I expect most people will have noticed the difference that dredging, and some work on the surrounding trees and other vegetation, have made to Ashtead Pond. It has taken a few years, but I think we are, at last, on the right track to getting the pond back to the treasured feature it once was.
We ‘lost’ the water and even the ability to watch the wild fowl for too many years because of inappropriate management and a bad choice of planting between the road and the water. It was done in good faith in the hope that reeds and sedges would filter out pollution from the road but, of course, lack of funding was at the bottom of this. The pond had been dredged but instead of taking away the silt, it was dumped on the northern edge of the basin and held back by a wicker revetment. Inevitably, the vegetation grew thick and dense and the tall plants, including willow trees, completely obscured the water from public view. Then the revetment started to rot, the dumped silt started to slump back into the basin, and the whole thing looked a mess. Indeed, it was a mess. The poor birds couldn’t take advantage of the reed beds because of plastic netting and there was no pleasure in sitting at the water’s edge trying to watch them.
After considerable pressure, last year the Council removed about 160 tons of stinking, organic silt, and that certainly made a difference to the depth of water retained by the basin. There wasn’t enough money in the Council kitty to finish the job last year, but they have certainly done us proud now.
Another 170 tons of silt were removed this summer and, as I have been requesting for such a long time, attention was given to the trees that had just become too big. They were shedding vast amounts of leaves into the water which, of course, fermented at the bottom of the pond, resulting oxygen depletion and the accumulation of thick, organic muck. The trees were also abstracting vast amounts of water and the pond became progressively shallow. Then, the excessively hot summer resulted in a great deal of evaporation such that the water nearly disappeared and toxic blue-green bacteria spread across the surface of the exposed muck. We were then subjected to the distressing sight of fish flapping,
gaping, and dying on the surface of the exposed, slimy, sediment. Let us hope we never see that again!!
A number of the surrounding trees and shrubs have been pollarded and coppiced and there is much more to be done. I have been assured that a regular programme of maintenance will keep the peripheral vegetation in check by periodic trimming, pollarding, and coppicing. We need to keep the plants growing on the bank in front of the cottages because they are stabilising the soils there, and an area of ‘rough’ vegetation will be kept at the north-west corner to provide a haven for the wild fowl.
Some of them actually nested there this year so they seem to favour that spot, and it seems sensible and fair to keep it ‘wild’ for them.
On the eastern edge of the pond (towards Craddock’s Parade), an area has been planted with grasses and it will be kept mown so that there will be pleasant ‘viewing point’ that will be particularly suitable for mothers and their children.
Two trees have fallen down in the last year or so, and the Council has promised me that all the remaining ones will be checked regularly. Indeed, they have all been subjected to an inspection quite recently, and anything that is deemed to be unsafe will be trimmed and generally sorted out. You might also have noticed that a large, dead Rowan tree has also been taken out as it was an eyesore and could have presented a hazard.
Lastly, you cannot fail to have noticed that the concrete bollards and metal poles that form the fence in front of the cottages are leaning in toward the pond. We are hoping to apply for funding to get that part of the bank sorted out, and any other necessary repairs done at the same time.
Let us hope that next year, we will all be able to enjoy Ashtead Pond to a much greater extent than we have for years.
by Councillor Patricia Wiltshire