Westport school gets new wildlife pond

Outdoor Living

JOB DONE The installed liner, ready for soil around the pond’s edges, which will be eventually sown with wildflowers.

Nature and rewilding

Pat Fahy

For a number of years, Leave No Trace and Westport Tidy Towns have been trying see the completion of a wildlife pond to promote its benefits to biodiversity. And thanks to a huge team effort and volunteers who on relatively short notice answered an SOS, a not inconsiderable 15m x 10m pond liner was installed on the grounds of Rice College – on a day  in which the weather couldn’t make it’s mind up if it was very windy or not.
Every single person who helped that day was essential to the project’s completion. The numbers made me realise that there is a lot of interest in wildlife ponds. People are keen to learn how to do these things for themselves, and were happy to learn that it’s easier than they first imagined and a fraction of the cost it used to be in ye olden days. Pond liners are stronger, tougher and cheaper, leaving with plenty of change for garden plants (more details on prices on our Facebook group, Westport Wildlife and Tidy Towns).
The importance of respecting wildlife is a core principle of Leave No Trace Ireland, which jointly funded the project with the Local Authorities Waters Programme, in conjunction with ecologist Dr Karina Dingerkus and wildlife cameraman Colin Stafford-Johnson. Special thanks too to Fergal Macken of Rice College, without whom the project would not have been possible.
The plan is to develop the pond over time, to raise awareness about water and communities. Our natural water systems, like nature itself, are not only lovely – every now and again nature will remind us that they are also crucial to our everyday lives and we shouldn’t take them for granted.
The pond is situated near Colonels Woods, which adjoins either side of the Carrowbeg River. These two wildlife corridors increase the chances of all sorts of wildlife discovering it. Dragonflies, for example, can be seen whizzing around the long grass and wildflowers that were allowed to grow around Rice College grounds this year.
A permanent source of still water is important in the extreme for wildlife. In times of drought, all sorts of creatures need somewhere to drink, and garden birds always need to bathe to keep their feathers in good order and keep warm. Anyone who decides to create their own wildlife pond can be satisfied that they are doing something beneficial for their wildlife – the creatures that use it doesn’t mind if it’s man-made or there since the last Ice Age; it’s all the same to them. Frogs, dragonflies, damselflies and birds that would otherwise pass through without a reason to stop will stop for a visit to the life-giving water, not to mention thirsty hedgehogs and other critters.
No matter how big or small your wildlife pond is, it will make a difference. Even something that is only one-metre squared, or a sunken container like a bathtub.
The need for gardeners to create wildlife ponds is clear when we’ve lost 10 percent of our wetlands. In the UK wetland creatures like the frogs would be in serious trouble if it wasn’t for their 3 million gnome fringed ponds of suburbia. One out of seven UK gardens have a pond – crucial given that two-thirds of their countryside ponds have been filled in. In Europe, the situation is even more critical.
Our gardeners are a hugely positive part of our wildlife’s ecosystem in an ever-increasing way and in ever increasing numbers. Garden wildlife ponds are a magnet for wildlife and a habitat of constant interest that everyone can enjoy. So go on, start digging! In no time at all you’ll see what you’ve been missing.

Pat Fahy is Biodiversity Officer with Westport Tidy Towns.