Since the beginning of the year we have been working on the pond. It’s filled by a mill race – a constructed waterway which eventually connects to the stream at the bottom of the valley. First we had to redam the stream, and then solve the problem of the water leaking out of the half mile long mill race so it actually reached the pond.
The use of concrete or plastic pipe would have been expensive and ugly. Cursory research would suggest that this is now the only possible way of waterproofing, however that’s not how the millrace was built originally, some hundreds of years ago. After further research we took inspiration from pigs (and the gley technique for sealing ponds). Pigs can be used to seal ponds as they like to wallow in water. They compress the earth which stops the water leaking out. We don’t have pigs, and the millrace would be an awkward shape to try to pen in pigs, but we do have feet, and wellies. I have spend several hours down the valley in the water. The dog comes along out of curiosity and the sheep and goat follow to be part of the herd. I wallow around for a bit in the water – which means basically standing welly deep in mud and tramping it down until it stops feeling sticky underfoot. It’s noticeably more difficult below trees that are right on the bank – these are probably spots where the water continues to leach out, however it’s made a marked difference in general. Areas of the valley are now dry even after heavy rain. It’s important to remove wood and stones in the bed so that the layer can be compressed properly. We had been thinking about digging out the dead leaves which had fallen in the water, however these, apparently, will add to the waterproofing layer.
The pond is now beginning to fill. It has a huge surface area so it’ll take some time. Also, there are several pipes coming out in various spots around the barns and garden. The ends of these are currently hidden in the reeds and grasses at the side of the pond so I’m spending some time searching around for them. Once the water is about a foot higher the sheep and goat can graze on the other side of our land, without hopping over into next door’s garden and eating their fruit trees. We can stock the pond with fish (the plan is to purchase rainbow trout fingerlings) and we can even think about putting in a turbine for electricity generation. For the time being, my ambition is to hold an Easter Monday duck race.
As the weather warms up, I hope that we can get out there and wallow in our bare feet. The water looks nice and clean, and will have a constant supply of fresh, oxygenated stream water going into it, so maybe this year we will be brave enough to use our natural swimming pond.