Restoration Work 2014

We are delighted to confirm that the long-awaited restoration of the South Pond is due to start on 27th October. For more than two years now, the South Pond Group, consisting of a small number of local volunteers, has been working with our main partners, The South Downs National Park Authority and Chichester District Council, on a management plan for the pond and stream area and a major project to restore the pond as a place of good biodiversity and strong wildlife interest. Our aim is to drastically improve the pond as a wonderful feature for the people of Midhurst and for our many visitors to the town.

We have worked very hard to raise over £60,000 to fund the project and so it is with great excitement that we look forward to the start of the work by our contractors ‘Salix’ this month.

Most people locally know that the pond problems focus on the silt deposits in the pond and the pollution caused by human activities. Whilst there is no solution that will overcome these problems completely, we can minimise their impact with these improvements.

The first phase of the four week programme will be to reinforce the islands to prevent further erosion. At a future date we will be able to manage the islands more effectively for wildlife.

Over the last two months or so, many volunteers have worked hard to cut birch on local heathland sites and bind them into faggots. In the second phase of the work, these faggots will be placed and secured in the pond around the edges of the pond and around a shallow area to the south of the pond, which will become an attractive reed-bed. We hope some volunteers will be able to take part in this aspect of the work, especially in the second week.

In the third and fourth weeks, a very exciting piece of machinery will be used to pump silt from the centre of the pond and redistribute it over the faggots. This will have two benefits. It will create a deep central channel which will significantly improve water flow through the pond, and therefore silt movement. Secondly, it will enable us to create shallow areas around the edge of the pond which will be secured by the faggots and stakes and will then be planted to create wildlife friendly marginal areas round most of the pond and the substantial reed-bed.

Finally, we will establish plants in the shallow areas. This will create more attractive pond edges, will hide most of the rather ugly concrete edges on the north side of the pond, and will improve the wildlife habitat by helping to clean and oxygenate the water. The shallow areas will be great habitat for small insects and larvae to thrive and be protected from fish predation. The planting aspects may not be completed until the Spring of 2015, subject to further financial support.

We are very conscious of the current bird life at the pond. Although this will be disturbed by the work on the pond, all the ducks, geese and herons are wild birds and will easily relocate temporarily to quieter locations, probably upstream or in gardens. Care will be taken to avoid any harm to any creatures in this process.

It is inevitable, when doing this type of restoration, that in the short-term the pond will be less attractive and look like a ’work in progress’. We would want to reassure everyone that once the new plants start to grow next Spring, we will start to see a major improvement to the look of the pond. A further year on and we should be seeing a much more attractive pond and an improvement in the biodiversity and the range of wildlife that we can all see in and around the pond.

During the period of the work, there will be some minor inconvenience caused by occasional movement of plant and materials. However, we will ensure that most of the area remains open to everyone. Many people have told us that they would like to see the work taking place. We would very much welcome everyone who wants to come along during this period to see the work in progress. It is a wonderful opportunity to see what is being done. We are also talking to the local schools, who have already been extensively involved in the pond project, to invite them to come along and see the work. This is going to be a real community occasion so do come along and join us.

This is a very exciting time for our town. It represents the outcome of a huge amount of work done by a handful of local volunteers. The project itself is more the start of things rather than the end and there will be a real need for members of the local community to contribute to the future maintenance of our ‘new’ pond. If you are interested in helping out during the restoration and/or with the future of the pond management, in however small a way, please do contact us at (southpondgroup@gmail.com).  This is a genuine community project driven by local people, and it needs to remain as a great community initiative.

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