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Cumbrian gardeners urged to make a splash for wildlife

The pond in summer, in the wildlife garden at Cumbria Wildlife Trust near Kendal. Credit: Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

For this year’s Wild About Gardens challenge, the Wildlife Trusts and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) are calling on people to create a pond. From mini container ponds to larger sunken ponds, it’s THE garden feature that can make the biggest difference to wildlife.

With much of the UK’s native flora and fauna under threat, often down to habitat loss, Wild About Gardens sees the two charities join forces to raise awareness of the importance of gardens in supporting wildlife and offer tips and advice on how to make them more wildlife-friendly.

David Harpley, Conservation Manager at Cumbria Wildlife Trust says: “It’s fun to help wildlife with a pocket pond – it needn’t be big. All you need to do is fill an old sink or washing-up bowl with rainwater, plant it up and make sure that wildlife can get in and out – it’s easy! We have an established wildlife pond at our offices near Kendal – in the summer it’s full of water lilies; pond skaters skim the surface of the water and dragonflies can be seen darting above it. Thanks to a grant from Biffa Award and Cumbria Waste Management Environment Trust, we now have a new pond at our northern base at Gosling Sike near Houghton too. It’s full of frogs’ spawn at the moment and it will be wonderful to watch the pond really come to life later this year.”

He continues: “Ponds and other water features are an attractive focal point in any garden – no matter what size – and are a real haven for wildlife. Even cheap container ponds made from upcycled materials will quickly be colonised by a whole host of creatures and help form a living chain of watery habitats across the neighbourhood.”

The UK has lost ponds, rivers and streams at a rapid rate and only a small amount of our natural ponds and wetlands remain. Many of these are in poor condition and 13% of freshwater and wetland species are threatened with extinction from Great Britain*. The loss of these important places – to development, drainage and intensive farming – is linked to a huge decline in wildlife, including frogs and toads, water voles and insects.

Adding a pond – by digging one in your back garden or simply by filling a waterproof container outside your front door – is one of the best ways you can help wildlife and enjoy the benefits of seeing water plants, birds and bees close to home. Digging a pond is great for hedgehogs to have somewhere to drink and for frogs, newts and other amphibians to feed and breed. All ponds – large, small, dug or container – are good news for bats, damselflies, dragonflies, other insects.

Some inspiration to get you started

Download a Big or Small, Ponds for All booklet – a step-by-step guide to creating the perfect pond, large or small! Download the booklet or request a printed copy by email [email protected]

Visit the Pop-up café at Gosling Sike, Houghton, near Carlisle – Wed 20 March and Wed 17 April, 11am to 3pm – wander round the wildlife-rich wetlands and see how the new pond and community wildlife garden are coming along; delicious home-baked snacks and lunches available.

Join a Conservation Day at Gosling Sike, Houghton – Tue 26 March and Fri 26 April, 10am to 3pm – a chance to get some hands-on conservation experience by helping to create a community wildlife garden. Booking essential –  contact 01539 816300.

Visit some stunning ponds at Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves, including:

Barkbooth Lot Nature Reserve near Crosthwaite – home to the rare medicinal leech and the emperor dragonfly (the largest in Britain), it’s designated as a nationally-important Flagship Pond by the Freshwater Habitats Trust.

Bowness-on-Solway Nature Reserve near Carlisle – also designated as Flagship Ponds, they are a great place to see great crested newts, frogs and toads, with striking dragonflies and damselflies in the summer.

Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve near Witherslack – important peat bogs such as these are in decline nationally. Here the peaty pools are rich with water-loving Sphagnum mosses and home to wetland birds such as moorhen, snipe and the elusive water rail.

Coming soon – our new wildlife gardening newsletter. With updates and wonderful wildlife gardening ideas, it will help you create a haven for wildlife, whether you have a window box, yard or garden. Look out for it at www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk

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