If there is one thing you can do in a garden that is guaranteed to bring in wildlife and amaze and enthrall, it is creating a pond.
A washing-up bowl pond is a great start, and hopefully you saw the RSPB TV advert last year with the little boy with the frog in his washing-up bowl.
What is clear, however, is that while a tiny pond like that may indeed host a web-footed friend or two, it is when you graduate to what I'll call a 'proper pond', maybe a metre or so across, that you really begin to open up possibilities for all sorts of wildlife. Suddenly they have a couple of hundred litres of water to call home instead of ten!
However, I know the idea of creating a pond can seem really daunting to anyone who hasn't done it before. Whether you have a little corner to squeeze in a mini-pond or plenty of space for something bigger, our step-by-step guides will give you all the confidence you need to guide you through.
But here are four things from my experience that I think should ease anyone's nervousness:
1) A pond that is good for wildlife doesn't have to be deep - shallow is good, so you don't have to start tunnelling to Australia.
2) It is far cheaper than people suspect; a small pond is possible to do for £50.
3) Once made, a pond effectively looks after itself; it is one of the lowest maintenance bits of the garden.
4) And it is a sure fire winner for wildlife which will start to arrive almost the moment you finish it.
And above all remember 'safety first' at all times with ponds, to ensure there is no unaccompanied access for children, and for land animals such as hedgehogs that need to be able to get out of a pond easily should they fall in.
I'll be brave and show you my first attempt at a pond. This photo is when I went back to see it, 12 years after I had made it. It needed the leaves clearing out of it, but the owners had had so much pleasure from it, the highlight being a Woodcock coming down to feed,
This is one where I pushed the boat out a bit and gave it what I called an Italianate look, but still following the core principles - LOTS of shallows, easy for wildlife to get in and out of, and plenty of marginal and aquatic plants.
Regular readers of the blog may remember this pond below. Here is is just one week old, made by Alessandra and Steven Towell after I'd visited their garden to feature in the RSPB magazine. It was such an inspiring example of what you can achieve when you just seize the moment and go for it. I'm sure it looks a treat now it has had time to mature.
And here is a pond made by some friends of mine in just a few hours using a rigid fibreglass liner, which are even easier to install than a flexible rubber liner.
Those of you who have already made a pond, share your images on Facebook or Pinterest with the hashtag #pondlife and it will help inspire others. And I'll share some stories of ponds others have made in blogs over the next few weeks.
And if you've yet to give it a go, have a look through the instructions and give it some serious thought - you too could play host to things like this...
...both photos taken in my small pond.
Putting a pond in was the start of a more wildlife friendly garden for us. Only small - 50cm x 40cm and up to 30cm deep in a corner of the veggie patch, we wanted to attract frogs to keep the slugs down (safer than pellets). We are now planning something bigger now we regularly get frog spawn.
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