This old reservoir pond, owned by Welsh Water and situated next to the Town and Country Trail, has clear water and fluctuating water levels, with a broad succession of marginal vegetation, including lots of water mint. However, willow saplings were encroaching on the marsh and pollarded willows on the periphery had grown back. Management work here attempted to reduce the impact of the willows.
Planning required close coordination with a number of departments at Dwr Cymru Welsh Water. Public consultation included a display in the local Heritage Centre for a week with the project officer in attendance on two occasions, and an awareness-raising bat walk. There was an article in a local newspaper, and the project officer took the opportunity when visiting the site to chat with people on the Town and Country Trail. This latter approach was welcomed and effective and indicated that people had heard something about the restoration plans. Ensuring that site visitors parked in an acceptable place alleviated parking worries.
Treework was undertaken by the contractor in November, and was followed by a morning with volunteers picking up willow twigs to stop them growing. Positive comments were received from dog walkers passing by who had watched the on-going work.
Honeymoor Common is currently largely abandoned agriculturally because of the problems of stock getting on the roads, and is crossed by ditches. Although it would benefit greatly from grazing, it is a wonderful scrub and wet grassland wildlife habitat.
The Common has several ponds dotted about, mostly overgrown, but there are two bigger ponds. The project wanted to deal with one close to the road, which when surveyed in 2005 had a record of the very invasive non-native species Crassula helmsii (New Zealand pigmy weed or Australian swamp stonecrop). When re-surveyed in 2007 the Crassula had spread across the pond and was forming a dense mat under the bulrush (Typha) and other rushes and sedges. A very small number of great crested newt tadpoles were found, though many more smooth newt.
The management plan aimed to deal with the Crassula by digging out the pond completely, disposing of the waste offsite and spraying any re-growth of the Crassula. Environment Agency waste disposal regulations expect pond dredgings to be spread round the banks, but this would not have been appropriate in this situation because of the high risk of re-infestation of the Crassula in the pond, or further infestation to other water-bodies on the common. The diggings would need to be disposed off-site.
Unfortunately, quotes for disposal of the diggings off-site were in the region of £20,000 and were beyond the scope of the project and it was decided instead to do some work on a nearby pond.
The survey of the alternative pond discovered great crested newts and also a rare (Red Data Book) beetle and this informed the new management plan. It was decided that some shallow scrapes would be dug in the marshy area next to the pond for the benefit of invertebrates, some areas of bulrush (Typha) dug out of the big pond to create open water while leaving some of the habitat to re-colonise other areas. Clumps of trees surrounding the pond would be cut down and made into habitat piles while leaving boundary trees standing.
Work took place in November, with one contractor doing the tree work and another doing the digging of the scrapes and areas of the big pond. Two volunteer mornings were spent building the habitat piles with logs and brash, and clearing paths round the pond.
The moat was almost completely shrouded by a canopy of trees to the extent that viewed from a distance the public did not always realise there was a moat there. The water was dark and murky and fly tipping had taken place previously. Willows were growing in the water and there was plenty of dead wood. Despite all this, the survey found great crested newt eggs.
The site is a listed ancient monument, (though not scheduled) but the county archaeologist felt unsure of its history because of the small size of the island. This did mean there were restrictions in what management work could take place:
- No digging or de-silting because of disruption to silt layers which might hold historical information
- Protection of the banks from erosion during work
- No pulling out of established willow by the roots because of disruption of silt layers.
The management plan aimed to create open water to encourage more vegetation and invertebrate diversity. It consisted of clearing the fringe of willows from the southern (sunny) side to open it up, cutting down and treating willows growing in the water with herbicide, and thinning the big crack willow. A felling license was obtained as the quantity of wood was close to falling into these restrictions if it was taken off-site. A bat survey was also undertaken and although no evidence was found, trees were marked for retention that might provide bat roost habitat.
Work took place in late August and September with dramatic effect. The contractor felled and chipped wood. Volunteers raked dead wood from the water and banks, coppiced smaller stands and manned a fire, built habitat piles and planted up the bare banks to speed up the re-vegetation process.
At a later stage, a herbicide license was obtained and a contractor bought in to re-cut and treat stumps of willow in an attempt to prevent re-growth, particularly those growing in the water. A very small patch of bulrush (Typha) existed in the pond, which the local volunteers wanted to keep and manage to prevent colonisation of the rest of the pond.Some fixed-point photography was agreed to ensure that boundaries were established for the bulrush expansion.
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