Restoration is underway at Hampshire’s largest freshwater lake, Fleet Pond. The project aims to restore habitats and improve biodiversity at the nature reserve.
The condition of Fleet Pond has deteriorated in recent years as a result of the build-up of silt, which enters the lake from the nearby Gelvert and Brookly streams and is killing the pond life. It has long been the express wish of Hart District Council, in partnership with organisations such as the Fleet Pond Society, to revitalise the area. In 1951 Fleet Pond became a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and was one of the first sites in Hampshire to be granted this title. But if the Pond were left untreated and were allowed to decline further, it could lose its SSSI status
The 141 acres of land features heathland, woodland, reed bed, marsh and of course open water habitats. This variety of habitats means that Fleet Pond hosts a vast array of wildlife. It is home to 180 kinds of bird, 26 species of butterfly, 21 types of dragonfly and 400 wild flowers with many of these being of national or international prominence. However, bird populations in the UK are in decline and so the work on places like Fleet Pond is essential to boost numbers again.
Phase 1 of the work at Fleet Pond has so far included creating a stream channel that should carry some of the silt coming from the Gelvert Stream away from where it has built up on ‘Sandy Bay’. Additionally, dredging, which is the clearance of silt, mud and sand from the bottom of an expanse of water, has taken place to increase the depth of the lake. New lake islands have also been created to provide new reed beds for the wildlife. Fleet Pond’s Countryside Ranger, Louise Greenwood, explains that “Phase 2 will involve more dredging. After the Project Steering Group meeting in May, we will have more agreement on the future elements for phase 2”.
Chairman of the Fleet Pond Society, Colin Gray explains what the consequences of the work should be.
“Reeds will eventually colonise all the islands, except the one or two spread with gravel for tern and gull nesting. The work to open the marshes will see a dramatic improvement in the diversity of marshland flora and this will improve invertebrate quantity and diversity”.
The impact of the work, Colin explains, is already noticeable. “We have already seen an increase in dragonflies and damselflies” and he goes on to say that “minimum disturbance has already seen an increase in bird populations in the marsh and reed areas where nesting, roosting and feeding is safe from disturbance”. It is the hope of the society that the creation of new islands will improve the habitat choice for a range of wetland and reed bed birds.
Not only is the project seeking to boost the health of the pond and its surrounding areas, but it has also already made significant improvements for the visitors’ experience. New footpaths and bridges are available, new information boards and fishing jetties. All of this contributes to making Fleet Pond once more an area of outstanding natural beauty and the heart and soul of Fleet.
This is a graph to show the level of decline in bird populations in the UK. It emphasises the need to rebuild habitats and boost populations once more.
This collection of photographs shows the spectacular views at Fleet Pond. They include just some of the wildlife and habitats that can be found there.
For more information on visiting Fleet Pond, please refer to the FAQ page.