Across the county there are thousands of farm ponds, village ponds and pingo ponds, each with its own history and biodiversity. These are vital habitats for wildlife and support populations of scarcer vertebrates such as crucian carp and great crested newt, in addition to many invertebrates.
In the twentieth century large numbers of ponds were lost as a result of agricultural intensification and land reclamation. A challenge today in our modern landscape is to ensure the survival and good quality of remaining ponds, and to restore lost ponds, also termed 'Ghost Ponds' in Norfolk.
What are ponds?
A pond is a small area of still, freshwater. They are very different from rivers and streams, because they don’t have moving water, and also very different from lakes as they are small waterbodies, less than 80 metres across - this is around the point where the water in them stops stratifying. Some ponds are formed naturally, filled either by an underwater spring, or by rainwater, other ponds are man-made.
Short history of ponds
For centuries, ponds were an essential part of people’s lives and nearly every village and farm in Britain had a pond. The water was used by both humans, livestock and some wildlife, but as technology advanced and water became available by tap, many ponds were neglected. Since most ponds were man-made, when abandoned by people they were taken over by wildlife; plants at the edges took over where there were no farm animals to trample them down and some ponds ended up as marshy bogs. Fallen leaves choked ponds, reducing the oxygen levels essential for pond life. Other ponds have been destroyed by pollution or drained and filled in to make way for buildings and farmlands.
All these problems have meant that most of Britain’s original ponds have disappeared – 50 years ago there were twice as many ponds as there are today. The ponds in our countryside are a threatened habitat.
What are pingo ponds?
Also known as a kettle lake, it is a very rare type of pond. There are dozens in the Brecks in Norfolk - the largest density in the UK. They were created at the end of the last ice age and have been left almost untouched since then. As the glaciers retreated they left hard lenses of ice pressed into the ground, with soil over the top of them. When things warmed up it caused the lenses to melt forming a depression filled with water - a pingo pond. Elsewhere in the UK most pingos have been ploughed up. Pingo ponds are a peculiarity of the Brecks landscape. Pingo is the Eskimo word for hill.
Norfolk Ponds Project
In June 2014 Norfolk wildlife Trust, in partnerhsip with University College London, Norfolk Rivers Trust, FWAG and the Norfolk Non-Native Species Initiative (NNNSI) set up the Norfolk Ponds Project; with the aim to reverse the decline of Norfolk’s ponds so that agricultural landscapes contain a mosaic of clean water ponds with fewer ponds overgrown by trees and bushes.
Norfolk Ponds Project website
hosted by Norfolk FWAG
Norfolk Ponds Project Introductory Leaflet click here
Norfolk Ponds Project Restoration Guidance Booklet click here