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1st September 2012: I think North Pond is very picturesque and probably my favourite place on the marsh. It’s located, as the name suggests, at the northern end of the marsh, latched onto the southern end of the swamp. The swamp and pond areas are very wild at the moment, having been left to their own devices for a few years. A wood, mostly oak, grows along the entire length of the east edge of the pond, ending at a small copse. The width of the wood is no more than thirty-five metres, and its length is two hundred and twelve metres, including the copse. I have to say that there is a lot for me to learn about the wildlife in, on and around North Pond, let alone the Reserve as a whole.
I don’t know why, but I am reminded of something Vogel said to me one freezing cold dark night, as we sat chatting deep in the middle of the swamp: “Grinmaleck,” he said. “Eardian mid cynd ac beon. Eardian butan ac acwelan!” I think he was probably right, for he is very old and very wise.
North Pond lies along the east bank of the River Stour. This section of the river bank is dominated by tall grasses, red and white comfrey plants, docks and thistles, and varies in width from one to twenty-eight metres when the pond is full of water – the widest part being at the northern end. The pond overflow is at the narrowest point of the river bank, which is at the extreme southern end of the pond. The amount of water in the pond depends on the time of year and the prevailing weather.
I suppose it could be said that North Pond becomes part of the swamp when the pond overflows into it. When wet weather causes the water levels to rise still further, they overflow across the narrow end of the river bank. So, the conditions in and around the pond can change dramatically throughout the year.
Before the installation of two weirs in the River Stour, at the middle and extreme southern end of the Reserve, during 2010, North Pond and the swamp have been known to dry-out in times of drought.
It didn’t rain very much last year, and whilst the swamp was pretty parched, the pond was at a reasonable level all year, and the water seemed in decent condition throughout. This year has been very wet. I don’t think the pond water has been in particularly good condition this summer: being black, cloudy and full of weeds. Fortunately, the pond was resonably clear during the toad mating season. In fact, the water quality began to determinate at the end of the toad mating season.
When I say the pond water quality is not very good, this is not an expert opinion, I haven’t tested the water – I’m not qualified to test it. There isn’t an awful stagnant smell. It just doesn’t look as healthy as in previous years. Dragonflies are still darting about, stopping now and again to lay their eggs in the water. The thick weed floating on the surface (water lilies, perhaps – no blooms showing yet, though) might indicate a healthy water for all I know. There isn’t much light getting down to the bottom of the pond. I am just making the point that every year seems different in and around North Pond. I suppose I am looking at it from last year’s perspective, when water condition seemed near enough right to me. I could look into the pond with binoculars and see many different creatures swimming about or crawling along the bottom. The only animal that lives on the pond now is a single moorhen. Last year there were a few duck families living here, and I regularly saw herons fishing the pond; I don’t think I have seen one heron fishing in there this year. Mind you, I haven’t heard any chicks at the heronry this year, either, but I have seen a few herons at other locations along the Reserve.
Each year the willows encroach further into the pond from the west side. So, this winter might be a good time to start thinning the trees and bushes in the wood, and those that are growing within the pond.
There has been a wide selection of wildlife using the pond in previous years; the plant life has been quite varied, too. Again, this has not been the best year for either of these. Perhaps the decaying weed choking the surface has put off wading herons and mallards from using the pond.
For almost a month there has been a single cormorant on the marsh. I see it perched in the same place on a power line, awaiting the arrival of the rest of its cormorant mates – there are usually six of them overwintering here.