A lot of help

IMG20211111131422The newly restored pond on the allotments is at risk of damage if Cadent uses the site. ©Stephen Lines

Iain Ambler was one of 15 plot holders who recently restored the Redbridge Lane West allotment pond, ensuring it remains a haven for wildlife all year round. Photo by Stephen Lines

The pond – situated in one corner of the Redbridge Lane West allotment site – was created over 20 years ago. It is as big as the back garden of an average terraced house, and so is perhaps one of the bigger wildlife ponds in the borough, apart from those in Wanstead Park and on Wanstead Flats or Hollow Pond.

Why did we act?
In recent years, the pond had been dry for long periods of time, probably negatively impacting wildlife. For example, our site previously had common newts, but these hadn’t been seen this year.

Over the summer, I heard of English Cricket Board research which suggested April and May had recently become the driest months of the English year – these are the critical breeding months for our native amphibia and insects. Ponds typically act as a magnet on any wildlife site – for example, they will attract insects, which in turn bring amphibia, bats and birds. So, we wanted to do something to continue our allotment’s tradition of doing its bit for urban wildlife. The site has a history of engagement with and encouragement for wildlife conservation with many plot holders taking part. And, of course, we wanted to restore the pond for the sheer joy of it! In conversation with one Wanstead resident, she said how in the past on an early summer’s evening, she walked along one of the roads adjacent to the allotment and enjoyed, as she put it, “the frog chorus.”

What did we do?
Over the summer months, we cleared the pond and surrounding area of scrub and re-landscaped and relined it with a butyl liner (so it should stay permanently wet). We then added many pond plants, including irises, water lilies, marsh marigolds and oxygenators. We also added natural refuges for wildlife (hibernacula), to allow wildlife to enter and exit from the pond under cover, safe from predators. Finally, we added plants to the raised bank around the pond and started to create mini wild flower meadows to attract pollinators and insects.

This has been a joint project with Simon Litt, Vision RCL’s allotments officer and his team, who contributed the pond liner and plants. Many Redbridge residents kindly contributed underlay for the pond liner following a social media request.

We’ve also had some great expert advice from, among others, Froglife (the UK nature charity for amphibia), Tim Harris from the Wren Wildlife Group, Susie Knox from Wild Wanstead and Enid Barrie from Essex Botany.

What will the benefits be?
We hope that by restoring the pond, we can attract and increase the number of insects, amphibia, birds, waterfowl and mammals that use the pond and site. In addition, we think the pond is a beautiful ‘jewel within a jewel’ on our site, and will inspire both plot holders and the wider community to connect with wildlife and nature.

For more information on allotments in Redbridge, visit wnstd.com/allotments