Bateman's revitalised ponds
Nestled in a tranquil valley in the beautiful Sussex Weald, Bateman's estate covers over 300 acres and has a wealth of different habitats for the wildlife of the area. Among these are several ponds and the team at Bateman's have been putting in some hard work to revitalise these so they can become a brilliant habitat, for some very special wildlife.
At Bateman's we have seventeen ponds across the 300 acre estate, remnants of the Wealden iron industry - iron stone was dug out for processing at local furnaces and forges from at least the early 16th century until the early 19th century. Once abandoned, the pits became ponds.
All ponds will turn back into dry (ish) land in the long-term as fallen leaves and other vegetation collect in the pond, decompose into soil and support gradually larger and larger types of vegetation that eventually consume most of the water that collects there.
Eventually we are left with wet, marshy woodland. This is an entirely natural process (called 'succession') and different species make use of every different stage of the process. However, if all the ponds are at the same successional stage it can be beneficial to interfere in this process to create ponds that will support a range of species that is different from neighbouring ponds.
In recent years these ponds have become overgrown and were in need of some heavy work to refresh them and bring them back to life to create a habitat that would attract rare amphibians as well as many varieties of dragonflies and damselflies.
In 2016 we successfully applied for grant funding to improve the habitat quality of three of the ponds on the Bateman's estate. Contractors were employed to de-silt the ponds, creating deeper water and a more varied profile (some deep bits, some shallow bits). Some trees were cleared from around the ponds to allow more light and warmth onto the water. Warmer water increases the number of species and especially helps amphibian eggs to develop successfully.
Great Crested Newts
One pond, which dried out every summer preventing the successful development of young great crested newts, had a liner installed. And in 2019, adult great crested newts were found in one of the restored ponds for the first time. Two of the ponds are adjacent to public rights of way so can be visited easily.
What's planned for the future?
The work that was carried out will increase light levels on the ponds and this will increase the amount of vegetation. As this gets established it will improve the habitat for dragon- and damselflies, a wide range of amphibians such as the Great Crested Newt and some toads. In fact, we are hoping that a huge variety of water-loving wildlife will be drawn to these revitalised sites.