This post is written by Alex, who has been WWOOFing with us since mid March.  Alex is a freelance web & database developer as well as an expert on elearning.

I have been here for almost a month – the time has flown by as it is such a fabulous place with lovely people running it.  The work has been tough but enjoyable, after working in offices for a long time it has been good to get outside and get really tired from hard work!

Pond Design

The leaky pond before applying clay

March 2015 saw a big push in finishing the pond that Tom and Nicole started back in 2012. A pond is really desirable to help the biodiversity of the place and make it more beneficial for nature and create a more beautiful and enjoyable environment. It’s right next to the fire circle so will help make evenings outside more special.  And there are other advantages, such as the increased wildlife helping keep down pests.

In the first instance, the pond was dug out by a mechanical digger. It would have been preferable to do with more human scale tools and machines that are kinder to nature, but given the size and depth of the pond this would have been a massive undertaking, and impractical with the resources at Laya Point.

The design has different depths to create varied zones within the system for a variety of plants and fish.  Smaller fish will prefer the shelter of the shallow areas and it still allows larger fish to live there too.  There is an island in the middle that will create more edges between land and water, and so will create more biodiversity.  Edible plants like chinese water chestnut and watercress would be great, as well as some long grasses for wildlife to hide in. The increased biodiversity will be helpful to encourage insects and birds, which will keep down pests like aphids and slugs, and will help pollinators, as well as being more beautiful. The island may get a duck house in the future too.

The leaky pond retained a little water

Puddling Clay

The method was simple – we had a neighbour needing rid of a large amount of clay, so we were happy to take this off his hands. The soil in our pond is silty and rocky, and  presently only hold water in one section, up to about a foot.  Above this, the pond leaks and  all the water is lost. If we spread clay all around the pond thickly so it is sealed and watertight, then it will keep the water in. This is an old technique that was used frequently in the 1800s in sealing canals. We got some great advice from Mike at Flowerpotman Landscape Gardeners who we phoned for a bit of advice. He said basically it wasn’t too hard to do  and suggested we check out his useful article on puddling clay.

Building Up the Pond Edges

We piled the clay up on the outskirts of the pond so we could reach it at all times when standing at the edge of the pond. Foliage got removed as well as some of the rocks so that the surface was smooth. The clay got mixed and slapped on the sides of the pond in quite generous quantities, a couple of inches thick. Bare feet and hands proved the best way to apply it softly and spread it evenly.

 

Spreading the clay with feet
darren contemplates the clayed and sealed pond
Alex doing some kind of pond dance

 

This process was great, but we has some difficulty with some of the banks that collapsed through the removal of structure provided by the foliage. To fix this we threw in some larger rocks (there is no shortage of them here!) and covered them completely with clay, which made the banks much stronger. The water started rising overnight even after only 1/4 of the pond was sealed and after a few days, the pond sealed and the water rose a couple of feet. We did a second layer of clay on some of the pond but didn’t have time to do it on the whole pond as the water rose too fast.

There were two other WWOOFers (Juli and Darren) beside me, helping with it. Also a group of Tom and Nicole’s friends helped while dancing to some good music in the lovely sunny weather. We have quite a bit of clay left too – Tom and Nicole may use this for a clay pizza oven if it is not needed for the pond. There is still some bentonite which we can throw into the pond to seal any cracks and leaks that appear later.  All in all, hard work, but well worth it!

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puddling the clay with wooden tools

Building Ponds to Improve Biodiversity

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