I’m writing this after collapsing at home. Fed up of waiting for others to volunteer to sort out the pond on the Community Garden (over a year and still waiting!), I decided that I had had enough of our hall being cluttered with the pond liner. I messaged Nikki to see if she would be able to come and help, bringing the children with her as extra support. Happily, she agreed and to encourage participation, I offered hot chocolate and biscuits to any volunteers. As it turns out, this ploy was very effective, tempting Dylan and Orin away from their screens and activities at home.
We all met down on site at midday and discussed our plan of campaign. The old liner needed to come out but not before the remaining water was removed and all the plants. Ideally, we wanted to keep the silt at the bottom as it provides important nutrients for the plants and breeding ground for aquatic life. In previous years, we have had dragonflies lay eggs and watched fascinated as the larvae crawled out and started to dry their wings.
But first, we needed to remove the plants. Nikki and Dylan reached the reeds and began hauling. It was incredibly heavy so Orin and I joined in. The difficulty was that the reeds would regularly snap if you tried to pull them. On the other hand, there wasn’t anywhere else you could get a good grip to heave the slippery monstrosity out of the pond. Eventually, we managed to drag it out far enough that it cleared the water. Now all that was left was to repeat the process for the water lilies. Somehow, this was worse. Even with Dylan pushing whilst standing in the pond and Nikki and I hauling from the side. Several attempts later and all we had managed to do was to break the pot and some of the larger roots. I should add another complication was the regular rain showers which meant we had to drop everything and run to shelter in the chicken coop. Inevitably, the rain always started just as we were making progress with removing the plants from the pond! Oh the unending joys of the British weather! After several more attempts, we finally managed to get the mass of lilies onto the side of the pond.
Caked in mud from head to toe, we grabbed some random objects to start emptying the pond. Properly equipped with wellies, Dylan stood in the middle of the pond passing a bucket filled with water to me. Orin was busy using a smaller bowl while Nikki worked hard using a watering can. It was slow work, made longer by the regular rain breaks. It was rather disheartening to see the pond filling up rather than going down! It was a long slog so to make it more interesting we all guessed how many buckets of water were left. Guesses ranged from five (wildly optimistic!) to a more realistic 20-25 buckets. By the time we got to the high 20’s, Dylan was scraping the last of the water from the old liner. Orin’s contribution to the work was providing the comic relief as he jumped and splashed in his wellies.
Keen to remove the old liner before we stopped for our snacks, we removed the rocks around the edge of the pond. I say we. I mean Dylan. He is so strong! I don’t know how he made moving some of those rocks look so easy! Slowly, we peeled the old liner away with Orin helping to scrape the purple slate away so that it can be reused around the edge of the pond. Again, hauling out the liner with the silt and remaining water was incredibly difficult. Wrestling with a muddy, water filled liner which seemed to have a life of its own is not something I recommend you do unless you have to! Thankfully, between the three of us, supervised by Orin, we finally got it out.
By now, I was getting peckish. So we all ambled down to the shed and I lit the stove. It’s been ages since I’ve used the stove and it reminded me how much I love outdoor cooking at the allotment. With the hot chocolate heating over the stove, we cracked open the chocolate biscuits and enjoyed the heat from the stove. Orin took charge of stirring the hot chocolate. Just as I was serving out the drinks, my husband appeared with the pond liner. He dropped off the liner and joined us for a drink. With the biscuits running low, Nikki took the boys back home for a well deserved break.
With just two of us left, we started to rebuild the pond. Our first job was to put the underlay into the pond. This thick layer of fabric is important as it protects the liner from sharp or uneven rocks and soil below. The generous folk at Pond Keepers had sent us plenty of underlay. In the end, we only used two of the three but it was more than enough to cover the whole pond with a good margin on the outside. It looked really odd, the grey fabric making the pond look completely different.
Building on our success, we very carefully unrolled the pond liner. It’s vital to keep the pond liner away from anything sharp as you put it into place. The last thing you want is to have a hole before you’ve even had a chance to finish laying it out. I’ve never felt such a thick liner! As we laid it out, I thanked Pond Keepers for their kindness in sending such a high quality liner. Changing the liner is a thankless job and knowing that this one won’t need replacing for several years is great! Once the liner was in place, secured with several large stones, we realised we didn’t have a Stanley knife to trim the excess liner. Ever the hero, my husband walked home to get ours. Whilst he did that, I took a moment to sit down and demolish a few more biscuits.
With my husband holding the liner, I slowly worked my way around the pond, trimming away the excess liner. As the liner will stretch slightly when filled with water, there needs to be a wide strip of liner around the outside of the pond. As each section was trimmed, we placed a stone to hold it in place. Once I was happy with the folds and placement of the liner, my husband checked if the water was on. Thankfully, it was so we began the long process of refiling the pond.
As the pond began to fill, we turned out attention to the reeds and lilies that had been removed earlier. The reeds are very invasive and tend to overtake the pond. We selected five individual reeds with a good piece of root and put these to one side. The lilies were more of a challenge – they were so tangled together it was really difficult to separate any of them from the mass of mud, roots and stems. Over the next fifteen minutes, we managed to wrestle just over half a dozen small lilies out and put them on the side for later. The remaining mass of lilies, we dragged across and deposited them on top of the discarded reeds. By now, my husband’s timer for the allotment was up, so he headed home for a well deserved shower.
Realising that the pond was filling very very slowly, I decided to sort out the stone liner. A stone liner is an excellent way of protecting the main liner from UV damage – the reason why the old liner failed. The stone liner we had been given was five meter long, just the right size to protect the most vulnerable sections of the liner. Using several flat stones, I pinned the stone liner temporarily in place as I checked it was in the right position. Pleased with how it looked, I retreated from inside the pond with only slightly sodden trainers.
The pond continued to fill, causing the liner to move slightly. Rather than allowing the liner to move at will, I began slowly to build up the rocks around the pond. It’s important to cover all the liner to stop UV damage and to secure it in place whilst the liner settles. I couldn’t quite remember how the rocks were before we started but it didn’t matter. As long as the liner edge was secure, if the rocks looked artistic, that would be a bonus. The light was beginning to fade as I worked along the bank-side of the pond, carefully choosing thin, flat stones to hold the stone liner in place under the fence. By now, I was running short of rocks. But how? There used to be lots of rocks around the entire pond and I certainly hadn’t used them all! I searched around and discovered a pile of them had been neatly stacked on the bee platform. With more rocks, I gradually built up the rocks around the other side of the pond, only finishing when my hands hurt and the light was making shifting rocks somewhat more challenging.
My final job was to put the reeds into the water so they didn’t dry out overnight and to pot the smallest lilies. The larger lilies, I put directly into the pond. They will survive overnight and I’ll find a place for them tomorrow. Then I remembered the solar fountain. Scrambling to finish before all the light went, I quickly assembled it and put into the pond. For good measure, I set up the lights and the solar panel. Here’s hoping it works, assuming we get any sun tomorrow! By now it was quite dark so I turned off the water and trudged home, more mud monster than human!
The plan for tomorrow is to finish off filling the pond assuming Derek keeps the water on! Also, I’ll sort out the plants and if I have the time (and energy!), I’ll clean out the shed. Now that I think of it, the shed needs some repainting as well…
Looks great! Sorry was not around to help
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I’ll need to pick your brains for my new solar system 😉
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No problem. I gave the pipework details to Sarah to pass on. Any other info needed let me know. S told me you like the tombola!
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