Conserving Herefordshire’s Ice Age Ponds Project – latest news

November 2019

The first part (the Development Phase) of our project was completed on August 20th when we submitted the application to Heritage Lottery for the second stage (Delivery Phase). It was a hectic time completing all the paperwork for this and we hope the application will be successful to gain the £250,000 or so funding we need.

In the Delivery Phase, we will undertake conservation management on 15 of the ice age ponds surveyed this year (coppicing back overhanging trees, very selective and careful clearing of some excess weed and leaf litter and sediment, and fencing to protect from stock damage), and survey up to 100 more ponds. We will also be producing interpretation and information about the ponds in the form of leaflets, display boards, and walking, cycling and car trails. In addition, we will produce apps for mobiles and tablets to provide some graphical background on how the ponds and landscape might have looked like at the end of the ice age 20,000 years ago.

Totally coincidently, but with perfect timing, Hereford Museum are running an Ice Age Exhibition (last year this exhibition was in Worcester Museum) from April to June 2020 and we have been invited to put on an Ice Age Ponds project display, and provide various activities to engage children  and adults in learning about the ice age and its impacts here in Herefordshire.

The project this year has been a great success. Over 60 volunteers have been involved one way or another, many of them having come on the 4 training days and subsequent field trips to survey the ponds. The training days had some excellent presentations on the geology and wildlife of our ice age ponds (Kettle Hole ponds), helping us to appreciate the special nature of the ponds and the landscape they are found in. This landscape is called ’hummocky moraine’, found in places where glaciers ended and then retreated northwards. Herefordshire is one of only a few counties in England where that landscape exists. We’ve seen a variety of lovely ponds, dug holes in the mud (coring) to see how it is composed, and netted the ponds to see the many creatures that live there. 41 ponds were surveyed which was 30% more than we’d planned when the project started – a great achievement.  A “Kettle hole ponds survey method manual” was created for the project and given to all survey volunteers.

Based on the survey data collected, we now have comprehensive management plans for 15 of the ponds which would benefit most from conservation work, put together by Will Watson and Giles King-Salter.

We’ve been very well supported by local landowners and conservation organisations (such as the National Trust, Natural England, Duchy of Cornwall, Bulmers), and more ponds have been identified to be surveyed in the next stage of the project.

With the support and funding of the Kingspan Trust the project has run events at 5 schools in the northwest of Herefordshire to raise awareness and interest in ice age ponds, and these have been done by Dave Hutton and the excellent Herefordshire Wildlife Trust (HWT) Wildplay team.

Dave Hutton, our Project Manager, having completed this stage of the project left the HWT on 31st August. We hope he will be available to come back for the second phase which if approved will start in January or February 2020. He has done a great job in a very short time to get everything  done to meet the August deadline. He writes (to the volunteers): The Development Stage for the Ice Age Ponds Project has now come to an end, thank you all for your help and support over the last few months. It’s been great working with you and the rest of the team to get this part of the project to where it is now.’ Our project contact at the HWT from now on will be Andrew Nixon until we can re-recruit the Project manager at the start of the next phase.

Beth Andrews, our Project Officer for the geological aspects, and based at the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust (HWEHT), will continue on a day a week basis till November so will be working further with the volunteer team. She writes (to the volunteers): ‘I want to say a huge “Thank you” to everyone who has been involved so far. We have collected a huge amount of data in a very short time, often in less than ideal weather on many less than ideal sites. We couldn’t have done it without you, so thank you. We couldn’t have done all this wonderful work without the amazing people who gave their time to survey ponds, let us visit their ponds and helped us find new ponds, research history and connect with landowners.  We look forward to seeing you again soon.’

She arranged a visit with some experts to take more core samples at a few of our sites. These were longer (could be over 8m of sediment) cores than those taken by the volunteers (only about ½ to 3/4m deep) and will give us a lot more data about the geology, vegetation and fauna present in the more distant past. For her comments on the results see below.

Beth will be creating displays to show some of the vast amount of data that has been collected and to highlight our plans for the next stage.

The members of our small Steering Group have also contributed a huge amount of expertise and effort: Ian Fairchild (HWEHT), Andrew Nixon (HWT), and Angie Julian (ARG UK) who has travelled  from Oxford to support us. And, of course, Dave and Beth. A big thank you to them all.

Some members of the Steering Group visited the Norfolk Wildlife Trust in June to meet the team who have been doing a similar project with their ice age ponds (Pingos). Pingos are similar to our Kettle Hole Ponds but formed in a slightly different way: ice blocks left under the permafrost surface slowly melted,  and the surface eventually collapsed into the hole creating the pond.  Their project started several years ago, and Heritage Lottery encouraged us to go and learn from their experience and knowledge. We visited several Pingos and discussed the issues of management and how best to engage with the public.

This project was originally devised and promoted by Will Watson and HART, eventually enthusing HWEHT and HWT to join us as a partnership. The partnership has been hugely productive and successful, with great contacts and relationships made. We look forward to continuing the partnerships well into the future.

With the project now approaching the end of its Development Stage and with the application for the next stage (Delivery Stage) due in by 20th August, it is time to thank all those who have been spending time carrying out surveys with our Survey Team: Beth, Will and Giles, and everyone else for supporting the project in so many ways.

(For further update information, please see the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust website pages.)

 

August 2019

One of our main achievements this year was to involve 57 people in Training Courses held on four dates at two venues. These provided an excellent introduction to the origins and ecology of kettle hole ponds in the county, and many came away with an enhanced knowledge and enthusiasm for finding out more about these amazing features. The feedback forms were very positive.

So far, over 30 volunteers have come out on further survey days and are providing really useful information that will add to our knowledge about these ponds and become part of our application for further funding from the Lottery.

During the Development Stage, we have contacted landowners and managers of ponds that have been identified as potential Kettle Hole Ponds (KHPs) through previous surveys and through various public engagement events. We have over 30 ponds lined up for initial surveys and 15 of these will be the subject of more detailed surveys and management plans.

Mapping data from LiDar, current and historic Ordnance Survey maps, and aerial photographs have been incorporated into a GIS dataset and is now accessible for interrogation in order to confirm the geological and landform origins of the ponds.

As a result of this work, we have produced a ‘user friendly’ map, clearly showing the distribution of Kettle Hole moraine in the county. The map included in this document also has the location of those we are surveying this year.

This map has been used to great effect at the various events and festivals where project partners engaged with local audiences. People are able to use this map to locate ponds in their area and to engage in discussions about local geology and the likelihood of ponds being kettle holes.

Click here to go to the Ice Age Ponds Project page to read the full list of their achievements.