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Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust

PUBLISHED: 16:40 20 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:25 20 February 2013

Cotswold Life has teamed up with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust to give a practical view of how we can all appreciate and celebrate the wildlife and landscapes in the Cotswold area each month.

HOW TO ... build a wildlife pond.


Building a pond is one of the best things you can do in your garden to attract wildlife. In recent years wild ponds - small, land-bound bodies of water occurring naturally in wild habitats - have been disappearing at a rate of 9000 a year, which has hugely reduced the volume of aquatic habitats in the UK. Building a garden pond, however small, will help compensate for this loss and bolster the network of wet habitats that is almost lost.



Choose a site carefully - building a pond near your garden water butt or a water supply will make it easy to top it up in dry weather. Plan to build the pond in a sunny position, away from overhanging trees and shrubs (there's nothing worse than rotting leaves and vegetation for reducing a pond's oxygen and killing aquatic life) and well clear of services such as gas and electricity lines



Design before you build - once you have decided where to put your pond, you need to decide how big it's going to be and what it's going to look like. The bigger you can make it the better, as larger ponds are richer in wildlife and easier to maintain in a balanced state. A good pond design is a saucer shape with gently sloping edges, so that animals can get in and out. An irregular shoreline with 'bays' will provide secluded areas for wildlife. Shelves and ledges will add variations in depth, though at the centre of the pond it needs to be at least 0.75m deep to ensure it doesn't freeze completely in winter.



Start digging - it will help if you mark out the shape of your pond first with canes or string. When you start to dig, strip the turf and keep it to edge the pond later. Dig the hole 15 - 20cm deeper than needed to allow for the liner and a protective layer, and dig a trench around the edge of the pond so you can bury the edges of the liner at the end. Always check that the lip of the pond is level all the way round.



Lining the pond - The easiest way to line a pond is to use butyl rubber, which is hard to puncture and will last at least 50 years. You can work out the size of the liner you will need from the following formula:



Length = greatest length of finished pool + twice maximum depth


Width = greatest width of finished pool + twice maximum depth



When you are ready to line the pond remove all sharp stones, cover the hole with a protective layer of old carpet or newspapers, and place the liner over the hole. Cover the liner with polyester matting to protect it from sunlight and provide a rough surface for soil to cling to.


Now, carefully place a thin layer of subsoil mixed with washed sand over the polyester matting and fill with water. When full, secure the liner in the trench with soil and edge with turf.



Planting your pond - leave your pond at least a week for the soil to settle before planting. You can plant directly into the layer of soil, or if you have built underwater ledges put plants in perforated pots on these. Try to include at least one plant from each of the following lists:



OXYGEN MAKERS - water milfoil, water starwort


FLOATING LEAVED - fringed water lily, water crowfoot, water soldier


SHALLOW WATER - yellow flag, water forget-me-not, water mint, arrowhead



Your pond will soon be colonised by wildlife, but to speed things up you could introduce a bucket of mud from a neighbour's pond, already full of bugs, larvae and microscopic creatures. Please don't swap frogspawn though, as you may transfer infections between frog populations.



And finally - when you design your pond don't forget to leave space for a blanket alongside, where you can sit and enjoy your watery wildlife next summer.





Garden wildlife diary


If you already have a pond in your garden, your resident amphibians will be on a mission in September - to eat all they can to put on weight for winter. By October cold nights will encourage hibernation and toads and newts will find logs to lie under or perhaps hide in the compost heap. Male frogs may even sleep at the bottom of ponds.



If you stopped feeding your garden birds through the summer season of plenty, September is a good time to start again. Why not try putting out some different types of food for them - robins love meal worms while gold finches' favourite is niger seeds.



If you're lucky enough to have fruit trees in your garden, you may be looking forward to harvesting some of your apples and pears this month. Remember to leave a few on the ground for birds and wasps.



It's hard to resist tidying the garden after the growing season, but if you leave some untidy corners it will be appreciated by overwintering species, which will use them through the winter months for shelter and possibly hibernation.






Countryside diary


September is a golden month in the Cotswold countryside. The 'harvest' is underway not just by farmers but also our wildlife. This is a month when our hedgerows are dripping berries - blackberries, sloes, rose hips - which many species will feast on so they are well fed and ready for the leaner winter months. It's lovely to join in (there's plenty to go round), especially if you have any nice recipes for jam, jelly or gin. There's also nothing quite as delicious as a blackberry and apple pie when you've picked the blackberries yourself.



In the Trust's woodland reserves, work begins around the end of the month to selectively coppice and fell trees so that there's enough light for next spring's wildflowers to come through. This is a traditional method of woodland management which helps keep the habitat productive and in balance.



The swifts and swallows have now left for warmer climes, but some early migrants may already be flying in from the north to over winter in the UK. It's worth looking out for fieldfares and redwings, which are particularly keen on dropped fruit in orchards and even gardens.




My favourite places - my allotment in Hillesley and Lower Woods Nature Reserve


Tom Burditt, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust's nature reserves development manager


Like many people I suppose my favourite places are also those that are most familiar to me. I live in Hillesley in the south of the county, a little village on the edge of the Cotswolds but not really in them.



At this time of year it is hard to beat my allotment. The view is fantastic - I can see up the beautiful Kilcott valley towards Tresham and the Trust's Midger Wood, along the Cotswold scarp towards Wotton and the North Nibley monument and down across the vale to the hills of the Forest of Dean and even the Welsh mountains on a clear day. That is the direction in which the sun sets, picking out the golds of the landscape and the stone houses of my village, and turning the mighty muddy Severn Estuary into a silver thread. The swifts wheel overhead, a song thrush sings every night from the overgrown hedge, and hot air balloons regularly drift across. The juicy raspberries, orange runner bean and yellow courgette flowers fight for space with the overgrown weeds and the air smells of sheep and cut grass.



It is also hard to beat Lower Woods Nature Reserve and Inglestone Common, just over the hill. This is where I spend most of my time at work, but it's such a special place I find myself going back in my spare time. Summer walks after work with my family always end up down by the stream (the Little Avon) because my two-year old son loves paddling in the stream, running over the bridge, calling out to the illusive kingfishers and watching the ripples and splashes from thrown stones. It is made somehow more satisfying because his favourite bit is a sunny glade that I cleared of scrub with some volunteers a few years ago. I think I like watching him flitting about as much as the grey wagtails, the dragonflies (emperors and beautiful demoiselles here), hornets and silver-washed fritillaries.



The thing about the Woods is that there is always something new. In the autumn I love the turning leaves (yellow hornbeam, golden beech and red spindle leaves especially) and the slight chill in the air that tells of winter coming and log stoves. And there is nothing quite like standing in a coppice in late April or early May at the very moment that the sun comes up and you realise that you are surrounded by bluebells. I know lots of other "bluebell woods" that people call their favourites all over the county, but mine is Lower Woods. Not because it is big or important but because it is local and familiar. At 5 o'clock on a spring morning it feels like it is all mine, and that I am somehow it's.




Membership of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust costs from just 2 a month. Join on-line at www.gloucestershirewidlifetrust.co.uk, phone 01452 383333 or visit the Trust's Conservation Centre at Robinswood Hill Country Park, Reservoir Road, Gloucester, GL4 6SX.


HOW TO ... build a wildlife pond.


Building a pond is one of the best things you can do in your garden to attract wildlife. In recent years wild ponds - small, land-bound bodies of water occurring naturally in wild habitats - have been disappearing at a rate of 9000 a year, which has hugely reduced the volume of aquatic habitats in the UK. Building a garden pond, however small, will help compensate for this loss and bolster the network of wet habitats that is almost lost.



Choose a site carefully - building a pond near your garden water butt or a water supply will make it easy to top it up in dry weather. Plan to build the pond in a sunny position, away from overhanging trees and shrubs (there's nothing worse than rotting leaves and vegetation for reducing a pond's oxygen and killing aquatic life) and well clear of services such as gas and electricity lines



Design before you build - once you have decided where to put your pond, you need to decide how big it's going to be and what it's going to look like. The bigger you can make it the better, as larger ponds are richer in wildlife and easier to maintain in a balanced state. A good pond design is a saucer shape with gently sloping edges, so that animals can get in and out. An irregular shoreline with 'bays' will provide secluded areas for wildlife. Shelves and ledges will add variations in depth, though at the centre of the pond it needs to be at least 0.75m deep to ensure it doesn't freeze completely in winter.



Start digging - it will help if you mark out the shape of your pond first with canes or string. When you start to dig, strip the turf and keep it to edge the pond later. Dig the hole 15 - 20cm deeper than needed to allow for the liner and a protective layer, and dig a trench around the edge of the pond so you can bury the edges of the liner at the end. Always check that the lip of the pond is level all the way round.



Lining the pond - The easiest way to line a pond is to use butyl rubber, which is hard to puncture and will last at least 50 years. You can work out the size of the liner you will need from the following formula:



Length = greatest length of finished pool + twice maximum depth


Width = greatest width of finished pool + twice maximum depth



When you are ready to line the pond remove all sharp stones, cover the hole with a protective layer of old carpet or newspapers, and place the liner over the hole. Cover the liner with polyester matting to protect it from sunlight and provide a rough surface for soil to cling to.


Now, carefully place a thin layer of subsoil mixed with washed sand over the polyester matting and fill with water. When full, secure the liner in the trench with soil and edge with turf.



Planting your pond - leave your pond at least a week for the soil to settle before planting. You can plant directly into the layer of soil, or if you have built underwater ledges put plants in perforated pots on these. Try to include at least one plant from each of the following lists:



OXYGEN MAKERS - water milfoil, water starwort


FLOATING LEAVED - fringed water lily, water crowfoot, water soldier


SHALLOW WATER - yellow flag, water forget-me-not, water mint, arrowhead



Your pond will soon be colonised by wildlife, but to speed things up you could introduce a bucket of mud from a neighbour's pond, already full of bugs, larvae and microscopic creatures. Please don't swap frogspawn though, as you may transfer infections between frog populations.



And finally - when you design your pond don't forget to leave space for a blanket alongside, where you can sit and enjoy your watery wildlife next summer.





Garden wildlife diary


If you already have a pond in your garden, your resident amphibians will be on a mission in September - to eat all they can to put on weight for winter. By October cold nights will encourage hibernation and toads and newts will find logs to lie under or perhaps hide in the compost heap. Male frogs may even sleep at the bottom of ponds.



If you stopped feeding your garden birds through the summer season of plenty, September is a good time to start again. Why not try putting out some different types of food for them - robins love meal worms while gold finches' favourite is niger seeds.



If you're lucky enough to have fruit trees in your garden, you may be looking forward to harvesting some of your apples and pears this month. Remember to leave a few on the ground for birds and wasps.



It's hard to resist tidying the garden after the growing season, but if you leave some untidy corners it will be appreciated by overwintering species, which will use them through the winter months for shelter and possibly hibernation.






Countryside diary


September is a golden month in the Cotswold countryside. The 'harvest' is underway not just by farmers but also our wildlife. This is a month when our hedgerows are dripping berries - blackberries, sloes, rose hips - which many species will feast on so they are well fed and ready for the leaner winter months. It's lovely to join in (there's plenty to go round), especially if you have any nice recipes for jam, jelly or gin. There's also nothing quite as delicious as a blackberry and apple pie when you've picked the blackberries yourself.



In the Trust's woodland reserves, work begins around the end of the month to selectively coppice and fell trees so that there's enough light for next spring's wildflowers to come through. This is a traditional method of woodland management which helps keep the habitat productive and in balance.



The swifts and swallows have now left for warmer climes, but some early migrants may already be flying in from the north to over winter in the UK. It's worth looking out for fieldfares and redwings, which are particularly keen on dropped fruit in orchards and even gardens.




My favourite places - my allotment in Hillesley and Lower Woods Nature Reserve


Tom Burditt, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust's nature reserves development manager


Like many people I suppose my favourite places are also those that are most familiar to me. I live in Hillesley in the south of the county, a little village on the edge of the Cotswolds but not really in them.



At this time of year it is hard to beat my allotment. The view is fantastic - I can see up the beautiful Kilcott valley towards Tresham and the Trust's Midger Wood, along the Cotswold scarp towards Wotton and the North Nibley monument and down across the vale to the hills of the Forest of Dean and even the Welsh mountains on a clear day. That is the direction in which the sun sets, picking out the golds of the landscape and the stone houses of my village, and turning the mighty muddy Severn Estuary into a silver thread. The swifts wheel overhead, a song thrush sings every night from the overgrown hedge, and hot air balloons regularly drift across. The juicy raspberries, orange runner bean and yellow courgette flowers fight for space with the overgrown weeds and the air smells of sheep and cut grass.



It is also hard to beat Lower Woods Nature Reserve and Inglestone Common, just over the hill. This is where I spend most of my time at work, but it's such a special place I find myself going back in my spare time. Summer walks after work with my family always end up down by the stream (the Little Avon) because my two-year old son loves paddling in the stream, running over the bridge, calling out to the illusive kingfishers and watching the ripples and splashes from thrown stones. It is made somehow more satisfying because his favourite bit is a sunny glade that I cleared of scrub with some volunteers a few years ago. I think I like watching him flitting about as much as the grey wagtails, the dragonflies (emperors and beautiful demoiselles here), hornets and silver-washed fritillaries.



The thing about the Woods is that there is always something new. In the autumn I love the turning leaves (yellow hornbeam, golden beech and red spindle leaves especially) and the slight chill in the air that tells of winter coming and log stoves. And there is nothing quite like standing in a coppice in late April or early May at the very moment that the sun comes up and you realise that you are surrounded by bluebells. I know lots of other "bluebell woods" that people call their favourites all over the county, but mine is Lower Woods. Not because it is big or important but because it is local and familiar. At 5 o'clock on a spring morning it feels like it is all mine, and that I am somehow it's.




Membership of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust costs from just 2 a month. Join on-line at www.gloucestershirewidlifetrust.co.uk, phone 01452 383333 or visit the Trust's Conservation Centre at Robinswood Hill Country Park, Reservoir Road, Gloucester, GL4 6SX.

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