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This is me wading into the murky water to check depth, base and general condition before work can begin (while I'm generally very happy working with water, this was not my favourite moment!)

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Moving fish out in small buckets.

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As both pumps began working, the fish began to congregate in small pockets of water. We managed to save almost 270 fish, losing only four. (I was very excited when, among what were mostly gold fish, I caught a 14-inch long carp.)

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The fish were carefully placed into a holding tank. We used an air pump for the duration of their stay because the volume of fish, in such a small area, would have meant they'd have had little to no oxygen and would not otherwise have survived.

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With the confidence of knowing that we could drive machinery into the pond, we removed the fencing at the side and created a small ramp so we could drive the digger and dumper down to the edge to begin three days of back-breaking clearing

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Pond clearing in West Sussex

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Over the last few years, we've been very fortunate to have designed and built a variety of lovely ponds, working in some of the most beautiful parts of the country. Working with (and in) water is something I love doing – I get very excited about the wildlife that immediately seem to know that a new body of water has been created and they appear as if by magic. However, there are times when the work is, let's say, less than desirable but altogether necessary...

Many ponds and lakes – and even moats – need clearing at certain points in their life-time. After years of being left to look after itself, a pond, lake or moat can gradually fill with sediment and debris. The sludge could have built up so much that hardly any water is left, leading to insufficient oxygen to support plant and fish life – not to mention the odour from any rotting vegetation.

The following images show a project Mick and I completed a couple of months ago, where a farmyard pond was in desperate need of rescue. So that we could clear the enormous amount of sludge that had built up over the previous 15 years, we dug out our waders and fishing nets and located the necessary heavy-weight machinery needed to tackle this (rather mucky) work.

First of all we carried out a few exploratory tests (which mainly entailed me wading chest-deep into the murkey water (above: see how happy I look!) to establish the depth and base of the pond. We needed to know if the area was generally accessible and suitable for the heavy machinery we would need to (more easily) remove the sludge and debris.

Our initial tests revealed that the base was predominatly sand, not only that – it was a hard sand because the pond had originally been cut into a natural slope and was two to three metres below the original ground level and was probably also below the water table.

As the pond was also fed by natural springs we used two different pumps. An electric one to draw water out on a daily basis, and a diesel-powered pump because it was more powerful and could shift a greater volume of water.

As both pumps began working, the fish began to congregate in small pockets of water. We managed to save almost 270 fish, losing only four. (I was very excited when, among what were mostly gold fish, I caught a 14-inch long carp.)

The fish were carefully placed into a holding tank. We used an air pump for the duration of their stay because the volume of fish, in such a small area, would have meant they'd have had little to no oxygen and would not otherwise have survived.

After clearing all the muck and vegetation that had caused the pond to become so clogged-up, we divided a few of the existing lilies and pontederia to enhance the general area as we cleaned up the surrounding area. While we were busy doing this, we also began to slowly refill the pond with fresh water although we waited a few days before putting the fish back into the pond to allow everything to settle.

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The pond refilled and cleared of sludge and sediment. It should not need to be re-cleared again for many years to come

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The diesel pump at work

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