My First Wildlife Ponds
I have always had a massive interest in wildlife and plants. By the time I had reached the age of twenty five, I had kept and studied numerous Mammals, Reptiles, Birds, Insects, Amphibians and plants. As a teenager I used to breed many species of Butterflies and Moths. No doubt I developed my interest in plants while foraging for plants for food on which to feed the Butterfly larvae.
Strangely, my first wildlife interests started around the age of six or maybe even before that. Metamorphism fascinated me; I looked forward every spring to collecting some Frogspawn. I would place them in large plastic tubs of water and keep them on my windowsill in by bedroom. To this day, I always remember the excitement of getting home from school and seeing the now black Frogspawn cells changing in shape every day.
At last, they hatched into minute Tadpoles! Within a week, they were taking their first swim. A few months later, the Tadpoles would be sprouting back legs. A few weeks after that, front legs; and before long, emerging out of the water onto bits of floating wood as Frog-lets. I used to release hundreds back into local village ponds every year. This hobby of mine still exists today. Nowadays I watch the process in my tubs and fiberglass ponds on my Nursery in which I grow all my pond plants.
My First Ponds or Puddles!
When I was young, I loved creating wildlife ponds. In my parents’ garden, there always seemed to be some old building plastic lying around, so all I needed to do was dig some holes and line them with this builders plastic. I remember filling my parents’ back garden with variously sized holes which I had lovingly dug. Fortunately, most were shallow and no more than nine inches deep; some were as little as 2 ft x 1 ft wide.
Some of my first attempts were actually successful and held water. Others would be full of water one day and completely empty the next. I quickly learnt to thoroughly inspect my second-hand polythene sheets for any minute holes.
At this young stage in my life I thought a bit of plastic and some water would be sufficient to attract wildlife. These were of course my first attempts at pond making, and I soon realized that a pond is not really a pond without pond plants in it. I certainly had a lot to learn back then! Even so, these small bodies of water, devoid of any plants, still attracted an abundance of pond life. For example they were full of Mosquito larvae, Water Boatmen and Pond Skaters, so they still kept me interested.
My First Wildlife Ponds
When I was seven, my parents moved to Newdigate, which was a lucky move for me. There was lots of land with an already established natural clay-bottomed pond, which was a haven for wildlife. I was absolutely in my element. The pond was well established and perfectly balanced, supporting a massive population of Damselflies, Newts, and submerged pond plants. It was also already a large breeding ground for Frogs and Toads. Thus the pond gave me plenty of aquatic wildlife to fascinate me with for years.
However, I still retained my passion for creating small, man-made lined ponds. Somewhere around the age of ten, I was given an old rubber dingy. Well, I was overjoyed – but not at the thought of launching it on its maiden voyage out into the far reaches of the pond… Instead, I dug a hole on the edge of some woodland and lined it with the rubber dingy! It seemed to hold water very well so I went on a mission to plant it up with some native pond plants. I found some Ranunculus Flamula, (Lesser Spearwort), in a ditch in a local woodland and took a few other submerged aquatic plants from our natural clay bottomed pond. It wasn’t long before the pond plants attracted various wildlife including Frogs and Newts.
A few years later, I had a collection of small man-made ponds. I even put one in a greenhouse where I was trying to breed some colonies of British Butterflies. Most of these ponds were what I call small, garden-sized ponds 2 ft by 6 ft. Half the pond would have a marginal shelf about six inches deep, whilst the other half would be twelve inches deep. It was around this time that I started adding Frog Spawn to my ponds every spring. It is truly an amazing sight to see thousands of black, wiggling Tadpoles all swimming about in the sunlit corner of a pond on a warm spring day.
One Day the Best Thing Happened!
It’s a well known fact that during the breeding season, Frogs like to return to the pond in which they were born. I had a favourite pond that I had kept going for the last three or four years, as teenage hobby of mine. Every spring I would faithfully clean it out and re-plant it up.
On one particularly warm spring morning, I went to participate in my spring pond cleaning event… To my delight, I found about three freshly-laid clumps of Frogspawn glistening in the sun. Naturally I was overjoyed to see things going full circle. After all, this meant that a few of those Tadpoles from a few years back had made it to adulthood. They had returned to the pond that I had created, to use it as their breeding ground and start the cycle of life all over again. This was the moment I realized I was hooked on wildlife ponds.
Lilies Water Gardens
My Aquatic pond plant nursery is a family business that has now been established for over thirty four years. I have been collecting rare, unusual and newly hybridized pond plants for over twenty five years now from all corners of the world. I hope you find my large and extensive variety of pond plants as interesting as I do. www.lilieswatergardens.co.uk.
My interest in the natural world and all its wildlife has never changed. I feel blessed by the sounds of nature and when I hear the sound of bees and watch them feeding on the nectar of colourful flowers on a hot summers day, or see a newly emerged Dragonfly Nymph hatch into a Dragonfly, drying its wings in the sun, and take its first flight, for me, there is nothing better.