The Construction of my Ponds - Page 1 - How it all began

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In these pages, I have put together a series of photographs showing the evolution of my ponds from the time when we returned to our house after letting it for a few years and found our pond in this overgrown condition, through a number changes until it became the pond system on my home page.The pages run cronologiocally but if you want to see the best photos of how to build a pond, go straight to the second page of the Second Rebuild

First Pond

As you can see, my first pond was very small. However, I learned a lot from it and was able to correct my errors later. The picture on the right was the state it was in after we had let the house for a couple of years. When I got over my disappointment at seeing how overgrown it was, I started the clean-up process. The big clump of reeds on the left had been a 4" pot a couple of years previously and the reeds had split the pot and were growing freely in the water. I seriously under-estimated the weight of the monster and when I got a good grip on the plant and pulled, I found that the roots had grown so much that the plant wasn't going to move and I nearly pulled myself into the pond.

Once I had managed to get the reeds out, I was able to use a net to remove the rest of the floating rubbish. Then came the laborious process of emptying the pond water away. Having agitated the pond, the water was completely black so I had to pour the water through a net just in case there were any fish left alive. As luck would have it there was actually one left. She seemed OK and I only lost her to a heron a couple of years later. As expected, there were a large number of frogs in the silt at the bottom of the pond and after their initial confusion at being poured into the net, they soon happily hopped off into the garden. With the pond empty, I scrubbed the lining clean and refilled with fresh water. The fish, now named Shamoo by my son, was soon joined by a number of smaller ones and some new lillies, and it didn't take long for the pond to get back to how it should look.   Top

Second Pond

If you've read my other pages, you'll not be surprised that having rescued my pond, I now considered it to be far too small. So the next stage was to think about designing a bigger pond and a better filtration system. Notwithstanding my comments in my lessons learnt pages, once I had persuaded "management" that she didn't need quite so much grass in the garden, I got to work on my new plan. Whatever you are going to do, always have a rough plan. It won't always help in the work of course, but at least you can explain that you are still following the plan as you head off in yet another direction.

Having decided on the dimensions of my new pond, I first dug out as much as I could without disturbing the original pond. I didn't want the fish to be out of their normal environment for any longer than was necessary. Note the angle of the side of the pond. If it were any more vertical, there would have been a danger of it collapsing if anyone stood too close to the edge. Despite the poor quality of the picture, you can see the different levels of clay that I had to dig through.

The brick structure in the picture to the right is the base support for my new stream. The chamber at the bottom of the picture will house my filter. The water will then flow into a round shallow pond for the birds to drink and bathe in before flowing down the stream into the pond. I was going to try to build this in concrete but by the time I had finished, I decided to use plastic liner here as well so this sort of construction was overkill. Nevertheless, it was good practice for the future.

At this stage it was time to make the final dig. I used a children's paddling pool to hold the fish, plants and as much water from the pond as possible. I also used a couple of plastic barrels to save even more. I decided not to dig out the whole of the bank and have left a shelf that is about 25cm above the deepest part of the pond. That will enable me to raise my pump slightly in the winter. With the hole dug, I lined it with newspaper and carpet and positioned the liner over the hole. The liner is simply weighted down at the edges and a hose is put into the centre of the liner. As the weight of the water increases, the liner is gradually pulled down into the hole. By weighting the edges down, the liner has to pull tighter and so has fewer creases. Any creases that do appear, and there will be a lot, can be folded over as they occur. The best way to do that is to get into the water and hold part of the liner flat whilst an assistant folds the crease over.

Note -

(Always do this in bare feet so that you can feel any pieces of grit or debris that may have got into the liner before you put your weight onto them and risk puncturing the liner. It will be very cold at certain times of the year but it is worth it to avoid damaging the liner.) The creases will become a haven for baby fish, frogs etc so as long as you can minimise the appearance of the folds, you don't have to eliminate them completely.   Top

As the liner continues to fill, keep checking on the creases to make sure that they are as unobtrusive as possible. Try to plan the folds before you start to fill the liner so that they fold away from the prevailing light rather than towards it. In that way, any shadows caused by the overlap will be minimised and the liner will appear to be flatter. Once the liner is full, the excess liner can be tidied up. Apart from any obvious corners where it would be difficult to hide the liner, try to avoid cutting it. Its better to simply roll it over than cutting it. The reason for that is future flexibility. If you have cut the liner very close, you have no flexibility to make any alterations later. See my lessons learnt pages. This is particularly important for ponds with waterfalls flowing out of them. Top

I like to have the edges of my ponds as close to the top of the water as I can and it is difficult to get the level exactly right until the pond is full and the water is flowing at its proper volume. Its a lot easier to unroll part of the liner or roll up a bit more, than it is to carry out any other reconstruction if I've got it wrong. Once I had trimmed and folded the liner, it was time to fix the edges. At the far side of the pond, I planned to have a bit of a rockery so I decided to use rocks to edge the pond to maintain the theme. The close side needed to be able to support people looking into the pond but I wasn't quite sure what I would be doing at that stage. The edge of the pond, under the liner, is a pair of old concrete posts so I simply wrapped the liner over the posts and then covered the end with about 40mm of cement. I wanted to get my fish and plants back into the water as soon as possible so I finished off most of the pond before I went on to construct the waterfalls. Towards the back of the picture you can see what looks like a dustbin and that is precisely what it is. I don't buy expensive filters and for this pond I made one from the bin. See the filter section later.

Once I was happy with the main pond, I started on the stream and feeder pond. As you can see in the picture, I filled in the base of the pond and stream with what was left of the cement I used for the bricks. I was able to use up a lot of the clay from the hole to fill the area surrounding the stream and the pond. It helped to get as much of it out of the way as possible because I still had a lot of earth to store elsewhere in my garden. The slate will be the base for a small waterfall between the pond and the stream. The pond is deliberately shallow because I wanted have somewhere for birds to be able to bathe. The black pipe at the side of the stream is the feed from the pump. Its always best to bury the pipe at the start of the construction phase so that there is less disturbance later on.  Top

Having prepared the base, I covered it with carpet and liner and cemented in the slate. Then with the dustbin filter connected up and the output fed into the top pond it was time, at last to start to make the garden a little more like a garden and less like a building site. The topsoil was barrowed up the garden and thrown on top of the clay. and then I put in a few plants to soften the edges of the pond and stream. I didn't want to cover up the filter until the pond had cleared as I would need to get at it to rinse the sponges afterwards.

Once the pond had cleared and I had cleaned the sponges, I set about hiding the dustbin. This is where all the earth from the pond goes. I used the remaining rocks that I had to build a wall in front of the filter with the filter output pipes sticking through. By the time the plants get established, no one would know that the filter was there.Top

The picture on the right is the view from my patio. I always try to maintain curved edges to my flower beds as I think that flowing curves are much nicer to look at than corners and straight lines. The little heathers here soon grew to the stage where they all grew into each other and completely covered the bank.

This is a closer picture of the finished top pond. I have planted a couple of miniature irises to hide the pipes and a couple of plants in the pond to add some interest. As I said earlier, this pond is very shallow for the birds. If you look closely at the top of the block wall, you can see the edge of a 3' by 2' paving slab. That covers the filter and allowed me to keep the filter accessible for routine maintenance about twice a year. The 3" or so of earth over the top will get too dry in the summer to sustain any plants so I planted some ivy at the edge of the slab so that it could grow over the slab and disguise the dryness. It would also move out of the way easily whenever I needed to move the slab.

I decided that I wanted as soft an edge to the near side of the pond as I could get so instead of laying slabs all the way around the pond, I just put a couple at a convenient spot so that I could still get to the edge of the pond if I wanted to, and I extended the flower border all the way along the pond. The small amount of liner that is still visible in the picture was covered up by putting in low growing ground cover plants which soon hid all the liner, but didn't obscure our view of the pond.Top

Delighted as I was with my new ponds, by the end of the year, it was obvious, to me at least, that I had to go bigger still. Having put so much effort into the bottom pond and getting all the rocks just as I wanted them, I decided that it was not worth the effort to dig the bottom pond any bigger. And anyway, "management" was adamant that I shouldn't take up any more of her lawned area. So I decided to remodel the area above the pond and the stream and the top pond were dug up and enlarged and I ended up with the ponds that you see here. Once again, I worked through the spring and the picture you see was taken in the summer of the same year. This pond actually lasted almost 2 years before I got itchy fingers again. The really great thing about this hobby is that it is so cheap. Once you have bought the expensive things like the pump and filters, the only expense involved in changes is the cost of a new liner and a bit of physical effort.   Top

However, realising that I wasn't happy with what I had didn't help me decide what I wanted. My wife and I spent many a happy weekend sitting on that decking drinking wine and discussing what we wanted to do next. Eventually we decided that we didn't like the bank at the far side of the pond. The back corner of the pond gets the last of the sunshine on an autumn evening, but we couldn't take advantage of it. But how best to make the changes? More wine! If we took the bank away, we could have a path all around the pond and could then put a bench in that corner. But we didn't want the pond to look like an island in the middle of a circular path because that would look awful and ponds are supposed to look as natural as possible. More wine!! That was a very mellow autumn that year. Now, I had always wanted to have a bridge over a pond but could never find a way to make it look as if one were meant to be there. So why not put in a bridge to the far side of the pond instead of having a path all around it.

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