As lockdown starts to ease up, the Midlife Garden is is offering a new habitat for the residents and, perhaps, those who might have travelled from farther afield (albeit under exceptional circumstances and with strictly legal and reasonable grounds, of course). Responding to the growing pressure for living space, emergency planning permission has been pushed through to combat the expected second peak of young frogs and newts who will be finding it increasingly difficult to socially distance in their current accommodation.
In the old pond, life is – to quote 10cc – a minestrone, choked as it is with weed and lilies. So with the proposed re-development of the area for the expanded kitchen, the siting of a larger, clearer, pond on a greenfield site was quickly approved with the first turf being cut on a Saturday morning at the start of the month. This was followed moments later by the first contact between spade and concrete – six inches of it. Despite this, the main ground work was completed in a weekend and the intervening weeks have been spent planting and landscaping to ensure the pond meets the requirements of its ‘stakeholders’.
So who is this new facility designed for and who has actually been using it? Of course, we are expecting the frogs and newts to transfer soon, but totally understand their reticence in moving from their current swamp. After all, in newt terms, the distance from the old pond to the new is the equivalent of 260 miles and they, like the rest of us, are unsure of how rules regarding travel relate to mere pondlife…
Early tenants include the Water Boatmen who hitched a ride on the water lilies’ roots. But the main users of the pond are the birds, who spend their time on the beach like a stag weekend in Brighton, drinking and bathing. While blackbirds, tits, pigeons, robins and even the occasional woodpecker have availed themselves of the facilities, it is the sparrows that are the most rowdy and vociferous. Like a bunch of year 8s their diminutive size is inversely proportional to their potential for trouble. They argue and squabble in the branches of the pyrocanthus or hang out on the higher rungs of the wooden fence like the cool kids in the bleachers. And when they come down to the pond water sprays like fountains in Trafalgar Square as they bathe with the energy of over-wound clockwork toys. It is hardly surprising that the water level has dropped. But these are the same sparrows that vandalise the lettuce and chard in the veg garden and have, on several occasions, been caught out of bounds in the greenhouse. Will they never learn?!
So the pond awaits the hardcore denizens who will take advantage of its cool depths (OK, its only a couple of feet deep, but you try digging that much top soil and breaking up the gardening equivalent of the Maginot Line). The irises, rushes and water forget-me-nots are looking great for which we have to thank Ben from Water Artisans who provided materials and plants as well as his advice and encouragement, and without whom all of this would not have been possible.
From the newts, frogs and – especially – the sparrows: thank you, Ben.