Since our Winter 2011 publication, more tasks within the Wild About Ponds project have been completed; these include the major task of de-silting Sunnydale Park pond, fencing off the new pond at Mickleover Meadows and lining ponds at Chellaston Brickworks. Survey visits have also been undertaken at Chaddesden Wood.
Work on this project was formally launched in March 2010, and is now entering the final year involving the key partners (Wild Derby, DCPWA, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, BTCV and Groundwork Derby), in a three year programme funded by SITA and Derby City Council. More information on the project, including the latest project plan, can be found on the dedicated WAP Project page of the DCPWA web site (www.dcpwa.org.uk).
Following Environment Agency approval for de-silting of the pond on 23rd December 2011, commercial proposals to undertake the work were received by DCC Parks and a contract was subsequently awarded to ADM Plant Hire. Following an on-site review of the work plan by DCC Parks, Wild Derby, DWT, Friends of Littleover Parks (FoLP) and DCPWA representatives on 25th January 2012, de-silting work finally commenced on 6th February 2012.
Having finally overcome many hurdles to get to this stage, the contractor was met with an additional obstacle on arrival at site as heavy snow had fallen in the Derby area over the preceding weekend. Undeterred, he spent the first day erecting fencing for the spoil bund and an "access drive" down the pond slope, after first removing the turf and laying some hardcore. There was also a need to divert Cuttle Brook, which normally feeds the pond, during the de-silting process and lay barley straw bales to filter any material flowing down the diversion.
Access drive under construction
Start of pond de-silting
The planned start of spoil extraction on the Tuesday was delayed by problems getting the mechanical excavator to site. De-silting of the pond finally began on Wednesday and took all of Thursday, and was finalised on Friday morning.
Pond de-silting in full flow
(Brook culvert in background)
Displaced spoil in bund area
The pond was dug to a depth of approximately one metre and the spoil placed in an agreed location which was outside of the projected flood plain. The contractor will return to site later in the year to spread out the silt.
Cuttle brook diversion reversal
Pond de-silting completed and filled
In the end, given the large-scale nature of the operation it was not considered feasible to retain small amounts of marginal vegetation as well as removing the silt from the margins to create a more favourable habitat. DWT anticipate that rootstocks of the reeds will still be in the margins to re-grow when the weather warms up. The removed emergent vegetation was placed on two sections of the bank from where it will re-grow to create stands on the bank from which re-colonisation of the pond can take place naturally.
We cannot complete this article without expressing our thanks to Hilary Nelmes of Derby City Council Parks department, who took on the onerous project management task. A job well done, Hilary! We should also make a mention of Mandy Packham and Keith Nelson from FoLP, who
undertook public liaison with park users and kept them informed of plans. I should also thank our new Pond Warden, Roger Miller, for the images used above. Roger has subsequently reported the very good news that Sunnydale Pond has frog spawn for the first time in many a year.
Recent newsletters have highlighted the problems with dogs using the new pond at Mickleover Meadows and a post & wire (stock netting) plus two runs of single strand over solution was implemented by the BTCV team on 13-14th December 2011. Regular monitoring by the DCPWA pond warden (Pat Sear) has confirmed that the protection is holding up well and the pond water is showing some first signs of clearing.
The WAP Management Report highlighted the problems with water retention on most of the four ponds on this site. BTCV completed the work of laying a Bentonite powder-based lining product on the ponds on 22nd November 2011 and early reports suggest a successful water retention, albeit there are some concerns that the light Bentonite colouring looks un-natural and draws public attention. Groundwork have subsequently applied Bentonite to the newly-dug Pond 5.
Further work to deepen the new pond has been undertaken by Groundwork, in preparation for a Bentonite lining. Information on this will be included in our next Newsletter.
The original Chaddesden Wood pond was clay-puddled many years ago and currently suffers from poor water retention, albeit it is well frequented by a large population of common frogs and the occasional toad. Three new ponds, sited away from public pathways through the wood, were hand dug as part of the Wild Week on Ponds project in 2009 and the butyl-lined one holds water, but of poor quality. The two other ponds were dug as scrapes with railway sleepers acting as water holders, and qualified for the national Million Ponds Project. However, water retention on these two ponds has also been poor.
The WAP management team have reviewed the site twice during their most recent meetings, and have concluded that the best approach is to deepen the original pond in the centre area only and lay bentonite. The two satellite depressions lying adjacent to the original pond will also be dug out and lined with bentonite.
To help minimise canine and public disturbance to the original pond, options for a dead-hedge or chestnut pale fencing were discussed, and these (together with the present nil protection) will be put to the users of the wood at the Chaddesden Wood LNR – 21st Birthday celebration event planned for 29th April 2012. The preferred option, together with digging out and laying bentonite, is provisionally planned to be undertaken by BTCV in 3Q2012.
Original pond - virtually dry on 16th March
Satellite pond No.1
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust have completed the surveys for the second tranche of sites (for 2011) and the first Management Report for Elm Wood was issued at the end of last year. Since then DWT published the report for Mickleover Meadows on 12th March 2012, and are now finalising those for the remaining sites at Alvaston Park, Markeaton Mill and City Hospital.
The report for the two Mickleover Meadows LNR ponds reflected a poor Biotic Integrity (PSYM Score) of just 39% for the New Meadows Pond and 50% for the "Murray Park School" pond; a 28% improvement on its score for 2004/5. The New Pond yielded Marsh Foxtail, Great Willowherb, four types of Rush, Fringed Water Lily and Water Starwort, whilst the more mature School Pond showed 13 different plant types. It is hoped that the protection now provided by the fence to the new pond will help the aquatic plants to flourish, whilst the management recommendation for the school pond is to deepen and line with bentonite.
The final DCPWA meeting of 2011 agreed the following programme of events for this year:
The WAP Project section of this newsletter documents the water retention problems on the site. This has been exaggerated this year by the mini-drought conditions experienced last year, which has left the frogs and toads spawning in the completely dry main pond.
Following a number of concerns expressed by members of the public to the Friends of Chaddesden Wood, a rescue plan was hatched and approved by Trevor Taylor of DWT. The plan covered moving amphibians and spawn to the butyl-lined pond in a another part of the wood (but note that it is not normally good practice to move these between sites due to potential disease transfer). Maggie Cooper and Derek Golson implemented the plan on 12th March 2012, which included 19 Common Frogs (16 of which were coupled), a single Common Toad and a whole tray full of frog spawn Nearly all headed straight for the water at their new "home".
Frogs and Toads in their new "Home"
Transit mechanism for frog spawn re-homing
Claire Spencer and Alastair Christie made another of their regular visits to the site, with the objective on checking out amphibian activity. Encouragingly there was not a single sheep to be seen at either of the ponds and, perhaps consequently, the water in both ponds was clear and fresh and at a good level. The mini pond also appeared to be as full as they had ever seen it. No amphibian presence was noted on 19th March 2012, but a visit three days later located a large mass of frog spawn in the usual spot in the rushes at the north-west corner of the South Pond.
Mini pond survey by Claire
Frog spawn in the south pond
Regular readers of our newsletters may remember that the Summer 2011 edition gave details of chytrid fungus surveys on toads and smooth newts from the Porters Lane pond in Oakwood. Chris Monk reports that, whilst detailed results from the survey are still not available, indications suggest that the samples were negative, albeit one anomalous result does require re-checking.
Derek Golson (Pond Warden for the site) was pleased to hear that the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has declared the pond and surrounding area, a Local Wildlife Site (LWS). The declaration has come about through the work he and local residents all do periodically to maintain it. This has slowly increased its biodiversity index that is recorded annually through surveys, and the very recent discovery that it has one of the best common toad populations in the city. This has been recorded by Trevor Taylor (DWT), who presented his findings and LWS recommendations to a recent DWT review panel.
If you want more information on what constitutes a LWS go to www.derbyshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/what-we-do/local-wildlife-sites. In Derbyshire there are 1,144 Local Wildlife Sites covering 9,523 ha, or just 5.4% of Derbyshire (outside of the Peak District National Park).
An introduction to our PINE Project was first given in our Summer 2011 Newsletter, and good progress against most parts of the plan since. Purchases of all the planned equipment and reference books has been completed to time and budget. Work is now concentrating on completing the education workshops at two levels.
Maggie Cooper leads the Level 1 work package which involves sharing our skills at novice level with primary and secondary schoolchildren. The Oakwood Junior School in Alvaston has been the beneficiary of the primary level workshops, and the classroom/field sessions re-commenced on 21st February 2012, once the lighter evenings returned. The tenth and final session was held on 20th March 2012, and an assembly presentation from the children was made on 26th March 2012. DCPWA staff who delivered these sessions primarily involved Maggie Cooper and Heather Bryant, with assistance from Philip Ollerenshaw, Helen Wright and Paul Dalling (Teaching Assistant at the school).
Oakwood Primary school children
With completed collage and DCPWA helpers
The secondary level workshops were planned to take place at Da Vinci Community College, but progress has been severely hampered by, first, an absence of water in either of their ponds, then freezing conditions, and finally be family illness. So, not to be thwarted, Derek Golson and Maggie Cooper hastily arranged a way-forward meeting with Jake Cosford on 30th March 2012. Jake Cosford is Assistant Head teacher at the college and manager of their Nature Reserve in which the ponds lie. Agreement has been reached on the syllabus for the six workshops, which will commence after school starting Tuesday, 1st May 2012. Maggie Cooper will be leading the sessions. Formal agreement to the project plan is now being sought from OPAL.
Derek Golson leads the Level 2 equivalent, which covers expert level knowledge-sharing with adults. The third and final "Expert" level workshop will be on Amphibians, and this will be delivered by Chris Monk from the Derbyshire Amphibian and Reptile Group (DARG). This will also be held at the Sinfin Moor Community Centre, and has been scheduled for Sunday, 15th April 2012, between the hours of 10:00 and 15:00. Places are open to the public, but will be limited to 30 places. Please ring Maggie Cooper on 01332-830657, or email d c p w a @ aol.com, to secure yourself a FREE seat.
Philip Ollerenshaw attended a DWT seminar on invasive species and has subsequently produced some information packs on invasive aquatic plants. These have been copied and distributed to all Pond Wardens as an aide memoir for early identification purposes.
Maggie Cooper, Penny Halfpenny and Derek Golson accepted an invitation from the Principal Keeper at Derby Museum to attend a Natural Sciences study day on 30th January 2012. The purpose of the session was for DCPWA to understand what the museum possesses and for the museum to understand how the 25 attendees can help them identify and record them. It was felt that there was little scope for DCPWA involvement.
Mandy Packham and Keith Nelson, joint pond wardens for Sunnydale Park, have had to resign due to new roles on the Friends of Littleover Parks committee. They have been replaced by Roger Miller, who lives very close to the pond and can keep an active eye on it. Welcome aboard Roger and many thanks to Mandy and Keith for all of your hard work.
DCPWA have been putting its financial reserves to good use recently, with the purchase of a new set of Hip Waders in March 2012. These have been assigned on long-term loan to Mike Bardill (our Pond Warden for Dale Road Park pond in Spondon), to help his ongoing removal of any re- occurrence of the two invasive plants dug out from the original pond in October/November 2010. A second set of waders will be purchased for Chaddesden Park, once Mike has confirmed his set are fit for purpose.
DCPWA have also invested in a Cluson Club-1 Rechargeable Torch for amphibian surveying. The model was chosen following recommendations from Chris Monk of DARG. Mr Sowter, a friend of Philip Ollerenshaw (our Pond Warden for Alvaston Park), has kindly donated a virtually-new Projector Screen to DCPWA. This complements our PINE-funded Laptop and PC Projector very nicely. A DCPWA letter was issued to Mr Sowter on 29th February 2012, expressing our sincere thanks.
Alex Cooper, Pat Sear and Maggie Cooper attended First Aid training given by St.John's Ambulance on 24/25th March 2012. It was a first course for Alex and Pat, whilst Maggie was on a 3-year refresher. We are now set fair to deliver our 2012 events programme. Thanks to Wild Derby for organising the course, and their part subsidy on the costs to DCPWA.
Maggie Cooper and Derek Golson held a live BBC Radio Derby interview at the Porters Lane pond on 2nd April 2012, when the subject matter was frog spawn Victoria Holland was the interviewer for the Andy Potter show, and a recording can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/p00pycck, clock times of 18:00 and 27:00 for a limited period only.
Contact Derek Golson (Chairman) or Maggie Cooper (Secretary) on 01332-830657, or by email at d c p w a @ aol.com, if you want further details on adopting a pond. Our programme for 2012 has now been agreed, which covers our quarterly meeting for Pond Wardens, when we will be pleased to welcome any new people interested in joining the DCPWA.
A new and permanent venue for future meetings has now been agreed by courtesy of the University of Derby (our kind thanks go to Peter Walker). Meetings will continue to commence at 19:00 hours and further details can be found on the DCPWA web site, which is located at www.dcpwa.org.uk.
Common frogs mating and spawn at the Arboretum Pond
Picture from DCPWA Pond Warden (Claire Spencer) dated 23rd March 2012