Sunday, 30 December 2012

The ponds that come and go

At Hauxley Nature Reserve the wet December has submerged the field with our experimental ponds. You can see a few of the square pools which have not been overwhelmed at the far right of the flood waters. The last time the site flooded so extensively was the summer of 1997, after rainfall in June that was reckoned to have a return time of 1 in 300 years. "Return time" is one of those phrases that has slipped the leash and terrorised news bulletins this year; there were weeks when bedraggled Environment Agency or Council staff were being interviewed daily to explain the damage wrought by that week's 1 in 100... 200... 300... year flood. One striking result of the rainfall is how the numbers of ponds and pools has changed with the seasons. Simply counting the number of ponds along Druridge Bay is not that simple. Maps only record ponds large enough and permanent enough coincide with surveyors' revisiting the Bay. There are many large ponds missing on any published maps. Small ponds are wholly over looked. To get a feel for the numbers and how they wax and wane with the seaons I have been walking the same route across Blakemoor Farm at the south of the Bay every couple of months for the last two years, recording all the ponds I can see. This is roughly all the fields from the coast road at Blakemoor inland across to Ellington, with occasional detours to avoid bulls or impenetrable walls of late summer oil seed rape. In Decmber 2010 there were 66 ponds, in December 2011 49 ponds and this December 107. The largest is over 11,000 square metres, the smallest just a metre or two. Landscape can feel very familiar and certain but the ponds hint at the liminal nature of the habitat. Regardless of the changes the sheer number of ponds in so small an area is very unusual. We look forward to 2013 and the pond time machine of Druridge Bay throwing up fresh surprises. Happy New Year to all our readers.

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