After a challenging 2020 and 2021 due to Covid not much could be done at the village pond, so things had to be left until it was safe for people to start working together again.
In 2021 there was plenty of rain which saw the pond overflow and flood the surrounding area for quite a few weeks.
In 2022 things began to get back to normal and work commenced with an enthusiastic gang of volunteers who were keen to get back to work to support Nick Harper the Pond Warden. Nick got the go-ahead from the Parish Council to purchase a battery-operated hedge trimmer and strimmer to give the opportunity for more volunteers to do some of the heavy work. He also acquired another set of waders so Paul Davighi-Edwards could join Nick IN the pond and start to remove some of the reeds. The rest of the volunteers got on with cutting back the willow, which is a pretty big annual job.
April 2022 and storm Eunice hits
In April 2022 storm Eunice hit and affected many parts of the UK and sadly Hanley Swan lost one of its’ mighty oak trees which was uprooted and fell into the pond. It took just one huge gust of wind to hit the oak tree, rip off the pup sign from its hinges and take a large branch from our majestic oak tree on the village green. It was just lucky nobody got injured.
It was decided by the Parish Council to get in the professionals to remove the fallen tree which was quite a job and needed some pretty heavy-duty lifting equipment to pull the tree from the pond.
Once the tree was removed Nick and Paul donned their waders again and soon discovered a huge branch still submerged in the pond. So with rope, a 4-wheel drive car and some muscle from a line of willing volunteers, even Barney from the Swan pub got involved in this human chain, and they eventually pulled the massive branch out of the pond. Oh and as well as finding the branch Nick also found treasure … 2 sets of bolt cutters!!
It was a very wet day to be volunteering but everyone just got stuck in and thankfully the Swan Pub showed their support with bacon butties and hot drinks.
After the wind and rain, the summer turned out to be HOT and very dry!
After the storm damage and so much rain, the summer brought drought and now there was a concern of the pond starting to dry up, which presented Nick with much to think about; Evaporating water, Silt excavation, Reed removal, Rotten Duck Houses, plans for new Duck Houses, Fish rescue, contacting Severn Trent and The Fire Service and organising a site meeting with the Environment Agency.
Of course, there were a few in the village who wondered if the Fire brigade should be called to put some water back into the pond, but this is a natural Village Pond so in a drought year, with record-breaking temperatures, it’s inevitable that we will see water loss so the team were not entirely surprised. Severn Trent quickly confirmed their position – nothing they could do – and when Nick met with a specialist officer from the Environment Agency to see if they could help relocate any remaining fish, they too could NOT help.
So, Nick and Paul with equipment lent to them by a local business, Oracle Environmental Experts donned their waders, even though it was nearly 35 degrees and tried to rescue as many fish as they could.
As the weeks went by the extent of silt build-up within the pond was really getting exposed and was certainly no surprise to Nick and others who had donned waders in the name of maintenance, finding it an unpleasant experience and more importantly potentially very dangerous.
So now Nick and the team were presented with an ideal opportunity to start planning operation silt removal. We believe the pond was last ‘dredged’ in the late 1980s so without really knowing how deep the silt was an initial day with a hired mini-digger was organised during late July, at the outlet end of the pond. This saw the removal of approx. 10 tonnes of silt, which was very kindly removed from the site by local Farmer Angela Turney, Francis Harcombe’s daughter.
A second weekend with the machine in mid-August helped the team assess the extent of the task ahead and yes, this was going to be a BIG JOB! They estimated there were probably 800 + tonnes sitting on top of the clay bed, so what to do?
They could, of course, leave it and once nature had replenished the water things would look much the same as ever, or remove it and give us a safer pond with a greater water capacity to better resist future drought and indeed winter flooding.
The decision was made to go for it!
With the knowledge that the 800 odd tonnes of pesky silt would be taken away by Francis Harcombe’s team and put to work on his land and a much bigger digger would be hired, Nick felt confident that with Paul Davighi-Edwards operating prowess on a digger along with Paul Thompson who also knew his way around the controls, he had the perfect team. Read about what happened next here
Of course, work continued in July around Nick making plans to hire bigger machinery and coordinating things with Team Harcombe. Volunteers removed more reeds and over 7 cubic meters of the rubbish that Paul had excavated earlier and left to dry up in the sun, so huge thanks to Ben Cartwright, Steve Gogerty, Mike Travis and Richard Phillips for that back-breaking work.
Finally plans to replace the duck houses are in progress with Paul Davighi-Edwards putting forward plans to the Parish Council for a floating island, which should soon get approval.