Cheshire Wildlife Group

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Waterlily Alba Flower Swans with Sygnets Badger by sett- by Sam Goff


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     Activities and DIY

Wildlife Pond Project

Wildlife ponds are much more beneficial to wildlife than ordinary ponds and are a great way to attract amphibious wildlife and birds to your garden to help replace declining natural pond habitat!

What is a wildlife pond?

There is a difference between a fish pond and a wildlife pond. Most ponds will attract wildlife such as frogs, toads, newts, birds and insects. However, your pond may not accommodate or benefit these visitors. I personally have a pond stocked with koi carp and shubumpkins. I get frogs and toads coming in quite often, and birds often come for a wash or drink. I made sure my pond was frog friendly but many aren't and frogs can drown. You must make sure any pond is 'frog-friendly' to prevent drowning and improve breeding success. I hoped this year I would find frogspawn in my pond as the frogs came so often, but I didn't. Perhaps it was because I saw so many birds drinking out of the pond, potential predators of small amphibians, insects and frogspawn. The frogs disappeared, so I presume and hope they have gone off to breed in a more peaceful, suitable pond. So, I decided to embark on a new project, a wildlife pond. I did a bit of research, but I had a strong idea of what I was doing anyway. I photographed my work each step of the project.


Here are some of the criteria a wildlife pond should have:

A deep part at least 60 cm deep, so it won't fully freeze over. Frogs and toads will also hibernate in the deep section.

Plants and lots of weeds such as elodea, water lilies and rushes. This gives habitat to insects, protection to tadpoles and food for tadpoles and a place for the frogspawn to be laid. They will also oxygenate the pond.

Smooth Rocks with a point above the surface for frogs to rest on (placed in the shallow part)

Lots of vegetation around the pond if possible. 

Shallow margins and gentle slopes to allow easy access for amphibians, small birds and small mammals to drink from.

Try not to keep the surrounding area too tidy. Avoid lawnmowers, weedkiller and power tools like strimmers.

You don't have to use a pond liner for a wildlife pond, it is more natural without. I did however as I was scared of losing water through my easy-draining soil. They are reasonably cheap to buy and a liner isn't necessary unless you are going to be putting in fish (which you aren't!). They don't need any pumps or fountain equipment as these will scare away wildlife and use up energy. 

Here is how I started:

I dug a hole. Sounds obvious doesn't it? I had to clear away a stony patch to get to it. Notice how it starts very shallow then slopes down, flattens out, then has a deep 'trench' where it drops deeper. It's about 1 metre long and half a metre wide. An ideal wildlife pond would be much bigger, but I wasn't allowed any more space as I am extending my fish pond this summer. Make sure no stones fall in, remove them and any small sticks etc.  If you are using a liner, You need an under liner or underlay. This protects the black plastic on top from being pierced and helps  insulate the pond. You could use carpet. It's basically just a thick material/foam. I bought some from my local aquatics. You just need to push it into the hole and press all the corners and edges in, then keep it in place with bricks as shown. Walk inside it just to make sure you are walking on the floor not on a piece of underlay suspended in the air due to incorrect fitting. 

This is only relevant if you are using a liner, if not skip to the next step. I bought this black plastic liner from the aquatics. I unfortunately didn't get a picture of me fitting it into the hole as I forgot. You basically need to do the same as with the underlay, just stretch it slightly and push the corners in. You will get big folds and creases on the edges like I did but this should sort itself out. Don't lay this out on somewhere with stones or sharp objects.

A muddy bottom is good in a wildlife pond. Ideally, use Aquatic compost which can be found in aquatic shops. Personally, I put in about 2 spade-loads of pure top soil from the original hole. There was some water in there so it turned into a slop. The soil will help to give a natural bottom and help the plants grow.


If you already have any plants, put them in their pots now, or bury them with their roots in the mud. They should take into the mud within a few days and grow very well with the rich nutrient content This looks really messy, I know!! I planted Elodea, Bull Rushes, another type of pondweed and these other two marginal plants. On the picture you can see reeds but I actually removed these for now. Over time, creases in the liner will disappear.

The best part! Fill it with water. You can use tap water, but if you can use rainwater then do so as it has less nutrients for algae to feed on. The creases do tend to lessen at this point. It looks awful! The mud has clouded, and needs a few days to settle and clear. I added some floating plants which need better placing. Don't trim off the excess liner yet.


 Done- well, almost! I got some stones to put around it to make it look nice. I put lots of compost in the water to make the bottom muddier. I planted the reeds into the stones. I left an edge between the stones to allow easy access for frogs and for birds to drink (prevents them entering the pond). I put compost under the stones and on the edges. The compost has floated as seen but soon sinks. Now I need the water to clear, I need to cut down the excess liner, and wait for the plants to grow stronger and expand. Soon, I will go to a local pond to collect some pond water to kick-start the bacteria. As soon as the pond has matured, I will get some more pictures on!


3 Months Later...

A few months on. Everything has grown well, especially the bull rushes, and frogs are in it nearly every day! I am expecting tadpoles next year as it is well past the frogspawn season!

Please note:

This may not be the best way to create a wildlife pond, however, I have very well draining loose earth as the pond is built on raised ground therefore I had to use a liner to avoid rotting on the wall supporting the ground. A wildlife pond really just needs clean natural water in a reasonably shallow hole with a lot of vegetation surrounding it. I can assure you this wildlife pond will last for a long time and will certainly attract wildlife such as frogs, toads, newts and birds to your garden, and will give them a safer place to breed. Make sure you keep an eye out for algae in summer and make sure it is not swamped by weed. Floating a small stack of barley straw on the surface will help combat algae.


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Established by Alex Staniforth February 2009