Thursday, 26 January 2012
Ponds at Earlswood
It seems to be a little-known fact that once upon a time there was a fourth water of significant size in the Earlswood area, though much smaller than the three lakes. Little-known, hence the only information I've been able to find out about it is that which I've gleaned from maps and aerial photos. It was a large pond called Cleobury Pool, situated to the northeast of the junction of Norton Lane and Rumbush Lane. It seems to have been fed by a brook which ran through the pond and out towards Big Cleobury Farm, and was surrounded by broadleaved trees. It was certainly as old as the lakes, being present in the first OS map of the area in 1831, but could have been much older as in an article by B.K. Roberts it's included as a fishpond in a map reconstructing how the local area would've looked in c. 1350! OS maps from the 20th century suggest that the pond was gradually silting up, with the trees becoming woodland and the surface area of water decreasing and, although still present in the late 1950s, by the early 1970s the site is shown as two fields with a little woodland, and it has remained in a similar state ever since. I recently had the opportunity to see these two fields from Rumbush Lane, whilst there are no leaves to obstruct viewing, and there is indeed no sign whatsoever of the pond. I often wonder which bird species might've visited it, and if anything unusual like Teal might've bred there, but suspect I'll never know for sure. Hopefully the fields might come up for sale and I'll buy them and re-create the pond! ;-)
I'd love to hear of any records of birds seen at this pond, and if anyone has any further information or memories of it, do please get in touch. I intend to write about how the habitats and landscape of Earlswood have changed over the years in my book, as it is very relevant to the study of birds.
I just can't stop thinking about the "wildlife pond" that's been proposed, and eagerly await news of whether permission is given or not. It would be 2 acres - a similar size to the extent of the Cleobury Pool in the 1950s, and could potentially be great for wildlife, especially as there is no public access to the field, and many of the best nature reserves for birds in the midlands are centred around shallow pools (e.g. Upton Warren). If part of the meadow was restored and no further trees planted, such a shallow pond would be an ideal breeding ground for Lapwing and Redshank. Another species that doesn't breed at the lakes but might do at this pond is Little Grebe, whilst Green Sandpiper might over-winter. It could act as a refuge for waterbirds fleeing from the lakes at weekends! Other wildlife that could particularly benefit are amphibians and invertebrates, such as damselflies and dragonflies.
At Morton Bagot (about eight miles from Earlswood), there are two shallow pools similar in size to the proposed "wildlife pond". These two pools have attracted over 40 species of waterbird in recent years including White-fronted Goose, Pink-footed Goose, Shelduck, Garganey, Pintail, Little Egret, Wood Sandpiper and Ruff, plus both Water Pipit and Rock Pipit. Lapwing breed there, and in winter flocks of over 100 are frequently seen, whilst large numbers of Wigeon and Teal have also been recorded. This proves how good a 2-acre pond could be for the birds of Earlswood. I'll take this opportunity to mention that Richard Harbird has set up a blog for the birds of Morton Bagot at http://mortonbagotbirder.blogspot.com/.
Edit: I wrote most of the above a few days ago, but earlier today found out that the planning application for this pond has been refused, although the reasons for this have not yet been given. If the landowner would like to push for a wildlife pond, permission for it may be more likely if it had the backing of the Earlswood Wildlife Partnership; please get in touch if interested.