Pond restoration at Chartwell

Rangers working on clearing the central pond at Grange Farm

The rangers not only look after the wider estate at Chartwell, but large amounts of the surrounding West Kent countryside as well, including nearby Grange Farm. Since winter 2019/20 they have been bringing three ponds back to life, providing a fantastic habitat for wildlife.

What’s the problem?

All land undergoes a natural process called succession, through which areas of woodland or vegetation change and develop over time. Generally, succession is beneficial. It’s the same process which allows forest or woodland to naturally regenerate after it has been destroyed.

In the UK, succession means that most lowland habitat will eventually succeed to woodland. This can include bodies of water that, without either natural or artificial intervention or natural flow, can silt up, dry out, and be colonised by trees. As a result, the species that once depended on the water body then die out or have to find somewhere else to thrive.

Before this project work by our ranger team, the ponds at Grange Farm had not been properly managed for over a decade.

The number of trees growing in and around the ponds – along with all the associated leaf litter drop during winter – meant that the ponds were starting to dry out in summer. Partial drying out is certainly beneficial for some wildlife, but we wanted to retain water all year round in other parts of the ponds.

Our solution

We are still working hard on this project, but we’ve made some great progress already and the smaller of the three ponds has now been fully restored. There are a few key actions that we carried out as part of the process.

We selectively felled and thinned around 60% of the trees surrounding the pond, which will allow for the remaining trees to grow larger and healthier. In turn, this creates a much better environment for returning wildlife.

We also created windrows and habitat piles and carried out some manual dredging of the silt layer. You can already see the difference these works have made. The aim is to create a habitat mosaic of species, age and structure.

Local wildlife has certainly taken a liking to the new surroundings. We’ve already seen kingfishers and a number of species of dragonflies making use of the small pond, and our area ranger is continuing to carry out field observation to further evaluate progress.

Next steps

We were due to start similar work on the second pond of spring 2020, which would ordinarily have meant that we’d be all finished by the autumn. Unfortunately, the wet weather brought delays.

We’ll keep you updated as the project progresses, so be sure to check in periodically and find out how things are going.