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  • Writer's pictureAlistair

Getting into a bit of a scrape (or two)

The day of storm Eunice was probably not the ideal time to start digging a series of ponds and scrapes, but the digger had been delivered and Ron, the demon digger driver, did not seem at all phased. I asked if the weather was an issue, and he replied that he’d probably keep the cab door shut. Fair enough. So it was that we headed down the bridleway to the chosen location and began to dig.

The idea was to create better habitats for amphibians and others to breed. With some help from Rob Parry and Derek Gow I had selected a field that is already boggy and leads down to a drainage ditch. It is mainly soft rush, with not a lot of other interest in it. The field is around 1.6 hectares (just under 4 acres) and square (so about 125m x 125m). The eventual idea is to have the (deeper) ponds down towards the drainage ditch, and (shallower) scrapes at the top end.

Given that the ground is wet, and I do not wish to silt up the drainage ditch, I thought it wise to do the scrapes at this stage as they are further away (so less likely to send run off to the ditch) and wait for drier weather (in Ceredigion?) to do the ponds. Given the need to avoid disturbing breeding critters, this work really needs to be done before mid-March or left until much later in the year. So, the idea is to do the scrapes and one pond now and keep fingers crossed for autumn to bring some dry weather to help avoid the silting problem, but that is a concern for another day.

I created a rough plan to guide Ron’s work, as below.

Ron worked like a trojan. The cliché of man and machine in perfect harmony sums up the effort perfectly. Ron crafted a shallow slope into each scrape, except on the north side where a steep bank was created. The soil removed was added to this bank creating a mini cliff which should catch the sun and make a great home for sun loving insects, hopefully solitary bees, basking reptiles, burrowing water voles and possibly even house martins (although they may need a steeper, more vertical face). The scrapes are “wibbly wobbly” apart from that north side.

By 5.30pm the four scrapes and a 100m long sunny bank had been created. The soil was largely clay, so should hold water pretty well. Ron had consolidated the soil in the bank (compressing it with the digger bucket) so that it does not turn into a mud slide. The scrapes filled fast. Ron will return next week to dig the one pond, and also finish the back of the bank. I cannot recommend him highly enough!

You might ask if involving a digger is the best way to get nature back. Why not just let nature take its course? Well, my answer is that I’m speeding things up. For centuries humans have been draining this land and we long ago removed (perhaps a better word would be annihilated) the mammals that might have created dams or wallows which would provide homes for the amphibians and reptiles which I hope to attract. True, for now, it all looks like a bit of a construction site, but it should soon provide an inviting habitat for a host of life. Very exciting.


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1 Comment

Rachel No name
Rachel No name
Feb 21, 2022

I will be following your progress on ponds and scrapes. Will be making more ponds ourselves but on a smaller scale - enlarging an existing scrape/pond in a marshy area with clay pan beneath. Would really like to get some ideas from your progress nearer the time. The frogs are already laying in the existing pond - with the buzzard and heron keeping an eye.

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