Higher Morwell Pond Project

The pond is still in the planning stage but looks set to be dug out here. The conifers are not looking too good and do spoil our view of the north end of the garden. Unfortunately there are some rather large marble rocks around the base of the trees which may not be so straightforward to move.
29th September 2016. The cypress on the left is composed of many vertical branches (fastigiate) and should be relatively easy to deal with. The one on the right however has two major trunks and will probably need professional felling. Then comes the long job of cutting and chopping the logs. We are removing and burning the smaller lower branches on the bonfire, keeping larger pieces to burn in the chimenea.
25th January 2017, Matt Dustan has felled the sickly cypress and is cutting the two trunks into manageable pieces for us. Once cleared we will make a start on taking down the other tree branch by branch. Still not finalised where the pond will be but probably around about where that pile of logs is building up on the right.
During the building works we had the use of a digger and driver - so got the cypress stump taken out without too much personal stress! There is now a promising hole which may just become the start of the pond. Breaking the stump up however isn’t so easy, stones trapped in the roots soon blunt the chainsaw attack. Slow progress but good bonfire food.
September 2017 and the last branches of the cypress beside the projected pond area have been removed. The stump needs a fair bit of attention to reduce it to something that we might use partly as a seat or just flattened as a table. Of course the hole from the first stump removal is now full of plants taking over, but easily tamed. We think.
July 2018, a very dry spell, and we’ve cut away most of the unwelcome wild growth here. The sedum on the right will be moved when it has flowered and the magnificent teasel will be dug out when it has ceased amusing the bees. The stones will be fully uncovered and a plan made of the final shape and depth of the pond itself. The GWR platform seat will eventually face the pond!
The problem of the stump was solved by enlisting the help of Mike Cann and his digger. After a job next door on 7th September he came in, and in minutes heaved the stump straight out of the ground. The grass soon healed and we filled the holes in that were left by the hydraulic jacks. Then all I had to do was cut it all up, a very slow task as the chainsaw isn’t that big. But it did make plenty of burnable logs for the fire. And the bonus was the hole left by the uprooted stump as a basis for the first pond.
By 15th October the stump had been cut up and removed, and this was how the pond area sat waiting until time was found to start digging it into the shape we wanted.
This was the next time any work was done on the pond, 8th May 2020. Other projects and maintenance just came first. The weeds, brambles, nettles and wild strawberries have completely taken over making the job much harder. Voles built runs and holes all over the place but soon moved out when activity started. The first version was nowhere near deep enough so more digging and stone removal was necessary to create a suitably deep shape for the upper pond, and the bank built up as the whole site is on a slope. The lower pond is on the left of the bottom-left picture taken on 28th May 2020, and has still to be fully de-weeded but the essential shape is there. The hope is to install a pump to gently move water from bottom to top to keep the waterfall running.
24th June 2020, and the lower pond has been dug out as well. The pond is just about ready for a final measure for the liner, which may not be so easy to source at the moment as everywhere seems to be saying “sold out due to demand”. We can’t delay too long - the weeds will take over again.
7th July and the butyl liners have arrived. A great bonus was having the space to lay a liner out on the grass to cut the underlay to size. What I didn’t think of… a sunny day and black butyl liner gets very hot. The grass underneath was rather scorched! The lower pond was first to be filled, Lesley carefully adjusting the folds in the liner as the weight of the water pressed it down.
Next day the upper pond received the same treatment (left). Then the job of landscaping and hiding the butyl started in earnest, with the big stones being positioned first. An attempt was made to put in the connecting waterfall and it became obvious we needed more stones. Two large bags of North Sea cobbles give us the scope to try more ideas. 17th July should see delivery of the solar powered pump to raise the water from bottom to top.
We have sourced Cornish slate from the local quarry which is of course in Devon. A quarter of a ton has given some scope for trial positioning, and it is relatively easy if very dusty to cut. Left is the lower pond edge when just laid on 7th August, and also shows the 50W solar panel that drives the pump. Right shows further development by 11th August. We spotted a toad in here on 27th July.
11th August again. The upper pond water level is going to be raised a little - the waterfall height limits how much stays in this pond. Still plenty of slate slabs left for creative ideas, and the seat position hasn’t been fixed yet although it feels about right. The waterfall will have to be dismantled by picking all the stones out again then raising the butyl level a little. The honey bees love the waterfall part as they rest on the stones and drink
29th September, the edging slate has been cut and laid and also the slate slab for the granite pagoda. We’ve managed to source more cobbles and grit for landscaping, and the lower pond is just about finished. Unfortunately we’ve discovered blanket weed in the top pond, all the plants and pondweed have been removed and the buckets are being used for the tedious process of picking out the nasty stuff.
2nd October, view from the lower end just after another heavy shower. Crocosmia salvaged from the kitchen bed is now edging the top pond and the pagoda is in place.
15th April 2021. After both frogspawn and toadspawn have hatched we find it impossible to tell which are frogpoles and which are toadpoles! The algae problem caused by rotting leaves has been helped greatly by fishing the remains of the leaves out and adding some wildlife- friendly water treatment. The tadpoles themselves probably do most though - they seem to love eating the stuff.
30th May, new plants have arrived for both ponds. Most are marginals but there are two water soldiers which float freely, one in each pond. The hessian sacking hasn’t been entirely successful, it seems to be rotting and was a target for the pheasant family too. One of the plants that was in it has died but the reeds and the bog bean are still going. The water lily in the upper pond is putting up new leaves all the time and a flower is imminent. The smaller one in the lower pond has managed one small leaf so far but we haven’t given up! The waterfall also received unwelcome attention from the now-departed pheasant family, and is a prime suspect in the high water loss the ponds suffer when the waterfall is running. Investigations continue…
July 2021. The hessian planting pouches just haven’t coped with the conditions. The outer sacking material has attracted attention from birds and the inner plastic lining has rotted away also. A major operation to lift them out without the whole lot disintegrating and falling into the pond! There is a reasonable flat shelf under the hessian so more plastic pond pots have been put in with the saved plants, now able to prop up slate and stones to hide the butyl liner.
Quite a surprise. 15th September 2021 and there are a few tadpoles about, quite big and one or two maybe showing signs of growing legs. Most are in the upper pond but at least one is in the lower pond. Research suggests this isn’t that uncommon if conditions for development of the tadpoles hasn’t been good. Do wonder why we haven’t seen any since July though.