Restoring ghost ponds

Separately to our rewilding project and ecological restoration of the marshes, we have been working with the Norfolk Ponds Project to identify and restore “ghost ponds” at Wild Ken Hill.

What is a ghost pond? 

We use the term ghost pond to refer to former ponds that have been filled in over the last 100 years, perhaps for agricultural reasons or vegetation overgrowth from a lack of grazing. To the untrained eye, a ghost pond is just another section of farmland or wooded area. 

To identify them, the best place to start is with historical OS maps. The aim is to spot ponds on the maps (small areas, usually blue on colour maps) that don’t appear to exist on the ground. 

For example, on the below 1952 OS map of Wild Ken Hill, we have circled a small area in the figure below (reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland). This was a small pond sitting on a hedge row, but until recently just looked like any other field margin.

Ghost pond circled in blue. It existed on old maps but not on the ground!

Dr. Carl Sayer of the Norfolk Ponds Project helped us to identify it and provided instructions on how best to restore it. 

The following side-by-side shows the pond before and after the excavation work. As you can see there was no real way of knowing that it existed prior to excavation. 

Ghost pond: before and after excavation

The amazing thing about ghost ponds is that seed bank can often endure for fifty years or more. This means that when the pond is excavated and the soil is disturbed, there is the potential for the original aquatic vegetation to re-assert itself. 

We are now really looking forward to seeing how this pond develops in the Spring. We will provide further updates on this, and as ever, you can follow us on Instagram for more frequent news.