Wednesday, 9 January 2013

A plague of ponds

Every couple of months I walk a circuit around Blakemoor Farm, just to the north east of Ellington and Cresswell villages. Takes a couple of days, partly stopping to admire the chocolate powder detail of summer ringlet butterflies or the winter echelons of geese as they honk and wail with displeasure at my presence in their fields. The purpose of the walk is to count and roughly map out the numbers of ponds. Satellite images and air photos might do the job but field walking reveals more than our sophisticated air borne familiars can properly detect. Some ponds are tucked away along hedges, under trees or in ruts. Even if air photographs could do the work I would want to be out in the fields, the fate of individual ponds surprisingly different as the seasons roll. The wet summer of 2012 picked out so many hollows and sags in the subsiding fields, in addition to the more permanent sites. The Google Earth view above is the fields around Ellington Caravan Park in May, as the rising saturation began to infect the whole of the summer. Red rings mark out the ponds, except for some of the smallest which do not show on the air image. The Oil Seed Rape's yellow pall is blotched by shallow field pools, most of them long re-current sites flooding in winter but seldom all through the summer. The Oil Seed was particularly grim in the rain; even walking around the edges the swell of stems would spray and drip water, enough to leave waterproofs sodden. Nonetheless the walking pays off. This is an extraordinary density of ponds, although making any such claims may be naive given how poorly we know the numbers of smaller ponds elsewhere in the British landscape.

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