April 2010

Having seen the first lot of stock fish go into the pond in late March, it seemed to bring home how far the club had actually come in terms of the restoration. The fish going into the water gave a sense of nearing the end. Although the current contract was agreed back in 2007 and the major work being done in 2009, all told the club had been engaged in getting to this point in one form or another for around 15 years. A great undertaking with a lot of experience and knowledge gained along the way.

Two notice boards had been made by the club members, and with kind permission of the house management, one placed next to the car park. It was felt that with only 12 anglers being allowed to fish the pond at any one time, there was a need to how many where in attendance. This would at least possibly save a walk to the pond if all of the swims were taken. The second notice board was placed by the pond itself along with the rules and various notices. Both boards would be updated as and when the need arose.

The end of March had also seen a donation of plastic honeycomb ground support blocks from the Environment Agency. There was sufficient to cover nearly 32 square metres of swims, primarily for the disabled stations, with the remainder being used on the other larger stations. These are made from recycled plastics and allow the grass to grow through the holes within each mat. Thee pictures below show the before, during and after stages if the installation.

Raked over disabled swim prior to laying grass blocks Grass blocks layed out before top dressing

Top dressing of soil ready for seeding

Second disabled swim ready for a gravel dressing Apply the gravel dressing over the grass blocks

With the stocking of the fish, the need to keep them in the pond during any high waters or flooding became a little more urgent. The club had specified this need within the initial management plan with either a hit & miss wooden fence or a wire fence. The wooden hit & miss fence would have looked cosmetically far better but at a high price unfortunately. So a low wire fence was initially started along the bottom end of the pond, close to the ditch. The height varied slightly with the lie of the land but averaged some 600mm above bank level, allowing the free passage of any flood waters but not fish. The wire mesh was not noticeable at all unless one was stood fairly close. The fence along side of the pond would be a little more difficult to place due to the shrubbery bordering the ditch but would be even less noticeable. In all the fence would take up some 200m of wire mesh.

Easter Sunday had three members intending to continue the wire fence along the remaining bank of the pond. Unfortunately, the generator needed to run the grinder didn't want to play and refused to start, leaving the party without a means of cutting the remaining scaffold poles to size. More wooden stakes were found and made into posts from the timber that had been felled over the seasons, but the morning was running out, leaving little time to continue with the fence. The remaining time was spent burning, tree cuttings and laying some of the remaining grass blocks from the Environment Agency. All three disabled swims now have these in place and have been filled over with a covering of earth. One has been sewn with seed. The spare grass blocks that had been left over were used on other stations around the lake, three of which have been filled over with earth, the rest await laying.

Visits from members to the pond since the first stocking brought reassuring news that the fish appeared to at home in the pond. No reports of any dead fish in the margins had come back, although this wouldn't be the case if any cormorants or herons had been at work. Two swans had taken up residence along with two Canada geese, the battle for territory being seriously contested over the morning.

The second working party on the 11th April had the generator working again after a bit of a service, which allowed the scaffold poles to be cut for the fence. The wire mesh was continued up the side of the pond for about  another thirty meters into the rhododendron bushes. With four members on this working party, plenty was achieved by mid afternoon with one pair working on thew fencing and the second continuing with fishing stations. Only two or three stations now remain that need back filling and have some grass blocks laid. The last 25kg bag of grass seed also needs to be used up, filling in some of the more sparsely grassed areas along with some of the swims.

The remaining work is only general tidying of the area, such as filling in ruts, using up the remaining spoil and the pruning of various branches to allow casting from the fishing stations. The plant life around the edge of the pond is slowly returning with the warmer weather giving the sense of a bit of normality to the area. The swans and the geese mentioned earlier have now appeared to have nested which is also encouraging, although the swans nest site almost in the middle of the pathway with next to no nest material is a little bizarre.

April 18th's working party concentrated on the remaining fishing stations and getting them back filled with spoil and any grass blocks that had been set aside. All of them bar one was completed, but this was due to the swan nesting behind it. This was left until a later date and wouldn't take long to finish. A couple of the early stations that had been built hadn't quite come out as expected. The usual scenario, the last couple are always the best. So these were straightened up and adjusted to suit. A large pile of branches were also cut up and burned, allowing access to a large pile of spoil that could be used around the pond.

The warmer weather was certainly showing up the abundance of fry that had managed to come in with the last flood around Christmas. There were hundreds across various parts of the pond, but not really close enough or big enough to identify the species.

That last working party of April involved the general tidying of the area. Leaves and branches were removed along with the club old boat that was no longer able to float. The prolonged dry spell has certainly seen small drop in the water level given the plant growth and the lack of rain. The low fence along the bottom end of the pond was reinforced with a top wire as we suspect that one of the geese may have been clambering over it. The swan and goose continue to nest and hopefully the young will appear shortly.