Where wheelbarrows float (trust me, I know what I’m doing!)

Okay, so this week we Countryside Workers have been attempting to remove a very invasive plant that is growing in the lower of Ellison’s Ponds.

Parrots Feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum) is a pond plant that can dominate areas of water, so much that it can form almost a mat across the surface of the water. When we first started, this was the extent of the Parrot’s Feather:

Ellison's Pond, before

Ellison’s Pond, before

The original plan was to use buckets to carry the pulled plant out and then leave it by the side of the pond to rot down and let any pond life that we may have inadvertently removed make its way back into the water. I then noticed the wheelbarrow we had brought with us and thought ‘that looks like a boat’. We found that not only did it float, but in some places the bank was sloped enough so we could just push the barrow out again!

TomWheelbarrow_tonemapped

There was a knack to it though, as you had to load at the front to start with to counter act the buoyancy of the wheel, but we found that it worked much better than awkwardly double handling the pulled plant.

We are quite used to people coming up and asking us what we are up to and passing comment when we have our mid-morning tea break or lunch, and the funny thing is that I felt disappointed how few people seemed curious at the sight of two wheelbarrows floating in a pond and being very effective.

Anyway, our first day of pond life was interrupted by a call to help find a sheep that had been attacked by a dog. This has been mentioned on the Facebook page and when we found the sheep it was a harrowing sight. We do need to thank the riding group who knew where the sheep was and led us to it. Those of us involved in that incident did feel affected by it and we had a reflective lunch next to Airman’s Grave and the low cloud added to that atmosphere.

TomAirmansGrave

The Airman’s Grave

Later that day though, a bit of lighter relief happened when a couple of horse riders came past Ellison’s Pond and asked what we were doing, got chatting and told us that the previous weekend a Kingfisher had been seen here but that they hadn’t seen one for 20 years.
With perfect timing, they then rode off, got round the corner and a little blue flash shot past and up the ride they had just come from! The Kingfisher was gone but I got out of the pond as fast as one can in waders and even though they were closer to the top of Camp Hill I shouted after them that the Kingfisher was there and I heard a very distant ‘OH NO!’.

It wasn’t the last time we saw that Kingfisher. Late on Wednesday afternoon, Ash was emptying his barrow and apparently the bird flew about 4ft in front of his nose and arched up towards the upper pond. We rushed round and quickly found the bird perching under the large Silver Birch that grows out of the bank.

TomKingfisher_tonemapped

It was there long enough that I could take this not very clear digiscoped picture but at least you can see the blue streak down its back. It was also there long enough that we could show some passersby, when the bird dived for a fish and then perched on a gorse bush right out in the open.

Wildlife that we were perhaps expecting more to find was Raft Spiders. What we weren’t expecting to find were quite so many of them. This is the largest and most brightly coloured individual that we found but there were many more, smaller ones all over the place.

TomRaftSpider
We did find a few odd things in the middle of the pond on the Parrots Feather, including this Buff-tip Moth caterpillar. How it got out there is a bit of mystery!

TomBuffTip_tonemapped

This is what the pond looks like at the moment but we know that we haven’t got all of the Parrots Feather, as there are many roots still in the silt and further removal will be required. But it was all worth it to show just how amphibious the wheelbarrow can be!

Ellison's Pond, after

Ellison’s Pond, after

 

Tom Simon

Countryside Worker