During the months of May and June, several members of the Science department staff were working hard to clear the overgrown pond in the wildlife area in Fearnhill School. Inside the wildlife area started as a mass of brambles and ivy, which were smothering the other plant species, including some water irises that were found in what remained of the old pond.
The first task was to clear the brambles and ivy (a prickly job!) before several 6th form volunteers came to help dispose of the many layers of plastic and carpet that had lined the previous pond. This was no easy task due to the hot weather and the sheer amount of debris that needed to be moved. During this stage, we found many frogs and newts which we provided a temporary alternative home for, as well as preserving the water irises for replanting in the pond.
The next job was to start to shape and level the pond before digging (into solid chalk!) the boggy area. Now it was starting to look more like a pond, and it was time for the eight Year 9 volunteers to become involved, putting in the sand, carpet, new liner, pebbles and of course the water! With the help of the parents of one of the Year 9 pupils, we moved two tonnes of sand to line the pond, potted plants, laid the carpet and liner (a delicate operation!), and moved two tonnes of shingle to surround the pond and bog, as well as several very large rocks and logs. As soon as we had laid the liner, a frog hopped over to inspect our work!
The moment when the fire hose was turned on was amazing, it finally felt that despite the tight time schedule and hard work, it was all finally worth it. It took two fire hoses about three hours to fill the pond (the water level is now being topped up nicely by all this rain!) during this time we positioned the pond plants, including the irises, planted the bog and rockery plants, planted the native wildflowers around the pond, hung some bullrush bird houses and put together a log pile. The final job of the day was to move the frogs we found when we cleared the area, from their temporary home (an old fish tank with planks going in and out), into their new five-star home!
The overall aim of this project was to provide a variety of habitats which will encourage a much wider variety of insect, animal, bird and plant species to colonise this wonderful wildlife area. We have already seen evidence of new species coming into the wildlife area, within days the pond was swarming with various larvae, frogs and newts and a toad were seen around the pond, dragon flies were seen mating and many bird species were seen drinking and bathing in the shallows. Within weeks, pond skaters, water boatmen, pond snails and water beetles were spotted. The Technology department are building bug, bat, hedgehog, bird and specialised robin boxes for their autumn project so they should be ready to put in place for the next breeding/hibernation season.
This project could not have been done without the generosity and hard work of the pupils, parents, staff and several local building firms who donated equipment and resources. Now time and low level maintenance will hopefully result in an area rich in biodiversity!
The rest of the school is now trying to improve its sustainability and environmental awareness. After a visit from Phil Williams, an inspirational environmentalist, we have started an Eco Group with representatives from the majority of year groups, and action plans in place from Eco Schools the new year will bring some improvements to the school.