It’s Official – Vital Habitat

POND AND MEADOW PROVIDE VITAL HABITAT VALUE FOR PARK

Pond teeming with wildlife

Pond teeming with wildlife

Yes, it’s official according to Alex Draper of FROGLIFE when he visited Eaglesfield Park on Saturday 21st June 2014. Froglife www.froglife.org had previously been part of the consortium that helped and advised the Friends of Eaglesfield Park (FOEP) to obtain the £50,000 grant from the Community Spaces Programme (part of the Big Lottery Fund’s Changing Spaces initiative).    Froglife and Alex Draper remember the pond “pre- restoration”, therefore FOEP sought their advice again to see how the pond and meadow had progressed in the two year period since restoration.   We invited Froglife to visit Eaglesfield Park. The 21st June was a wonderful sunny day, which in itself made the pond look splendid, but we wanted to know just how successful we had been in attracting wildlife – pond creatures, insects, wildflowers, birds, etc.   Were we on the right path for creating a sustainable habitat that would be beneficial to our environment?  What else could we do?

Everything is looking good!

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During the visit Alex Draper provided in-depth information about the “life of the pond”, insects, supporting vegetation and meadow plants and pointed out some of the tasks required as part of our on-going management programme.   We were thrilled that our efforts had made a difference!   Alex also inspired us to carry on with the development of the pond area and pointed out maintenance issues that we wand to considered.   Following the visit, Alex emailed us summarising his observations, which I would now like to share with everyone.

Quoting extracts from Alex’s email to FOEP: “Great to meet you guys and share your passion for your pond. Overall the pond was good. Clean water and great to see the numerous newts efts and all the other pond creatures too… I remember what is was like before the works in 2012 and your pond is definitely providing vital habitat value for your park. That said ponds are not static and they all dream of becoming a damp woodland. Some management will be inevitable. –       

–          water lilies –  

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200Not a native species. Investigate late summer/early autumn while leaves are visible. Try to remove some at the rooted base. They will have a rhizome for sure. Don’t go too crazy with spades etc as you don’t want to damage the liner underneath. Just see what pulls out with only ‘gentle persuasion’ and acertain extent of root stock.  If the root will only come out with a lot of sediment then stop. You don’t want to damage your liner directly or by removing too much sediment that sits on top of it. If very hard to remove then you may need to look at using a specialist contractor and directly applied weedkiller to control or remove. We have a contractor that can do this type of work.  I would seek to remove at least two thirds of this if easy but ideally all and maybe if desirable then repot into a few baskets which are placed on top of one or two paving slabs or stones of ease of maintenance in the future.

(Glyceria maxima species – cultivar)

(Glyceria maxima species – cultivar)

–           the variegated “reeds” in the pond (Glyceria maxima species – cultivar) – (not native) – remove/drastically thin.  As above really see how easy to remove. I would look at total removal. Not a priority but you might on occasion thin out a few areas of the other sedge plants just to create some bare mud patches at the pond edge that can be beneficial for habitat diversity.

Tansy

Tansy

–          Re-seed (after meadow cut) – rough scarification (seeds – poppy/cornflower mix, yellow rattle) in early autumn. Also direct planting of 10cm potted wildflowers which will grow into robust plants such as common knapweed (Centuarea nigra), Ox eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgaris), tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), tufted vetch (Viccia cracca) then near pond edge, water figwort (Scrophularia auriculata) purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum). These will hold their own more amongst the taller grasses and bring added flower power impact – great for insects too! 

Safer/more space on dipping platform

Safer/more space on dipping platform

 

–           Pond Dipping Platform – keep trimmed back and try to provide extra (safe) dipping space.

–           Keep Nettles to sunny side

–           Keep Docks restricted

 

–           Perhaps offer the area either side of the gate (by platform) as an activity area/classroom.   VLUU L200  / Samsung L200   Alternatively develop the amenity grass area behind the bench. That looked like a good candidate area for some wildlife gardening to me.Additional fresh start meadow areaswith a mown pathway or two, logpiles amongst the shrubs etc.   –           Restrict visitor access to the platform and meadow either side of the platform.

–           Water quality looked good – clear. Looking at photos you sent I think the liner may have been capped in part by topsoil too. So there is a nutrient base there to be aware of – explains some of the very vigorous coverage and growth of some plants over a few years. Also duck weed may exploit this should it get disturbed in summer months by ducks etc.

–            Overall you are looking to maintain a mosaic of different zones of vegetation in your pond which provide a diversity of structure: floating, submerged, marginal, emergent etc as well as some areas of open water (maybe up to 30% or so).

–             Best time for vegetation removal is very late summer through to  autumn (September onwards)

–             Occasional large woody debris in pond or around edge is beneficial microhabitat. Ask visitors not to feed ducks.  Also not to bring in plants and animals which may become invasive or carry diseases. .

black mustard

black mustard

–             We think the tall yellow plant id Black Mustard (Brassica nigra) so not hedge mustard.

images-6

Pontederia cordata (Pickerel Weed

–             The odd looking emergent plant (it might be Pontederia cordata) do send me a picture if it flowers. That said if this is the plant I am not aware that it is an invasive species as such – arguably given the ponds setting you might decide to leave it be for now…certainly good structure for emerging dragonfly nymphs.  I would look to replace with arrowhead (Alisma plantago aquatic)  and water plantain (Sagittaria sagittifolia). Froglife recommends native plants for ponds but I do understand that there may be situations where non native plants are used for wider amenity objectives. That’s really a decision ultimately for your group and the council (landowners).

images-7–             Finally avoid using any mains water to top up the pond – natural fluctuating water levels are part and parcel of a ponds seasonal flux and the high and low water marks (the drawdown zone) is the richest for wildlife.  Even occasional drying out can be beneficial and within natural tolerance of many pond species. “

As you can see, Alex’s comments about our progress were very positive.   FOEP have a much clearer understanding of how to continue development of the pond and meadow and will certainly follow up Alex’s recommendations.  Consultation  with relevant interested parties, including Parks and Open Spaces (Royal Borough of Greenwich), FOEP supporters and local community will, of course continue to be a vital part of future plans.    If you have any comments, we would be pleased to hear from you.

We would like to thank Alex for visiting Eaglesfield Park and for sharing his expertise and enthusiasm.    FOEP are grateful for his advice and comments and will endeavour to  help provide a sustainable habitat for Eaglesfield Park wildlife, with a little from their “Friends”.   We will keep in touch with Alex and Froglife.   Meanwhile, check out Froglife’s  website and details of their Dragon Finder London Project.  Here are the links: Froglife Dragon Finder London project: http://www.froglife.org/dragonfinder/Dragon Finder App: http://www.froglife.org/dragonfinder/app/

We have already made a start by:VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

*      clearing the area around the pond dipping platform

*      reducing the docks/nettle plants.

*      The Parks & Open Spaces of Royal Borough of Greenwich will be cutting the meadow (and removing debris) in September.

In early autumn our plans include:

*      rough raking the meadow (once it has been cut)

*      sewing more seeds (mix as recommended by Alex) in early autumn

*      direct planting with 10cm potted wildflowers in early autumn

*      thinning variegated “reeds” (Glyceria maxima species – cultivar) after meadow cut

There is a lot we would like to accomplish before the onset of the winter months.   The pond and meadow provide vital wildlife habitat for our park and environment and we hope our local community will join us to ensure its continued successful development. At the moment (assuming the meadow is cut early September), FOEP have two Sunday Maintenance Sessions scheduled (11am – 1pm – 28th September and 26th October) that will concentrate of preparations for next Spring.   However, I suspect we may need more, weather permitting.   How much we can achieve depends on the generosity of volunteers!  Whatever time you can spare will be most welcome.  Come and join us.

It’s a great to spend time enjoying the peaceful surroundings, observing damselflies, dragonflies, butterflies, listening to the birds, chatting to friends, pond dipping …..  Oh, and nearly forgot,  perhaps at the same time indulging in a little  gardening, litter picking or general tidying up !

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