We had for some time, been concerned about the lack of plant life in the pond; even the Water Lilies that we had planted when we first moved into Sunnyside had died, all that was left were the empty baskets. Now, even though we are confessed townies, we were pretty sure that this should not have happened. Other ponds had of plenty of plant life as well as frogs, toads, newts, the odd water boatman, diving beetles and one or two other creatures we knew nothing about.
When we bought the Sunnyside from Mr Page he could not tell us how deep the pond was. So determined to solve this mystery we ventured out onto the pond in our small dinghy. To our great surprise we found the pond was nowhere deeper than a foot and on average its depth was no more that six inches (sorry for using imperial units).
It seemed to us that we had a very shallow pond in which plants did not want to grow - what was to be done?
Clearly, what we needed was Expert advice, so we contacted the Suffolk Wild Life Association, and a few days later a man from the Association arrived to offer us the advice we were seeking. He looked around, scratched his head, and with a sharp intake of breath said “Well.......” - to cut a long story short, our Pond was dying and in his opinion within three or four years we would be left with a muddy hole “.....the only action open to you is to remove the silt.” As we had spent many an hour sitting by the Pond enjoying the antics of the ducks, watching the fish and Dragon Flies; it did not take us long to decide we would rather have a living pond than a holiday for the next couple of years. However, we had heard of people loosing their ponds by digging through the clay linings and this was the only thing that caused us to hesitate. “Don’t worry” said Gerald our Contractor, “I’ve not lost a pond in 22 years”. Assured by this confidence and after getting over the shock of the cost we said..... “lets do it.....”
The day came for Gerald to start the work and in truth neither of us really knew what to expect. Certainly not a JCB and two Dumper Trucks, nor the mess in the road; if it had not been for Mr Hayward allowing us to use his field opposite to dump the sludge, we would not have attempted the project.
It took over a day to pump the water out and we rescued over a hundred fair size carp, a few tench, one perch, two eels both over three foot in length, but not one rudd even though we had seen large shoals of them in the early summer. It took a further ten days to dig out an estimated one million (yes 1,000,000!!) gallons of silt. As you would expect many items of interest were retrieved by the contractors as they carted the silt out of the pond. We sifted through the silt ourselves to find glass and clay bottles, one old third of a pint school milk bottle, a glass oil lamp, Eiffel Tower Lemonade bottles, a Talbot and Co. marble stopper mineral water bottle, and what we believe to be Maw and Co. babies feeding bottle, not to mention countless Camp Coffee bottles. We also found kitchen utensils, a long handled frying pan, four different size horse shoes, a Hay Fork, a Pitch Fork and two Sickles. Many of these items we cleaned and polished and now adorn our refurbished kitchen.
By the time the job was done the pond was not one foot deep, but twenty! -it now shelves gently to about four feet in depth then plunges to its deepest point which we believe formed the shape of the original and which dated back to before 1804.
It is now some months since we finished clearing out our pond and it is slowly filling up and does not appear to be leaking. Not suprisingly, we are hoping for a wet winter so that we can get on with the job of restocking it with fish and plants -- then we can once again sit on the banks of our pond and enjoy it together with the everyone else in the Village - for we could not let it die!!!!
Originally published in the first issue of Pettistree People, February 1996.