Hello all, Im looking for some advise please. Any advise greatly appreciated be it related to drainage of land or creating a pond from a natural source or any other suggestions you may have ? .
We're buying a little plot of land to build our new home, a small 3 bed cottage. There's not going to be much 'garden' as such due to a stipulation that half the land must stay as a paddock and only be used for 'agricultural' use. That's fine by me, I've always dreamed of having the space for vegetable patches and we already have a few chickens, so they will love having a bit more space. The one snag is, half the year there's a wet patch smack bang in the middle of the paddock. It goes from an innocuous rut in the ground, to a soggy puddle in the grass, to a small pond. We'll be putting French drains in to safeguard water ever reaching the house. But WHAT DO WE DO WITH THE WET PATCH? Is there any way to turn it into a permanent pond? Is there any way to fill it to stop it from 'puddling'? Is there another option?
Sorry for being so long winded - look forward to seeing your suggestions. Xx BB
Do you want a pond or would you rather the wet patch was not there.
When it becomes a small pond, how big is this pond?
If you want a pond digging out the area might provide access to the water table and give you a permanent, or more permanaent pond. Alternatively you could excavate the area use a pond liner to make a pond. If the area is big that could be expensive.
Using damp loving plants could create a semi-bog area that might help to control the soggy pudlle nature of this area. There are also some trees that could help and will cope well with wet conditions, eg alder, aspen.
If you want rid of the wet patch altogether then I think professional advice would be needed. It might be that without quite a lot of expense making sure the patch doesn't puddle will not be possible.
However, would changes like these be acceptable under the stipulations placed on the land?
Not at all long winded, wildlife is complicated and details help. The first thing to say is that the vast number of landscape features that are important to wildlife which have been lost in the last 100 years, are small boggy seasonally flooded depressions which have been ‘filled in’, in their tens of millions under the mantra of agricultural improvement. So if possible your muddy puddle might be worth cherishing, though of course it all depends on what is achievable and what will fit in the new use of the site. The following is just add to the points Tringa has made.
I don’t think it is possible to be certain what your puddle actually is – could be anything from a compacted part of old trackway to the remnants of a well, but your description of it as a ‘rut’, which I take to mean it is linear rather than roundish, is suggestive of a blocked or collapsed land drain. As to what to about it, unless there is some pressing reason I wouldn’t rush to do anything, though I guess having the builders on site is an argument for using rubble for levelling, infilling etc – however my advice is keep the builders well away from anywhere they don’t need to be and get them to shift any waste off site wherever possible.
So if you can, before going any further I would firm up what your ambitions for your land are and find out exactly what your planning consent allows you to do – for example would an orchard be acceptable, or a hay meadow ? One thing that you will almost certainly be allowed to do is to replace wire fencing with a wild hedge – and that would be a major advance in making your whole paddock/garden/home wildlife friendly. Before anything else though, the place I would start is to look into the history of your site, if possible ask neighbours what the land was used for in the past, and look at old maps – the archive office of your local council will hold various map sources from early Ordnance Survey, Manorial plans and the 19thC Tithe Maps (some council's make these available online making them really easy to work with). You can find out the field names and where the old boundaries were, the location of long demolished buildings, ponds, wells, sheep dips, min shafts, quarries etc, your property deeds may also have useful histroic information. Once you’ve ruled out your puddle being anything old enough or significant enough to have been mapped or recorded I’d suggest doing a bit of impromptu archaeology – just take a sharp spade and cut a narrow trench across the rut, if you come up with a lot of gravel and/or broken pipe etc, then you probably have got a fouled drain and you can decide what to do about that. If however the soil is black and soggy or is very wet clean compacted clay, going down more than 30cms elow the tops soil then you’ve probably got an old water feature of some kind. If it is the latter I’d encourage you to keep it as part of your new design.
A pond would certainly be a valuable addition to your paddock/garden, if you do decide to give up on the rut and you able have a damp wild area adjacent to a new pond, then I suggest cutting the turf from the area of the rut before infilling it, and then transferring that wet adapted turf to the pond margin. One point about chickens – they are veracious predators of invertebrates and plants, and though wild birds will often be attracted to any feed you put out for the chickens, on the whole chickens are best kept separate from what would otherwise be a wildlife friendly area. Finally have a chat with your local Wildlife Trust, they may have local members or one of their officers who can advise you about what wildlife friendly improvements would work best in your location.
Thank you all for your advise so far, lots of food for thought already.
First off the chickens They do eat everything, so not so good for the wildlife and will be kept contained from the rest of the paddock/vegetable garden. We've kept chickens for about 6 years Occasionally I let them out into the rest of the garden to have fun for 10 minutes. Theres nothing better than hanging washing on the line in the sun, birds singing and a pair of chickens pecking around your feet ?. The simple things in life that make us happy. And my 3yr old son loves to interact with them too.
Ideally I would like to make it a permanent pond. In our current little garden I've got an old Belfast sink I sunk into the ground, surrounded by old chunks of local sandstone and planted up to disguise its former life as a bathroom fixture ?. Rocks inside for a ramp for things to get out although they could also scramble up several plants. We get a resident frog each summer, sometimes 2 but they have never spawned. There's some insect life in and around it and the birds, squirrels, headgehog all come for a drink/dip. But it would be great to upgrade to a proper wildlife pond thats big enough to sustain more than just fly larvae and pond skaters.
Rut wasn't the best word to describe its appearance when dry, it's more of a shallow depression. We don't really want to leave 'as is', we don't have all that much space to play with so want to utilise it as best as possible. It's no good that area being dry in the summer when we want to be able to enjoy a pond, and as its only a shallow depression- when it fills, it makes the surrounding grass squelchy under foot so an unusable area in the winter. When it's at its max it's probably about 4square foot, I don't know how deep, not very. I guess what I would like to imagine is a nice wildlife pond, 12 months of the year, with a defined 'edge' so that we can get close enough to enjoy it without standing in a bog. To be able to do pond-dipping with our son in our own back yard would be so amazing. Cotham Marble, you have given me lots to think about. It sounds like a lot of research to try and fit in while building a house, but your right wildlife is complicated and I would love to get it right. It's such an amazing opportunity to be able to build our home from scratch with a blank canvas/plot and we want to keep nature as part of it. That's why we chose the site. I will most definitely be putting a couple of fruit trees in the paddock. The site has a fairly scabby apple tree and a beautiful pear tree, but they are both where the house will be ? so sad we will have to take them out. The current owners put them in about 10/15 years ago. We will try and transplant them if possible but I'm not sure they would survive? I can't believe I hadn't thought of putting in a native hedge. It already has wood beam fence along the back boundary separating us from someone else's meadow. So we were just going to bring that on down the side boundary too. There won't be spare cash around at the start to do anything else but I will definitely look at putting a hedge in at a later date. Not only would that mean more privacy for us, but also a super habitat for all sorts. Xx
As you would like a pond and the current 'pond' area is not that big, digging one out will not be that difficult. If whoever is putting in your French drains has a small digger, perhaps you could ask them to do the majority of the pond excavation at the same time. You just need to be clear about what you want and where you want the excavated earth, to save you as much work as possible. However, CMs suggestions about finding out as much as possible about the paddock would be very useful before anything is done.
Along with native damp loving trees, which will be useful in 'soaking' up water, I agree about apple trees. I think they are a very good addition to a garden. Insects visit the flowers in spring, small birds investigate the branches and twigs for food, you get (after buying the trees) virtually free fruit and fallen fruit feeds the birds and wasps in the autumn.
Cotham Marble, you have given me lots to think about. It sounds like a lot of research to try and fit in while building a house, but your right wildlife is complicated and I would love to get it right. It's such an amazing opportunity to be able to build our home from scratch with a blank canvas/plot and we want to keep nature as part of it. That's why we chose the site. I will most definitely be putting a couple of fruit trees in the paddock. The site has a fairly scabby apple tree and a beautiful pear tree, but they are both where the house will be ? so sad we will have to take them out. The current owners put them in about 10/15 years ago. We will try and transplant them if possible but I'm not sure they would survive? I can't believe I hadn't thought of putting in a native hedge. It already has wood beam fence along the back boundary separating us from someone else's meadow. So we were just going to bring that on down the side boundary too. There won't be spare cash around at the start to do anything else but I will definitely look at putting a hedge in at a later date. Not only would that mean more privacy for us, but also a super habitat for all sorts. Xx
Putting in the research can save effort later on - of course you may find out that the site has just been a non descript field for forever, but if there are some old features - ponds or whatever, then it will help a lot in terms of knowing what to put where in your future plans. If the current seasonal puddle isn't a practical location for a permanent pond then you will need to resolve what the cause of the wet is, sorting out a land drain problem may need some professional advice, you can probably rely on whoever is going to do the drainage for the house to at least suggest what to do. I certainly wouldn't go for simply filling the depression in because if there is a drain, which may well start some distance from your property then it is going to continue delivering water to the location, so best to get the issue sorted at the same time as the housing drainage if that is possible. I agree with Tringa, if you are going for a larger pond and you can decide on a location, then the opportunity of having a mini digger on site would save you some labour at probably not too great a cost - re: pond construction this site may be useful freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/projects/million-ponds/pond-creation-toolkit/
As regards the existing fruit trees, it depends somewhat on the time of year but survival rates for shifting mature apple/pears are low. Best done in the winter months when loss of the soil around the roots isn't so critical, and at 15 years the root balls on both could be pretty substantial so successful shifting in the growing season might need lifting gear and careful strapping. If there is disease I'd be inclined to give up on the apple and pear and start with new disease free stock. Re: hedging this can be bought quite cheaply as bare root plants for Autumn/Winter planting - there are number of reputable firms including: www.hedging.co.uk/acatalog/index.html www.ashridgetrees.co.uk/hedging. A young hedge does need stock proof protection so you would need to put a full run of timber rail and post - but a hedge is a project that can be completed over a number of years.
The above post has reminded me of something I omitted to suggest earlier. If I was go for an apple tree, or two, I would definitely go for new trees. It allows you to choose variety and size and as already mentioned moving trees that are ten - fifteen years old could be a huge(not only in effort but probably also in expense) task which might not be successful. If the old trees are disease free you could keep the larger branches, trunks, either to burn (apple is one of the better woods for burning) or to be left in a pile for bugs to live in. Even if there is no obvious disease in the existing trees I'd be tempted to plant new ones well away from the current ones.