Ponds, which support more freshwater life than our rivers and lakes, can be found in all landscapes but are an integral feature of wetland areas. The Weald Moors are home to many natural and manmade examples, both temporary and permanent in nature. Unique in composition and highly varied in the species they support, collectively, these ponds are as vital in supporting local wildlife as any habitat feature on the watery moorlands.
Why Are They Important? Capable of supporting two thirds of all terrestrial species, a pond is truly the epitome of a wildlife hotspot. Aquatic insect life here is, as you might imagine, often plentiful, highly varied and well beyond the scope of this article in its extent! However, good wildlife ponds will rarely be without cornerstone residents such as water beetles, damselflies and caddisflies, which can often be seen fluttering in effervescent plumes during spring and summer. Indeed, the presence of emerging insects that begin life underwater also makes ponds attractive to creatures higher up the food chain. Many bird species will feed and nest here, while ponds located close to hedgerows and woodland edge will attract passing bats, which use these linear features to move through the landscape.
Indeed, this connection to the wider countryside is important for pond dwellers, too. In degraded wetland areas like the Weald Moors, networks of closely-connected permanent and temporary ponds can provide vital stepping stones for aquatic species to spread out overland. Add into the mix their ability to capture seasonal inundations and remove pollutants from surface water (while still supporting high quality wildlife habitat) and it quickly becomes clear why ponds make a greater contribution to the variety of UK aquatic life than any other freshwater habitat.
What To Look For: for plants and insects that rely on ponds, the first ten centimetres of water depth are generally the most important. While clear, shallow edges can be among the most species-rich habitats, ponds of different depths, sizes, shapes and degrees of permanence will all provide diversity as condition change throughout the year. The character of wetland areas can differ greatly depending on how they collect water and the way they flood, which in turn will directly influence the development of local ponds. On the Weald Moors rain-fed peatlands temporary ponds are very much a characteristic feature of the seasonally waterlogged landscape.
Flushes (areas where water flows out from underground to the surface) and scrapes (shallow depressions that seasonally hold water) are especially important for amphibians and invertebrates because their transitory nature means they do not support predatory fish. They often harbour diverse communities of plants, mosses and liverworts, too, whose fortunes are aided by the browsing cattle, livestock and birds that help to spread seeds and spores from site to site. For avian visitors, what is particularly important is the rate at which water is drawn down. Seasonal ponds that retain water into early summer are vital for wading birds, providing the soft, damp soils they need to forage for the food required by growing young. Those connected in some way to the drainage network will often be among the last to dry out and can be found in fields across the east Shropshire moorlands.
On the Weald Moors: a spring walk along Kynnersley Drive will offer many good views of the various ponds that exist on the Weald Moors relic wetlands. Several large seasonal flushes can be found on wet grassland just beyond Kynnersley village while, on woodland edge near the Buttery, a former reservoir is one of several manmade examples that provide an indication of just how rich in wildlife a pond can be. Both Rodway and Crudgington Moor are places where seasonal ponds often attract varied birdlife but, with its restored wetland ponds and scrapes, Wall Farm is an acknowledged local avian hotspot — and has a dedicated bird hide from which to watch the local wildlife (although you will need to seek the permission from the landowner to use it).