then, in August 2016...

Debdale pond a year ago was in a mess

Fast forward to August 2017 and work has begun.

On the Sunday of the August bank holiday, I joined members of Peterborough Conservation Volunteers as they raked out the pond and cleared the scrub, using pieces of wood that might otherwise be discarded to reinforce the boundaries around this important site.

It was a very hot day and it was very hot work. Those of us working raking out the pond were given very long rakes and the conditions we very stinky and very muddy. I joked about falling over... and then slipped over, but no one avoided a good coating in mud.

Julie Howell raking Debdale pond
Whatever your ability you can have a go!
I did my best and like to think I made a modest difference.

Roger Proudfoot raking Debdale pond
Roger Proudfoot, Orton Waterville Parish Councillor and
joint coordinator (with me!) of Peterborough Green Party
Julie's dirty hand
Inevitably I slipped over. Sadly no one filmed it - I might have raised £250 from You've Been Framed.

Posted by Julie Howell on Sunday, 27 August 2017

Making progress

The pond is a former agricultural pond. Most of Waterville parish was farmland a century ago. Peterborough Conservation volunteers told me that when working on the pond in the past they had retrieved a number of old cattle bones from it. We retrieved an animal bone on this occasion too, although it is more likely that this one was thrown into the pond by someone who had just eaten takeaway food.

At the start of the day the pond looked like this. The pond has good tree cover which means many dead branches had either fallen or been thrown into it. There was also a fair amount of rubbish in the pond, hurled in by passing humans.

A group of volunteers raking Debdale pond
Hard at work to clear the pond of branches and debris.

At the end of the day the pond looked like this! All of the harmful and potentially harmful debris has been removed and the pond is now a safer and more suitable environment for local wildlife, including great crested newts.

Debdale pond after being raked
Wow. What a difference.

Pile of wood used to create a dead hedge
Fallen branches are used to make 'dead hedges' to improve protection of the site.

Peterborough Conservation Volunteers

Peterborough Conservation Volunteers break for tea
They even make the tea!

PCV is a local nature conservation group who help manage wildlife sites in and around Peterborough. They meet every Sunday to carry our many varied activities. They practice traditional skills and over a period of time you will find yourself helping them with coppicing, hedge laying, fencing and dry stone walling. Over the years they have formed close working links with the local Wildlife Trust, Natural England, The Woodland Trust and the local council. Much of their work is closely linked with the protection of locally or nationally rare species.

To find out more, visit Peterborough Conservation Volunteers.

Get involved

The next pond clearance will be on Sunday 22nd October 2017 from 10am. This time, Cherry Orton Pond at the top of Cherry Orton Road will be getting attention. Residents are very welcome to come along. You can watch or you can get directly involved - just be sure to wear appropriate clothing for getting wet and dirty.

Don't worry that you don't have much ability when it comes to this kind of work. I have multiple sclerosis and another condition known as sjogrens syndrome (tennis player Venus Williams also has this one) that mean I have pain in my shoulders and very little upper body strength - although I have very strong legs as I walk everywhere! I generally feel a bit left out from physical activity, but the PCV volunteers made everyone feel very welcome and stressed that we could all so as much or as little as we wanted to do.

Although I really enjoyed raking the pond it made me tired very quickly, so I switched to clearing the forest path for a while. I am very proud to say that I cleared the little stretch of path that you see in this picture.

Section of path cleared by Julie Howell
I cleared this section of path ALL ON MY OWN. Very proud. 

So don't be put off by lack of ability. Most of the volunteers are aged 50+ and it's your willingness to improve your local area that counts. If you can't join in as fully as you'd like to, that is no problem as the team is clearly very pleased that local people show an interest in conserving their local nature reserves.

FACT: The 'proper' name for Cherry Orton Pond is 'Top Town Pond'. Cherry Orton Road only got its name in 1950. Before this, the road leading up through Orton Waterville village was known as Town Street, although it seems local people tended to refer to it is 'the village road'. I'm told that some residents of Orton Goldhay know the pond as 'Black Pond' but no one seems to know how this name came into use. If you have any ideas, please let me know!

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT: I’m in Debdale pond in Orton Waterville this morning with some volunteers and people from the Wildlife Trusts to clear out this pond because there’s a lovely pond here that could be made into a feature for residents to enjoy to an extent but most importantly it’s a nature pond and we have great crested newts here. So I’m doing really sweaty work clearing out the pond. I’ve got my welly boots on even though it’s August. I’ll show you what we’re doing here. So I’ve got this great long rake to rake the muck out and we’re just removing branches, you see the branches, well some have fallen from the trees but a lot have been chucked in by human beings. We’re also clearing the paths around here so that people can easily get through to here so they can enjoy what nature provides. But we’re not turning it into a municipal type of pond. If you look up you’ll see there’s not an awful lot of daylight comes through because of the tree cover. There’s quite a lot of us here today. It’s lovely. It’s really hot actually. Sunday morning. Something I can’t get across to you. I’m using this rake in order to pull out all of the debris that’s in the pond. But it stinks. My goodness, does it stink. So it’s not the most pleasant. But it’s really, really worthwhile so I’m very pleased to do this. And it’s great to be out on a Sunday morning. It’s fantastic.

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