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A time to be wild

Words by Rebecca Hawkey

Encouraging and providing sanctuary for plants and animals alike, in a time of concrete structures.

When I was younger, we used to travel the never ending five-to-six hours from Cornwall to London, to visit my grandparents. Their home was a haven nestled between Heathrow Airport, the overground and high-rise shopping centres, and what made it so was their garden. Chrysanthemums and carnations in full bloom, the apple tree providing summer snacks and most importantly, the pond in the middle – home to five of our favourite fish that had seemingly been alive since I was a youngster. Now I am a little older, the importance of having an outdoor space, that makes me feel as serene as I did back then when wandering through the cobbled garden path, is paramount. This is why, when speaking with Declan at Aquatic Consultancy, I was interested in the driving force behind their business ethos. Established in 2012, the team at Cornwall Ponds has over 50 years’ combined experience in the aquatics industry, providing private homes, corporate properties, designers, architects and more with vital knowledge on aquatic installations and the positive impacts that they have on the environment and surrounding wildlife, as well as the visual improvements they make on our living quarters. It is hard not to mention the pandemic when discussing our relationship with our home and office space, given the impact that it has had on how we spend our time. So, when I speak with Declan, I ask if people are investing in their outside spaces more now than in previous years, to which he replies: “I think there is a lot more understanding in this day and age of the importance of nature and wildlife and the big role it plays in our everyday lives.

“I think the pandemic has had a huge effect as well, as during its height there were more and more people working from home and the outdoor space they had was very important to them and has carried on being so.” I believe this is something we have all confronted in recent years. Living in Cornwall and being surrounded by sea and rivers, most wouldn’t think to include a water feature or pond in a new build or garden re-vamp, but they are vital in helping to encourage wildlife growth. Declan says: “In the last 100 years Britain has lost over half of its natural ponds due to land drainage and building and the threat to precious aquatic wildlife is unfortunately ever increasing. Recent research has shown 80% of wildlife ponds in the UK are in a poor or very poor state. In the late 18th century, natural ponds were estimated to number around 1.2 million, and now only 400,000 are left. Of those, only 20% are considered a priority habitat, meaning of significant conservation and ecological importance. Those that remain are often polluted or managed for the leisure industry and rarely support an abundance of even common species, so it is no wonder why some of our aquatic and sub-aquatic wildlife has suffered dramatic falls in population and may even be under threat of extinction.” He goes on to say that even smaller water bodies like troughs filled with rain water will attract a plethora of wildlife, and all of the above “create stepping stones for wildlife to migrate from one place to the next and suitable habitats for breeding and feeding”.

In an age where the environment and conservation are at the forefront of our minds, the little things we can do from our own homes can still play a vital role in this pivotal time. Given his vast experience on this topic, I ask Declan what our options are for those of us who wish to encourage wildlife to return to our gardens. “By just creating small changes in your garden, from rock piles to dead wood hibernaculum’s,” he says, “you are creating a new habitat for hundreds of species of insects and amphibians. Wildlife ponds create and bring so much habitat to a garden space and even just a small body of water will bring frogs, toads and much more, which help keep slugs down! A bog garden will encourage a variety of plants to thrive and because their root systems remain wet, they will grow to their full potential, remaining colourful and lush. Any wildlife such as birds, insects and bats can drink from the shallower areas and amphibians can gain access, even hedgehogs can escape should they accidentally wander in at night.”

These little tips alone seem manageable for the majority of us, and as Aristotle once said, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, so any small change we can make adds value to the larger ecosystem. Not only does this sort of garden addition benefit the wildlife, it also benefits the property owner. As Declan says: “Firstly, having a pond, specifically one that is done correctly, increases the value of the property. Not just that, but ponds can greatly help with de-stressing after a long day and can help your mental wellbeing, especially having some form of moving water, as the noise can bring you instant peace. For many it’s the enjoyment of seeing so many different varieties of wildlife coming into their garden and using it as a sanctuary from the busy roads and suburban areas that are more and more invading our green land.” I certainly feel at peace whenever I am surrounded by lush flora and fauna. It’s there to remind us of the simple things in life, and of being in service to the natural world.

Cornwall Ponds have a deep understanding and respect for the outdoors, specifically aquatics. Their passion for conserving and protecting the natural world through freshwater aquatic habitats is what makes their business the go-to for these installations. Given their experience, it is no surprise that they provide everything you need. Declan explains: “We provide all services for ponds, from building them to maintaining them. From large ponds and small fish/koi ponds to wildlife ponds and natural swimming pools and water features. We work with the customer to design a pond that suits their needs as well as blending in with the rest of the garden, such as Japanese style ponds, pond-less waterfalls and fountains. We can also add landscape around the ponds, which can include board walks, bridges, outdoor showers, saunas and seating areas. We all love wildlife and creating gardens and ponds for people that are going to help the ecosystem and positively effect wildlife.”

Embrace the wild this summer and remember, the smallest steps make a big difference, so if an entire pond is a little out of reach, creating small scale homes for all manner of creatures is still a great way to encourage those critters to set up camp.

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