Pooling together – Reviving the Wetland Landscape

The Pooling Together Project set out to revive the pond landscape across 850 hectares of North-East Herefordshire by restoring 19 ponds on Bromyard Downs, the National Trust’s Brockhampton Estate and Bringsty Common.

This partnership led by the Herefordshire Amphibian and Reptile Team(HART) and Herefordshire Wildlife Trust (HWT) builds on the work done by the Ponds and Newts Network Heritage Project in 2014, which showed that only 34 ponds remained in existence across the Bromyard and Brockhampton parishes out of nearly 100 at the end of the 19th century.

The Pooling Together Project therefore aimed to restore some of the historical wetland habitat of the Bromyard Plateau, (Bromyard Downs, Brockhampton and Bringsty Common) by working with partner organisations in the area to improve the condition of existing ponds or create new ones. Many of the species that would benefit from this were nationally threatened or declining through the loss and fragmentation of their preferred wetland habitats.

The Project also set out to involve local communities around the area, by helping the people of Brockhampton, Bringsty, Bromyard and its other surrounding parishes to connect with and appreciate the importance of pond habitats, along with their wildlife. It would do so by offering opportunities for people of all ages to work with The Project in carrying out the immediate and ongoing restoration work, long-term wildlife monitoring and participating in events organised through The Project.

A significant part included working with teachers and pupils at local schools. The approach was to create new education resources around the theme of pond and their wildlife, which schools could use, and link this to the newly restored ponds in their local area. This work also included the creation of a purpose-built outdoor education facility at The Grove, Brockhampton.

Overall Project Summary +
  • The Pooling Together Project set out to revive the pond landscape across 850 hectares of North-East Herefordshire by restoring ponds on Bromyard Downs, the National Trust’s Brockhampton Estate and Bringsty Common. The Project began in April 2015 and ran for just under 2 years.
  • The Project was funded by the grants from the National Lottery’s Heritage Lottery Fund, BIFFA Award and Severn Trent – “Welcome to Our Future” fund. There was also in-kind match funding provided by The National Trust and Herefordshire Wildlife Trust.
  • It was a collaboration between Herefordshire Amphibian and Reptile Team, Herefordshire Wildlife Trust, The National Trust, Bromyard Downs Common Association (BDCA) and Bringsty Common Manorial Court (BCMC). Working with these partners has helped The Project contribute to the land management of the wider area of Bromyard for improving biodiversity.
  • At the outset, The Project aimed to create, restore or improve 19 ponds across Bromyard Downs, the National Trust’s Brockhampton Estate and Bringsty Common. As new opportunities arose during The Project period, it was possible to improve 21 ponds and hence greatly improved the biodiversity potential from the work carried out over the 2 years.
  • The restoration of the ponds has increased the number of freshwater habitat across The Project area, benefitting several local/national priority wildlife species. These include the nationally scarce and protected great crested newt along with palmate and smooth newts, common toad, frog, and grass snake. Other species including bats, birds, a wealth of invertebrate species and freshwater flora will also benefit from better-connected pond habitats in good condition.
  • All of ponds on which The Project worked, are now covered under long-term (10 year) management plans. The project invested in expert pond ecologists to develop the plans. These include a yearly breakdown of the tasks for maintaining the biodiversity value of the sites and monitoring these changes.
  • The project has recruited 56 volunteers (including 7 young people under the age of 18) who have been actively involved with pond restoration and surveying. Other volunteers have contributed to The Project steering group, managing wildlife data and other administration activities. One work experience student also took part as a volunteer.
  • The Project has organised 7 training days, with 53 total attendees, with the aim of educating volunteers and the local community about the ongoing practical management of their newly restored ponds, how to survey them for wildlife and even how to build compost toilets. Feedback from these has been very positive with most people noting enjoyment of the courses, improving their knowledge and increasing their appreciation of the value of the sites and the work of The Project.
  • Volunteers participated in 6 practical work days and 8 wildlife survey days/evenings. Some of these have been run in collaboration with volunteer groups from partner organisations. The Project has liaised with representatives from the partner organisations (BDCA, NT and BCMC) to ensure that their volunteers can deliver the ongoing management for the ponds after The Project ends.
  • Their total effort has contributed 136 days, with an equivalent value of £11575 over this time. It is anticipated that many of these volunteers will continue to assist with future management work and/or surveying for wildlife.
  • During the Pooling Together project, there were 12 days of educational activities with nearly 360 young people taking part, from primary school to university age. This also included groups from local girl-guides, brownies, rainbow and home-education groups.
  • Working with the National Trust as a partner, The Project has invested in a new, bespoke outdoor classroom called “The Grove”. It includes a large restored pond, purpose built dipping platform, a substantial timber-constructed shelter with seating, information boards and even “composting toilets”.
  • “The Grove” is being advertised to schools, community groups and even families wishing to use it as an educational facility about ponds. The project has purchased pond-dipping kits (nets, trays and ID guides) which the can be borrowed (for free) from the National Trust visitor centre by such groups wishing to use “The Grove”. The same pond-dipping kits have been purchased and added to the Bromyard Downs Project’s resource box at Brockhampton School, allowing staff and pupils to use the equipment for curriculum based activities with ponds on the Bromyard Downs. (Further details can be found on the National Trust website – https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brockhampton-estate/features/the-grove-pool)
  • Alongside this, The Project has worked with teachers to produce an education pack containing information and activities related to ponds and The Project area. This has been designed around the KS1/KS2 curriculum.
  • The project has helped members of the public to interpret and understand the biodiversity benefits of the wetland landscape with information panels installed alongside each of the restored ponds. These specially commissioned notice boards provide a guide to the ponds, the special wildlife to look out for and a QR link to the Pooling Together Website.
  • Further information about the Pooling Together ponds has been included as part of the information board for Bromyard Downs. This prominent location is one of the main visitor car parks for the Bromyard Downs Common and provides visitors with an opportunity to learn about both projects and plan their visits include the ponds of interest.
  • The Project commissioned a printed walks leaflet called “Ponds Trails” which provides 3 walks that incorporate many of the restored ponds on Bromyard Downs, Brockhampton Estate and Bringsty Common. It has been distributed to the local information centres, the National Trust Visitor Centre at Brockhampton and the Bromyard Downs car park where it will be prominently displayed for members of the public to take copies.
Conclusion +

The Pooling Together Project has over 2 years, helped to reinvigorate the pond landscape of Bromyard, Brockhampton and Bringsty by restoring and creating 21 ponds and helping to establish them in good condition for the future.

The work of the Project has benefitted a range of wildlife including nationally threatened species by increasing the network of ponds over The Project area. This offers greater opportunities for these and many other species to increase in number over the coming years.

Initial signs suggest that key indicator species are colonising the newly restored ponds. The ongoing management plans for these sites will ensure that they continue to be the focus of the improvements, for the benefit of a much larger range of species.

The commitment of volunteers during the project has ensured it has achieved its aims whilst the education resources put out during the project will help young people to experience and understand their greatly improved pond habitats around Bromyard.

Watch the Pooling Together Video Blog +

How has the project been funded? +

Funding has gratefully been received from Heritage Lottery Fund, BIFFA Award and Welcome to Our Future. An exit strategy has been produced to ensure the sites that have been restored will be managed and maintained into the future.