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CROW (Conserve Reading on Wednesdays)
May 2011 to August 2011
Brookfields School, Tilehurst ~ Installing a new pond liner

Wednesday, 25th May 2011

Over the years CROW has attempted on a number of occasions to reduced the quantity of weed in the pond, the main feature of the school's wildlife area, and to control the encroaching bramble. Questions have also been asked about the state of the lining but now there was no doubt, the lining was leaking and what remained of the pond was a solid mass of weed with virtually no open water. The pond was indeed no longer the pond it once was.

It must be admitted this was not the best time of year for the task, there were frogs aplenty and tadpoles too, and we did what we could to rescue as many as possible, these being transferred to a nearby pond at Westwood Farm School. However given the continuing dry weather and the quantity of weed resulting in an ever diminishing volume of water, the prospects for the pond's inhabitants were not good and whilst there were a considerable number of frogs we found little else, for example we rescued very few newts.

As we surveyed the scene on our arrival the prospect was daunting and we wondered how much we would achieve. We had anticipated being helped by a group of company volunteers but they had failed to materialise.

Despite appearances, Judith is not resting but is using her feet to roll the weed back from the side.

It's almost coffee time and much to our surprise we are making reasonable progress.

With weed up to 50cm thick and no constraints regarding damage to the lining, a 21" bowsaw becomes weapon of choice slicing the weed in to manageable chucks (often no more 30cm square given the weight of water and silt), before hauling to the side.

At the back, the removal of the bramble is going well. Fortunately it contained no bird's nests however it was concealing a wasp's nest whose occupants managed to inflict stings on two of our volunteers before being overwhelmed.

Given the currently state of technology, we regret we must leave you to imagine the pungent smell of the silt and decaying material from the bottom of the pond.

Nearly three o'clock and we seem to have excelled ourselves, the bramble has been cleared and the last of weed is being cut so that it can be moved.

Some of the weed remains stacked at the side of the pond to drain before it is move to the 'composting' area at the back of the wildlife area. This will be done on our next visit in two weeks when we will also start taking out the bramble roots to prevent their return. Once the preparation is complete we hope the new lining will soon be installed allowing the pond to reestablish.

Team for the day: Judith, Mary, Ricki, Alan, John L, John W and Mike.

Wednesday, 8th June 2011

At the start of June CROW returned to Brookfields to complete clearing the pond, rescuing the last of the tadpoles and other creatures from the remaining water, removing the weed left stacked at the side of the pond and grubbing the bramble roots from the surrounding area.

Our part of the job was now at an end as volunteers from Prudential were to lay the new lining which was to involve some reshaping of the pond. While much hard work remained to be done at least the filthiest and certainly smelliest part of the task was complete.

CROW volunteers for this second visit were: Catherine, Judith, Mary, Alan, Barry, John, Mike, Phil and Terry.

Wednesday, 15th June 2011

On the first of two visits to the school, volunteers from the Prudential work on reshaping the area around the pond.

Friday, 24th June 2011

On the second visit by Prudential volunteers the new lining is finally laid under the direction and watchful eye of Rod d'Ayala.

The new lining is placed directly on the old, all debris having first been removed.

Creases must be removed. (Must remember not to wear socks with holes if I'm ever likely to be asked to do this).

Getting the edges right is most difficult.

Once the lining is in place it is covered with underlay over which subsoil is then spread.

Much of the soil base is now complete and water saved from the pond at the start of the day is returned. All that is now required is sufficient rain to finish filling the pond.

With their part of the task at an end, the Prudential volunteers can relax before heading home. CROW is due back in a few weeks, on the 13th July, to complete what will hopefully be the finishing touches.

(CROW did indeed return on 13th July, when they completed covering the bottom of the pond with soil. At that time the pond was completely dry, the water it did contain having been absorbed or evaporated.)

Wednesday, 31st August 2011

On a visit to the school at the end of August we were able to see how the pond was progressing. The lack of rain since the new lining was installed was evident, for the pond contained very little water however the coming autumn and winter will hopefully rectify the situation.

Created: Saturday, 28th June 2014
Photographs: John Lerpiniere