Re-excavating the ghost ponds at Felbrigg

Riverlands

Ponds have been created on Felbrigg Estate in a way that will enable researchers to learn how wildlife responds to pond restoration.

Ponds provide vital clean freshwater environments through the farming landscape, creating fantastic habitats for aquatic plants and wildlife, including invertebrates, amphibians, fish, mammals and farmland birds.

After the Second World War, with the drive to increase food production, many British farmland ponds were lost to agriculture and small ponds were typically filled in with hedges, hedge bank soil and trees as fields were enlarged. Recent research by UCL shows that Norfolk lost around 8000 ponds after the 1950s. These so-called ‘Ghost Ponds’ are not altogether lost, however, and are often visible as wet depressions and crop marks out in the fields. 

Norfolk holds more ponds than any other English county, with an estimated 23,000 present and now another six will be added.

" Working with the Norfolk Ponds Project and the Pond Restoration Research Group at University College London we’ve restored three previously in-filled ‘Ghost Ponds’ in farmland on the Felbrigg Estate. We have also created three new ponds to similar dimensions that will not only increase the benefits to wildlife in the area, but it will also allow us to see differences in how new and restored ponds colonise with species, which has never been done before”."
- Emily Long

Ghost ponds retain the original seedbank, which is still viable and begin to germinate when it's uncovered. We expect these ponds to establish much quicker than the new ponds we are creating.

Ponds are vital parts of the waterscape providing aquatic habitats between rivers and lakes. By restoring and creating more ponds through the rural landscape we are able to create links between habitats, becoming more 'joined up'.

The beginnings of a bigger project

These ponds mark the beginning of our Upper Bure Riverlands project which aims to create rivers and catchments that are healthy, clean and rich in wildlife. It will also focus on the cultural heritage of the catchment, exploring the ties that link people to the landscape and how people are influenced by it. Ponds are an important part of the Norfolk landscape and will therefore play a large part throughout this project.