May I show you something? It’s not yarn-related, but I do plan to spend a lot of time beside it knitting and crocheting. You see, I’m making progress on the wildlife pond. It’s nowhere near done, but I’ve finished digging, and it does at least now contain WATER. One day soon, the edges will be concealed, the lawn will be re-turfed, more rocks will be added, and most importantly, some coir mats will arrive (from these marvellous folk), pre-planted with native water-loving vegetation. Then, this will start to become beautiful:-
They say that if you dig a pond, the wildlife will rapidly arrive of its own accord. It seems that ‘they’ are correct. Here, we have the male of the species:-
That’s potentially the only picture I’ll be allowed to show you of the Stoic Spouse, ever.
There’s a backstory to all this. If I promise to try and make you laugh a little along the way, will you indulge me?
I’ve always been an obsessive person. When I’m into something, I am INTO it, pretty much forever. The Stoic Spouse calls me an extremist, which seems harsh, but I’ll admit that I’m certainly not a dabbler. One of the things that I’ve been into for several decades is pond/stream-life. Here’s the story…
When I was eight, my family moved house. Fortunately they invited me to come too, which was generous of them, given what an irritating sod I was at the time. It felt very exciting to be moving to a different house, especially one whose garden contained a vast old horse chestnut tree with a treehouse and a rope-swing. The best thing, however, which possibly made my parents regret bringing me along in the house-move, was the tiny-weeny, polluted, stream that ran along the bottom of the garden. This was The Most Exciting Thing That Had Ever Happened In My Entire Life. (We’re talking about the 1980s, remember: nowt much occurred, except bad hair and the miners’ strike.)
The other thing about the 1980s was that nobody cared who dumped noxious chemicals into our waterways, so this micro-stream was so polluted that you’d often come out in a lumpy, red, rash after touching its waters. But still, I couldn’t keep away. Despite the poisons, there was life. Mother Twisted could yell at me all she wanted, but whenever she wasn’t looking, I’d sneak over the wire fence and into the stream with my fishing net. There were wriggly freshwater shrimps and scurrying water lice, neat wandering-snails, and the occasional swan mussel, and sandy caddis fly larvae. Also, in that stream I developed my dam-building skills to such an extent that I flooded the upstream neighbours’ garden and seriously considered a career in civil engineering.
But I’m proud to hail from nature-loving stock and after a while, my parents created the first of the ponds that they’ve built at every house they’ve inhabited since. If the polluted micro-stream was the Best Thing Ever, then the pond certainly came a close second. Whilst normal kids around there were busy smoking banana skins (access to proper drugs was problematic in small-town Hertfordshire), I made complex graphs of pond water temperature by depth and time. Yes I did have friends, despite this eccentricity: why do you ask?
We moved house again, this time to south Wales, and another pond was built. Early adulthood happened and I moved away. There wasn’t much room for pondlife in those years. My parents moved yet again, this time to an old timber-framed barn in Herefordshire, and I admired their next pond from afar:-
It was rather lovely:-
MEANWHILE, I somehow (against a wide range of odds) had become a “”grownup””, with a husband and children and a washing machine and a psychology career and a brewery home and sensible footwear and a wide selection of saucepans and an age that began with the number ‘4’. My parents moved yet again (are you spotting a theme in their lives?) to join us in Oxfordshire, and it took them a while to get round to planning another pond-build, although I’m happy to report that they’re getting there, now. I persuaded the Stoic Spouse that we needed a pond, too. He had very little grounds to argue, given that he’d just built a stonking great big railway in the garden. So I started to dig. And dig. (And dig.) The twinnage helped.
This might have been just another stage of the general garden redevelopment that I’ve been working on for so long… but as I began to dig, I felt… well I don’t know how to describe it, but I realized that this really mattered. It mattered partly because I feel strongly about the loss of freshwater habitats in recent decades (please, please, get out there and dig y’self a pond), but it also mattered because of quite how important all this stuff had been in my earlier life. Suddenly, I could remember that small, adventurous, and probably rather irritating child.
Suddenly, memories came flooding back. I got out the (large) number of books on freshwater life that I’d neglected for years, and to my joy, one of the twinnage promptly appropriated them all to read for himself, and to use as inspiration for his drawings. Both boys are transfixed by the pond. (They helped to build it.) It’s very early days, wildlife-wise, but they already spend their time staring into the depths, spotting the few critters who’ve so far arrived. The most obvious beasty whom we’ve yet acquired is Boris The Backswimmer:-
Though small, Boris is the most aggressive invertebrate you’re ever likely to meet. I swear he’d pick a fight with his own shadow. He may be a carnivore, but I found him yesterday having a punch-up with a flower. The twinnage are fascinated. I sense that another generation has been bitten by the pond-life bug. And I ain’t complaining. 🙂