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Clay puddling

Has anyone ever clay puddled a pond? We're on fairly heavy clay and have a corner of the garden that always floods with the autumn/winter rains so we're thinking of making a virtue of it and putting in a wildlife pond. Has anyone ever puddled clay, and would you recommend it or should we run away screaming and put in a good, old-fashioned ( :D) pond liner?

It's knowing what to do with things that counts - Robert Frost


  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 22,316
    Around here in the White Peak district, old dew ponds are very common. Some of them are being restored. See this article for a taste of what is in store for you.

    I remember reading an old account of how they were made by the farmers letting their cattle wander around on the wet clay to settle it.  Layers of straw provided insulation to attract the dew. It was very very time consuming.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,462
    It works for us, though I haven't actually done it myself, but if you've got good clay, I see no reason why you shouldn't use it  for a garden pond.You would have to think about what happens to any surplus water but you would seem to have that problem already :) A clay pond is resistant to minor damage and doesn't deteriorate over time, like plastic. It can also be relatively easily repaired and/or altered if  need be .It needs effort, not money, so if you have enough of one you can save the other!
    I also live in the Peak District, but not the White Peak. Our underlying rock here is sandstone, but there is also a thick layer of yellow clay. Our garden is on a steep hillside and when we moved here we inherited a series of ponds, stepped one below another down the slope. All were more or less silted up by soil transported by the run-off following heavy rainfall.
    The topmost one was just a boggy hollow  surrounded by trees and we left it unchanged. The three next increased gradually in size, with the largest one retained by a very substantial earth and rock dam. We had this one and the small top one excavated by a digger and the resulting silt was used to fill the middle one, as we decided, I think correctly, that there would not be sufficient water to maintain all three in summer. They are fed by a more or less permanent spring (it dried up for a short while in 2018) and rainfall and the resulting additional mobile springs or soughs.
    There is a sharp drop from the neighbour's field to our land, which gives us a 3 or 4 tier waterfall after heavy rain. The stream then winds through the hollow, through a pipe in the first small dam, down a rocky channel and a drop into pond No.1 and from there via another pipe into No.2 and a final pipe conducts it through the big dam and releases it to the boggy wilderness, on its way to the sea
    There are no liners and no leaks. The pure clay could be used to make pots and my daughter, who enjoys playing about with field drainage, has used it both to block access to water from a neighbouring field and guide it to the drainage channel, and to make a drinking basin for the sheep.  The ponds moderate the flow of water downhill, preventing some soil erosion further down The ground is sufficiently clay-ey to allow excess water to run over the surface, so we have other drainage channels and ditches that feed in at various points to deal with waterlogged areas. Our neighbour is planning to create yet another pond in the field above us, to contain and control the water flow thereand provide more accessible water for his sheep.
    The hill already supplies both his farm and us with good drinking water. The water links us to the place and the geography in a very real way. The various wetland areas provide a variety of wildlife habitats plus planting opportunities for the gardener and give year round interest and a unique character to the garden.

  • Wow @Buttercupdays, can I just come and live in your garden instead?!  ;)

    It's knowing what to do with things that counts - Robert Frost
  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,462
    It is a very special place and pure chance that we found it - we weren't even househunting at the time, and bought it almost on a whim, but loved it straight away. It has its challenges but worth all the hard work. Every day I look out of the window at the big pond,  with its reflections of the sky, and the view down the valley and the hills beyond, the light always changing and feel blessed.
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