A familiar feature of many village greens and gardens, ponds are generally small, humble, habitats that play a key role in supporting freshwater wildlife. Ponds offer good flood protection with their ability to capture rainwater and take on agricultural run-off.
In spring, check your local ponds for glutinous masses of frog spawn, or strings of toad spawn. In early summer, check for newts just after dusk by shining a torch over the water and watch for Daubenton’s bats skimming low over the surface feeding on emerging midges. Summer is the best time for pond dipping – expect water beetles, diving beetles, dragonfly nymphs, caddisfly larvae and lots of water snails.
Sadly, many relic ponds across the UK have been drained or unmanaged, left to fill with silt and vegetation or become stagnant under fallen leaves. Some ponds fall victim to non-native invasive species such as parrot’s feather or New Zealand pygmyweed which are often accidentally introduced by people dumping garden waste nearby or releasing fish.
Seemingly harmless recreational activities can have detrimental effects on ponds, such as allowing dogs to swim (churning the bed sediment) and feeding ducks and other waterfowl (which attracts rats and breeds bacteria). The Fixing and Linking Our Wetlands project (2015-2021) restored a number of ponds on the Peninsula for flood protection and to support wildlife. Many of these ponds are now protected behind woven willow fencing and have had invasive plants and sediment removed, and the banks sown with wildflowers or native fruiting trees.
Haydons Pond May 2020
Ditches are a vital habitat for wildlife on the Peninsula. They are sources of drinking water, food, shelter, and they act as natural ‘wildlife corridors’ allowing animals to navigate across our intensely urban and arable landscape. They function best when they are connected to the wider network of waterways carrying water out to sea, but if they become clogged with silt or rubbish they can cause flooding. Ditches support many different insects, small mammals, bats, and birds. They are more valuable to wildlife when they have vegetation growing on the banks and even a hedgerow or two sheltering either side, as long as sunlight can reach the water in the ditch.
We have an informative resource for managing ditches on your land, click here to download.
Mudflats and Saltmarsh
Mudflats appear in the ‘intertidal’ area of an estuary or inlet, which means they are only uncovered at low tide. Mudflats are important for lots of marine wildlife, from tiny lugworms and periwinkles living in the mud, to Brent geese and oystercatchers who wade over it.
As you head inland, mudflats become saltmarshes. Areas of coastal mud that are colonised with hardy plants that can cope with regularly being underwater and high levels of salt. The plants bind the mud with their roots, enabling more sediment to build up so that the area becomes higher than the original mudflats and this allows other types of plants to move in such as sea lavender, cord grasses, sea purslane, sea aster and samphire. Saltmarshes can buffer inland habitats from storms and high waves.
A globally rare, fragile and threatened habitat where specialised plants have adapted to survive the harsh conditions of growing on the coast. These conditions include: a lack of fresh water; shallow soil; low nutrients; wide-ranging temperatures; exposure to high winds; crashing waves; and risk of regularly being inundated by the sea. There is a fantastic vegetated shingle zone on Selsey Beach.
Plants that live here have evolved unique traits to thrive in these conditions. Let us look at some examples:
Sea kale and yellow-horned poppy have long tap roots which can grow up to two metres down into the soil to reach fresh water beneath the ground.
Sea campion has tightly packed leaves and small flowers which protect it from high winds and being battered by waves.
Sea beet (also called sea spinach) has succulent, waxy leaves which stops the plant losing water as well as protecting it from the elements.
All vegetated shingle images ©2010 Bruce Wilkinson
The Manhood Peninsula contains lots of arable land which produces our food and livestock fodder. Arable land generally does not leave much room for wildlife as crops are usually grown as ‘monocultures’ – the cultivation of a single crop in one area. However, there are many farmers and landowners who understand the importance of biodiversity and are doing their bit for wildlife. You’ll notice many fields have wide margins of wildflowers in the summer, and in the autumn hedgerows are not cut too early or too short to enable wildlife to feed on their flowers and berries for longer.