Norfolk holds more ponds than any other English county with an estimated 23,000 present. Most of these ponds are located in farmland, and have their origins as marl or clay pits and in some cases livestock-watering ponds dug in the 17th to 19th centuries. In addition the Norfolk Brecklands are home to the 100s of “pingo ponds” – ancient ponds that occupy ice depressions formed during the last great ice age.
Ponds can provide vital clean freshwater environments in farmland and are vital habitats for aquatic biodiversity covering plants, invertebrates, amphibians, fishes, and mammals. Recent pond studies conducted by University College London (UCL) also show high quality ponds to be important for farmland birds, likely through the provision of insect food. In short good ponds are likely to benefit a whole host of species in farmland landscapes.
While the wildlife benefits of ponds are they remain threatened by land reclamation, widespread encroachment of trees and scrub, pollution and invasive species. Indeed ponds in Norfolk farmland have been greatly neglected over the last 50 years and many have become overgrown with trees or have been in-filled to create more agricultural land.
The work of the NPP
The Norfolk Ponds Project aims to reverse the decline of Norfolk’s ponds so that agricultural landscapes contain a mosaic of clean water ponds with fewer ponds overgrown by trees and bushes. It will seek to achieve this by:
- Providing advice to landowners on how best to restore and manage ponds in farmland.
- Establishing a fund that can be used to support practical pond restoration and the re-excavation of Ghost Ponds lost to agricultural land reclamation.
- Promoting the creation of new ponds, especially in river valley floodplains, where much stillwater habitat has been lost in the last century due to drainage schemes.
- Integrating ponds into other aquatic conservation projects in Norfolk, especially in rivers, fens and coastal areas.
- Promoting the conservation of key pond species, such as great crested newt, crucian carp, water vole and plants such as stoneworts and pondweeds.
- Educating the public and farmers on the value of ponds in farmland through site visits and open days.
- Establishing community pond restoration projects that re-connect landowners and people with Norfolk’s ponds.