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It's one of the best things you can do to boost biodiversity – and any pond, however small, should soon start to attract all sorts of wildlife

Building a pond in your garden or community green space is one of the best things you can do to help wildlife. Water is essential for frogs, toads and newts – they wouldn't be able to breed without it.

Having frogs and toads around is good for gardeners too, as they eat pests such as slugs and snails.

And a wildlife pond doesn't just provide a habitat for amphibians. Putting in a pond – even a small one – will attract all kinds of creatures, in and out of the water.

Ponds are full of life. Water boatmen and the larvae of damselflies and dragonflies will often be seen darting around in the water, with pond skaters skimming across the surface. And ponds attract many airborne insects – including colourful dragonflies and damselflies – which in turn will attract bats, swifts and swallows.


Other animals rely on ponds too – mammals such as hedgehogs and foxes might stop by for a drink, and birds use ponds to bathe in.

Given the fact that they're so good for wildlife, it's a shame that the number of UK ponds halved during the 20th century – and around 80% that do remain are in a poor state.

This shortage of good quality ponds has an impact on all the wildlife that depends on them – according to Freshwater Habitats Trust, two thirds of all freshwater species are supported by ponds.

This means that ponds in gardens, community green spaces and allotments are more important than ever.

And the good news is that creating a pond is relatively easy – you don't even need masses of space.

How to do it

There are two main methods when installing a new pond – using a preformed pond, or creating your own shape with a pond liner.

Preformed ponds are available in sizes as small as a metre wide, and all sorts of shapes. Put the pond in the position you want it and mark around the shape of it using a trickle of sand. Dig a hole that's about 5cm wider than the shape of the pond, and 5cm deeper than the height of it. Put a 5cm layer of sand into the bottom of the hole and make sure it's level. Then place the pond in the hole, back-filling any gaps with sand and soil.

Frog in a pond
Small preformed pond

If you want a larger pond, it may be easier to use a pond liner. This is a flexible sheet that you buy by the metre, and is usually made of PVC or butyl rubber – the latter is generally considered to be the most durable and easy to work with.

Using a flexible liner is a similar process to installing a preformed pond: dig a hole the size and shape you want the pond to be, making sure the sides are level as you dig. Remove any large or sharp stones from the bottom of the hole and put in a 5cm layer of sand. Spread out the liner into the hole, weigh the edges down with rocks or flagstone, and fill.

There are plenty of YouTube videos with more detailed instructions, and ideas for edging your pond. Or see these simple instructions from the Wildlife Trusts.

Things to remember

With the construction of any wildlife pond, there are a few important points to be aware of.

First, it's essential to have areas of shallow water at the edges of the pond. If the pond's sides are too steep, visiting wildlife will struggle to get out if they fall in – and hedgehogs and other small mammals could drown. Gradually sloping sides also make it easier for young amphibians to exit the water after they've passed the tadpole stage.

Young frog on a rock

A few carefully placed large stones will also give frogs and toads a place to rest out of the water.

When it's time to fill your pond, it's preferable to use collected rainwater from a water butt. Tap water can also be used, but it's best to let this stand for a few days before adding it to the pond.

Putting in some native plants, such as starwort or water crowfoot, will oxygenate the water, keeping it naturally clear and clean. Avoid non-native plant species, as some are highly invasive.

There are also lots of marginal plants that can be grown around the pond edges for a natural look and to attract pollinators – lady's smock, marsh marigold, purple loosestrife and bugle (Ajuga reptans – pictured below), for example. Having plants growing near your pond also offers a safe place for frogs, toads and newts to shelter and hide from predators.

Bugle Ajuga Reptans

Long grass and log piles are also useful for shelter – newts are particularly keen on these kinds of habitats. Amphibians may rest or hibernate under hedges or stones, or in compost heaps – so take care not to disturb them.

All new ponds, big or small, will begin attracting wildlife almost immediately – and in many cases it won't be too long before you start to see frogs and toads. Avoid the temptation to speed things up by moving frogspawn into your new pond from another location, though. This can spread disease, and you may inadvertently transfer non-native or invasive plant species. If you have created the right conditions in your pond, the frogs will find their own way.

Finally, ponds are very attractive to young children – especially when the water is teeming with fascinating creatures. Pond dipping is a fun and educational activity, but children should always be carefully supervised near water, even if the pond is shallow.

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Little Green Space March 2021