With the pond losing most of its water during the summer plans were well advanced to attempt the removal of the silt build-up sitting on top of the pond’s clay base. There were many complexities to coordinate such as machinery insurance, volunteers to keep the public safe and more importantly the availability of Francis Harcombe’s team to remove the silt.
The original date set for the end of August had to be cancelled due to two bouts of very heavy rain after months of NO rain! A new date of the 13th of September was the earliest that a suitably large digger was available, but an overnight thunderstorm on the 5th of September deposited still more water into the pond which was definitely not a welcome downpour. It was starting to look like the opportunity presented by the hot, dry summer had slipped away.
Having put so much work in already, and driven the project along, Paul Davighi-Edwards and Nick Harper didn’t want to be the guys who failed. Failure was not an option, so, it was decided to press on.
The final preparation to enable the digger to operate was to rid the pond of its remaining water. Enter Jon Burton and his team at Oracle Environmental Experts based in the village who made themselves available to help.
A blur of equipment and personnel saw the deployment of water storage tanks, safety barriers, pumps, hoses and the piece de resistance – a Geodam. This piece of kit is filled with water to form a temporary dam and thus kept some water at the end of the pond. All of this input and the subsequent strip down at the end was undertaken as a training exercise – we really can’t thank them enough for stepping in to help.
The water storage tanks also served a secondary purpose as, by the time the water was fully drained, we managed to catch approximately 600 fish and a good few eels. The champion fisherman was Wayne Froggatt who spent many hours with his net as no one had any idea that many fish were in residence – apart from Harry the Heron maybe.
As the water level in the newly de-silted pond will take a while to refill most were rehomed by Ray and Viv Jepp and John and Jan Hunt so many thanks to them for coming to the rescue of the fish.
When the digger arrived Paul Thompson drove it down the newly formed ramp and guided Paul Davighi-Edwards through the controls – Paul had not used a machine of this size before but soon found his feet (or tracks!), so much so that it became impossible to prise him from the cab – lock up your diggers!
Another support to this project was the infamous local farmer Francis Harcombe and his team who shuttled the silt away along Worcester Road with their tractors and trailers for 3 days full on, working from 8 am until darkness began to fall. It was the gift that kept on giving with 87 loads for Angela Turney, Francis’s daughter, to end up having to deal with.
Volunteers donned Hi-Vis to stop traffic when needed and answered endless questions from passers-by.
After the previous setbacks, caused by the weather, it was a great relief that conditions were perfect and didn’t make the hard work any harder.
Plans are afoot to replace the now rotten duck houses and the design will incorporate a deck area in the middle of the pond so that will in effect be a floating island replacing the, now removed, dead willow and its surrounding island.
By the end of the week, we had a pond back to the original clay base and shaped like a giant version of those pre-formed garden ponds, with ledge, slopes and a deeper section. Job done! – even Paul was glad to see the digger collected.
This has been quite an undertaking for Nick and Paul and although it seemed a good idea at the start it did turn out to be quite a mammoth endeavour.
In addition to Team Harcombe and Oracle Environmental thanks must go to The Swan Pub for bacon sandwiches, and the Village Shop for drinks – there were even ice-creams and drinks gifted by local residents. The many messages of support on social media were also greatly appreciated.
Huge thanks also go to all volunteers who helped over the 4 days:
Alan and Sharon Howe, Ben Cartwright, Gigi Verlander, Ian Green, Marjorie Nelson, Mike Travis, Paul and Nicola Brazier, Pete Juzl, Richard and Lesley Phillips, Steve and Mel Poll and Wayne and Kerry Froggatt.
Also thanks to Francis Harcombe, our local farmer, his daughter Angela Turney and Team Harcombe.
Jon Burton and his team from Oracle Environmental Experts based in Hanley Swan – www.oracle-environmental.com