Thursday, 23 July 2015

The drought canyons of Cresswell

The summer drying has come to Druridge Bay. In recent years I have done a regular walk every two to three months around the ponds at Blakemoor Farm. Many are temporary, whether in the dunes, grassy pasture or in amongst the arable crops. Most of them dry out in most summers, but not all. This summer though the drying out has claimed some new ponds.
The one in the photo is tucked away out of sight in pasture along the dune road and has never dried out since I started the walks in 2010. A spring seems out on the western slope and maybe this has kept it topped up whilst those around recede and dry. This summer though the whole pond has dried away, leaving a crazy-paving styled substrate of cracked mud. The cracks are six or more inches deep, zig-zagging between columns of concreted mud on which tiny plants perch, small tufts of pineapple mayweed or cudweed.  Down in the dark, cooler chasms the mud is not wholly dry, but these rifts create a oddly out of scale world. Individual columns of dried mud can be lifted out and replaced in a 3D jigsaw. This pond has always teemed with tiny invertebrates such as ostracods and chironomid midge larvae, a refuge in previous dry summers. The gloppy mud stayed largely free of aquatic plants, the water from the spring suspiciously high in conductivity, a hint of mine water perhaps from the abandoned seams of Ellington Colliery below. Why it should dry so completely this year I do not know but it is sad to see, a dry pond seldom worries me; temporary ponds benefit from a dry phase, however this seems strange. The gulls and teal of summer that once loafed around its rim, dawdling through July and August are gone and the field does not seem quite right.

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