The Construction of my Ponds - Page 6 - Third Rebuild

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By the end of the summer, we had got used to our pill boxes being there but still didn't like them. The main problem was that they completely obscured the view of the garden as we enter it from our side gate and also prevent us from fully enjoying the view of the birds bathing in the stream at the top of the waterfall.

Then one afternoon, I was discussing ponds with a new neighbour who was about to start the process of enlarging the tiny pond that he had taken over on moving into his house. Naturally, being very proud of what I had achieved, I invited him into my garden to show him what could be done and to discuss the finer points of hiding the liner from view.

Naturally, the subject of the pill boxes was raised by management who advised that our friend should take care not to make the same mistake that I had. We had a laugh about it and I told hom that in the ideal world, I would move the filter boxes to the other end of the pond so that the top end of our garden would be more accessable and look so much better. The trouble was that in order to do that, I would have to move my sheds and destroy the pill boxes and rebuild my filter system

Even as I spoke those words, I could feel myself thinking "that's all I have to do is to move the sheds and rebuild" and within an hour a plan had ben hatched. Destroying the pill boxes I could do on my own but moving the sheds would require help. A phone call to my brother-in-law sorted that and the plan was to do the move between Christmas and New Year. Yes it would mean another cold week but it would require any extra holiday to be used and wouldn't disrupt the garden too much as it would be completely dormant. Also, the filter could safely be shut down without any impact on the health of the pond.

I managed to remove the blocks and the earth / sand surrounding the filters over a couple of weekends. Preparing the blocks for re-use took a lot longer than I expected because cement has this annoying habit of sticking to whatever it comes into contact with and the surface of a rough sided decorative block seemed to make it particularly successful at sticking. (Note: Recently, I bought a SDS drill with a chisel bit and it makes this sort of job so much easier.) Eventually, I had a nice pile of cleaned blocks and even managed to salvage a number of the building blocks which I could re-use as foundations for my new pond.

As I had built my patio around the original top pond, I decided to keep the boundary of that side of the pond the same and in keeping with the rest of the top of the garden, I kept the design to a geometric, straight line pattern. My bridge was nearing the edge of its useful life and we decided that we would like to be able to view our new waterfall when it was built so a new means of accessing the back of the pond was needed. So that gave me the idea for the other side of the pond and now I had the shape. The next thing was to plan the waterfall back into the main pond. I didn't want too high a drop because although it would be good for oxygenating the water, it would be too noisy up near the house and, consequently, the bedrooms of ourselves and our neighbours. So I planned a series of smaller drops with the last one being only about 10cm into the pond which would give a much more pleasing tinkling sound rather than a potentially unpleasant sounding rush.

We spent a long time trying to work out the best way to achieve the desired effect and eventually decided to use the same type of slabs that we had used for our patio as the pond run-off and the waterfall. Having made that decision, it was then simply a question of digging the hole and preparing the base such that the height of the output was the correct level in relation to the sides and that the slope into the pond was the right pitch to allow the slabs to overlap for the cascade.

If you decide to try this, don't assume that there is some sort of magic way to do it. Trial and error again and again and again is the only answer. And when you are using big slabs, it can be very hard work. As you can see from the pictures though, it is worth it. The really exciting part is filling the completed pond for the first time and at last finding out whether all your levels are correct and particularly that the output slab is level. If its not, part of it will be wet and part will be dry and your poor workmanship will be obvious to all and management will not be at all happy. Thankfully, all the extra checks that I did had paid off and as the water reached the edge of the slab, we got a uniform coverage as the water flowed down into the main pond.

Every year, we are presented with about half a cubic meter of frog spawn from the hundred or so frogs that come to our pond each spring. And each year the spawn flattens the oxygnating weed causing it to rot at the bottom of the pond. So now that we had a reletively deep top pond, we decided to move all the spawn out of the main pond as it was laid. Having moved the frog spawn into the top pond, we ended up with literally thousands of tadpoles once they had all hatched and they did a marvelous job of cleaning all the pebbles in the pond of the fine green weed that seems to grow on anything in a pond. As the tadpoles grew and became better swimmers, they seemed to be fascinated by the flow of water over the top slab of my waterfall and appeared to play in the moving water. Occasionally though, one or two would fail to swim out of the current an would get washed down into the pond. We didn't think anything of it until we looked out of a bedroom window one morning to find all my orfe and all my koi lined up like a piquet line at the bottom of the waterfall. It transpired that they had found a ready source of live, high-protien food being delivered continually throughout the day and night. No wonder all my fish looked so well this year. The blackbirds also found that they liked tadpoles and they were regular visitors during the daytime. Of the thousands of tadpoles that hatched, I expect that less than 50 made it to frogs big enough to leave the ponds for the summer.

I still only have one pump for my pond so I had to redesign my water routing system. Rather than having all the water pumped through the filter and then distributing it around my pond, I chose to split the output of the pump and only direct half of the flow into my filter system. The other half, I split again and fed one pipe to the pebble fountain at the edge of my pond under the tree, whilst the other pipe was fed up into my top pond to flow over the waterfall. So now I had half my water getting fully filtered, a quarter not being treated at all and the final quarter having a chance to drop any particles into the top pond before flowing out over the waterfall.

My fish have grown considerably over the years and throughout the summer, I clean out my main filter every other week and I clean the top pond every 3 months and this year there have been significant differences in my pond water. Whilst I have never had a problem with water quality and all tests are perfect, I have had slight cloudiness in pond in previous years. This year, my ponds have remained crystal clear all through the year, even during the hottest part of the summer enabling us to see our fish more clearly than at any time since we have had them, and the sediment that forms in the top pond has provided a perfect habitat for a large variety of bugs and larvae that are not getting eaten by the fish and, much more importantly, can't cause my fish any harm.

Each year since I have had my pond, the frogs have laid so much spawn on top of my oxygenating weed that it has sunk to the bottom of the pond where much of it rotted and had to be removed. This year, in the spring, when the frogs started laying their spawn, we transferred the spawn to the top pond where it wouldn't cause the usual problems for my oxygenating weed. So instead of a few strands of weed struggling to cope with the fish spawning season and never providing sufficient refuge for the fry, we had a bed of almost a metre square and about 30 cm deep in which the fish could play. And play they did. The goldfish were the first to mate and to our delight, our Orfe and our Koi also got in on the act. The sight of 40cm Orfe and Koi thrashing about in the weed was new to us and we are waiting to see which breeds have bred successfully. They are all carnivors who will and do happily eat their young and their appetite for eggs is voracious but we have now got a few dark coloured baby fish that have reached about 3cm long and are starting to swim free of the weed on the odd occasion. And we have one very brightly coloured 2cm fry that has appeared in the top pond; the egg presumably having travelled through the pump and pipework to get there. With a little luck, that will be a koi. Our first!

Our contorted hazel tree has become the focal point of the garden and is providing a lot of shade for the pond. In the summer, it looks really scruffy because its leaves are so dense but in the winter, it looks magnificent. Its now a few years old and we get a good crop of hazel nuts each year. We have had the pleasure of watching a squirrel harvesting the nuts and wondering as he dangled precariously over the pond, whether he would be able to swim if he fell in. Luckily, we never did found out because he always managed to get back to solid ground with his haul. The only problem is that each spring, we have to scour the garden looking for unwanter hazel trees where he planted his nuts.

These pictures show how the pond has matured over the last couple of years. Notice how the moss has colonised the rocks at the back of the pond.

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