Pond Update 6th February 2021

This month the Grey and Crack Willow trees on the island have been coppiced but they have not been killed and will grow back very quickly over the next few months. This was done in the same way just a dozen or so years ago. The two tall trees on the island are rare Sussex Black Poplars which were planted several years ago as part of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew's efforts to save this tree. One is a male and one is a female. At some time in the future they will have to be pollarded as they can grow very large. Both coppicing and pollarding are traditional management methods that have been used on waterside trees in Britain for many centuries and which lead to attractive tree shapes as well as being very good for wildlife. A damaged Cherry on the bank is also being removed for public safety and an overgrown Grey Willow is being trimmed. Although management work can appear drastic especially at this time of year vegetation will soon grow back very quickly and the pond will be more beautiful as a result.

The coppicing will not affect nesting birds in any way. Ducks and geese actually prefer open shorter vegetation only a foot or two high for nesting. Normally this time of year is too early for water birds to nest but even so the island was carefully surveyed for nests before the coppicing was done. The work is part of a carefully thought out ecological management plan approved by the council with the aim of repairing the habitat that had so long been neglected and to make the views over the pond even more beautiful. It will also bring back the wildlife that has been lost due to neglect.

Apart from the work contracted out to the tree surgeons much of the habitat restoration in the management plan is being carried out by the pond volunteers. Over the last two years the pond margins have been cleared of scrub to improve the views and edges of the pond have been planted with native water plants. Many of these have attractive flowers that have begun to brighten the pond and also provide food for pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies. The habitat at the wilder western end has been enhanced to provide better amphibian habitat. Last year we were rewarded with many breeding Frogs and also a few Toads. Their return after an absence over 30 years was sooner than could be hoped for. The Parish Council is required to have regard for the protection and enhancement of biodiversity and the new council is working here to do just that.

Once C19 allows, the volunteers will resume habitat restoration. Native Sussex Wealden wildflower meadow seed has already been purchased ready for planting in some areas on the banks. Bird nesting boxes of various types will be fitted to selected trees. The pond is also important for bats in our area and bat boxes will also be installed.

Here is the coppiced island several years ago. After coppicing willows usually grow many shoots up to 6 or 8 feet tall in one season. The island will be completely covered again by early summer. The young Willow shoots are great for wildlife such as Hawk Moth and Puss Moth caterpillars. The log piles provide habitat for breeding birds such as Wrens and also for hibernating amphibians. The resulting thinner trees can be easily managed by the volunteers into the future. Attractive wetland plants such as Irises and Purple Loosestrife will also be planted.