In a combined effort to encourage people to make a splash for wildlife, the wildlife trusts and the Royal Horticultural Society are calling on people to put a pond in their gardens, writes Andy Coulson-Phillips.

The annual Wild About Gardens challenge started earlier this month and the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) is supporting the national message about how this garden feature, no matter the size, can have a massive positive impact on our local wildlife.

Sadly, the UK’s wetland habitats including ponds, rivers, streams and lakes have suffered damage and losses at an alarmingly rapid rate.

It is reckoned that no British lowland rivers are undamaged, either in relation to physical characters, their banks, beds or floodplains; or by pollution and nutrient run-off.

The same is true for lakes, and more than half of the ponds present in 1900 are now gone.

The loss of these important places – to development, drainage and intensive farming – is linked to a huge decline in wildlife.

The abundance and diversity of species across groups like amphibians (frogs, toads and newts), mammals (including hedgehogs), birds, and aquatic invertebrates (such as insects and crustaceans) has declined, and now it is estimated that 13 per cent of freshwater and wetland species are threatened with extinction from Great Britain.

With so much of the UK’s native flora and fauna under threat, often due to habitat loss, we at BBOWT are supporting the Wildlife Trust movement to raise awareness of the importance of gardens for local wildlife, and by offering tips and advice on how to make them more wildlife-friendly.

Oxford Mail:

A simple and personal intervention that can have huge benefits is providing a pond.

By digging a pond in your back garden or even simply by filling a waterproof container outside your front door, you will be helping wildlife; the lengths you go to will depend on the time and space you have at your disposal, but remember any freshwater is a positive for wildlife.

You will also enjoy the benefits of seeing water plants, birds and insects close to home

Digging a garden pond is great for birds and mammals, such as hedgehogs, giving them somewhere to drink.

A pond, even a small one, is also likely to attract frogs and newts to feed and breed, as well as invertebrates like water boatmen, diving beetles and ramshorn snails. Larger ponds will be used by a wider range of species including bats, damselflies and dragonflies.

Oxford Mail:

There is a wealth of practical advice as to how you can do your bit, and why the work is so important, and it can be found by searching the Wildlife Trust’s website and following the links to the Wild About Gardens section, which includes useful guides to creating ponds.

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BBOWT have several nature reserves in the Oxford area with wonderful ponds and wetland wildlife to interact with. You could visit the secluded CS Lewis reserve at Lewis Close, Risinghurst, on the very eastern fringe of Oxford, and watch the pond and its wildlife as the famous author once did.

Alternatively, travel a little further to visit the Cothill Reserves, near Abingdon, or look out for open days at Sutton Courtenay Environmental Education Centre where activities are based around ponds, garden wildlife and activities that all the family can join in with.

Join BBOWT’s Pond Social, from April 17 to June 27, every Thursday at 6pm, at which we’ll be helping people on social media identify things in their pond via @WildlifeTrust on Twitter and the Wild About Gardens Facebook group.

So get involved! Remember: every pond counts.