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Mudlarks

1st of October 2014

I have spent a couple of sunny September afternoons trying to improve an ancient pond in the corner of my woodland. Elderberry bushes had grown lush and tall and were keeping the sun out, and blackthorn bushes were getting far to close. There was very little water in the pond after the dry summer so this was the time to get cracking.

The pond has not had much attention since the drought of 1976 when it dried up completely; the rain has always beaten me to it! Back then an old friend of ours offered to clean it out to get some ‘good stuff’ for his garden. He bagged up lots of the black peat like stuff and then decided to do a ‘proper job’ and cleaned it out completely. It was fascinating to see how it had been made. Smooth pebbles had been pressed into bluey grey clay to make a large bowl shape and to one side there was an apron of larger pebbles so that animals could drink without churning it up. The pond is shown on the oldest maps we can find and I have often wondered who made it and when. Two of the sides are quite steep. Did they have metal tools, or antler picks, and where did the clay come from; it is not the right colour for local clay?
It was so dry in 1976 when old Tom did it that he was able to finish the job by sweeping it with a broom but it is not that dry this year. After giving all the bushes and overhanging branches a good trim, I started on the black muck in the pond. The first barrow I parked too far in and when I filled it the wheel sank right in and I could not push it! I got quite a few loads out, but it was hard going. Then I took an extra step and found there was actually quite a bit of water under the muck! Right in over the top of my boots… very wet and smelly. It was tea time by then so I called it a day but if we get an Indian summer I might be able to get a bit more out.

When I was a child I made a raft and tried to paddle out to the middle but, of course, I fell in and got soaked. It still smelt the same but at least it was only my feet that got wet this time. Happy days …. then and now.
Wendy Bathust

 
This page is edited by Tony

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