Pond Digging Started Today!

The Howe is all about providing an accessible green space for the community, alongside supporting and boosting the land’s value to the natural world. And having a wildlife pond at The Howe has been an ambition for many years.

Background to The Ponds Project
In the last 100 years the UK has lost over half of its ponds. And along with that, we’ve suffered declines in the number of all the wildlife that depend on them. So creating a new habitat of this nature is a really important thing to do – but it is complex.

The last 12 months have therefore been quite busy. Last summer and autumn were spent gathering information about how we might achieve our goal. First, we spoke to local people to find out more about what ponds had existed in the immediate area, and discovered that 2 ponds were filled in some 50 years ago in the exact location we had in mind!

So we surveyed the flora to choose the most likely location of these ghost ponds – which would be most suitable spots to site our new ponds – dug a series of trial pits, took regular water quality tests and monitored the rise and fall of water levels. Then in January, with detailed plans and contractor quotations in place, we applied for a financial grant to dig 3 large ponds in our bottom field (known as Tombs field). This was followed by a site visit from an independent expert to check our designs and ensure our plans were in line with the guidelines. After a nail biting wait, we were overjoyed in March to be told we had been successful. So the digging this week is the beginning of realising our dream!

The New Wildlife Ponds
The ponds are all going to be large – approximately 30m by 12m each – and our contractor will take around a week to dig and landscape around them using a large excavator. They will look pretty messy for a while but will then fill up gradually over the next few months with rainwater. Two of our ponds (the deeper ones at the western end of the field) will be allowed to colonise with water-loving plants naturally, whilst the third, shallower pond will be planted up by our volunteers with a selection of suitable native pond plants.

The earth from the excavations will be used to create butterfly banks close to each pond, which will naturally colonise with flowers and so we’ll not only be creating new habitats for aquatic and reptilian species but also provide more valuable space for pollinators and other insects too.

Improving Access
The Howe’s community pond project also includes improving access across The Howe – by replacing our rather wonky stile and dog gate with a brand-new kissing gate and installing a new farm gate to allow access for maintenance vehicles such as our large ride-on mower. Work on this aspect will begin in the next month or two.

Experts by Our Side
We couldn’t have got here without the advice and support we’ve received from several local wildlife organisations over the last 18 months. And we’d like to recognise a few of them here.

Both Wild Oxfordshire, and Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) provided guidance and encouragement in our initial planning stage. They helped us link up with our funding organisations below, as well as our freshwater habitat expert – ecologist Adam Bows of Oxecology, who prepared the designs, was vital in supporting our submission and is now overseeing the construction works for us.

Special Thanks to Our Funders
This project has been generously supported by the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment, with funding from South Oxfordshire District Council’s Community Infrastructure Levy Fund. This is obviously a major project for The Howe Trust, and it would not be possible without our their financial support. On behalf of us all at The Howe, and our wider community, we would like to therefore to give them our special thanks.


640 480 Maggie Fyffe
  • Tina Duffelen-Weller

    I am delighted about this project and will follow it step by step. It is a big and adventurous undertaking, but with all the advice you are getting, I am sure it will be a success. Well done all of you!

    • Thanks – we have already got at least one frog resident so look forward to reporting on our progress. Hoping for Broad-bodied Chaser dragonflies soon!

  • Good to know it’s all happening – should be a great facility for wildlife in the future.
    A periodic monitoring would be good.
    No mention of safety (kids etc) – no doubt this will be looked at.

    Glad to know there will be a kissing gate instead of the stile – good improvement.

    • Thanks! We’re v lucky to have an aquatic ecologist as a trustee now so the project will have specialist monitoring ongoing. Wildlife ponds are by their very nature shallow with beached edges gradually moving to a maximum depth at the centre of the 2 deeper ponds of approx 1.4m so we will soon have permanent signs in place (and rings etc) to warn parents and carers of the need to closely supervise children. Likewise we will be asking dog-owners to prevent their pets from padding in the ponds as tick and flea treatments are toxic to aquatic life…..

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