Pontificating on ponds

when it comes to adding a water feature to your garden, …and no matter what end result is intended, sooner or later, you have to do some digging!!

digging your pond ~ pond expert

Readers of this blog will know that I’ve been planning a water cascade as part of the garden design. And deeply embedded in a haphazard, sloping ‘rockery’ that I inherited was an ideal layering of very large stones. Unfortunately, these were not in line with the planned cascade and so back in March, ‘builder buddy’ and I resited them to their planned destination (see ‘Steps and stones‘).

moving the stones slide to view

A cascade requires a pond – two to be precise. A header and a lower one, in order for water to cycle between them. The first was readily found in a pre-formed pre-loved ex duckling pond (see ‘Of boundaries and bogs‘) but unbeknownst to me there is much more involved in designing the lower pond. According to advice from an expert, it had to contain enough water so that when the cascade is not ‘running’, the pond level does not get sucked up the pipes and flatten out to a puddle!

digging a wide lower pond with mattock, pick and spade

It meant digging a wide, shallower hole rather than small and deep, which in turn meant mattocking out many more large stones and bricks. And that was how I spent the last weeks of May.

Having excavated a suitably sized cavity, I outlined the edge with ‘found’ stones and soon developed an eye for ‘what stone fits what gap’ thus reducing carrying and shifting times! However, in the excavation process, it became clear that the cascade foundations were unstable, being undercut with a conglomeration of broken bricks and gappy soil. Also, the crumbly path edge evidently needed bolstering.

Re-lifting and setting aside all the lower cascade was required, before more digging out to create a stable base. Fortunately, builder buddy returned in June to help with this unplanned task!

Large flat stones were levelled at base with the pond liner placed on top and spread out to fit (N.B. the hot weather made the liner much more malleable). First though, plenty of cardboard and an old patio carpet was placed beneath the liner to protect from being holed from the sides and underneath. Also, the pathside edging was reinforced with a semicircle of ‘de-edged’ bricks beneath the liner. And after much measuring between back and front we ensured the water levels would be more or less even and deep enough to lap the lower stones.

stabilizing and backfilling the cascade base

Building bottom up, the first of the cascade stones were put in place using muscle power and a timber beam to shift the stones over and along. Backfilling was required but there was plenty of excavated rubble to use! Although I’d taken photos of the original, the cascade was actually redesigned in the remaking – by eye and by what stones could be lifted where. The most challenging being a large flat rock that fitted as backdrop to the first layer and nicknamed ‘the sleeping giant’!

Completion was a fully satisfying moment and relief. We half-filled the pond to release any strain on the liner and then overfilled it to spot where the overflow will go – and yes it heads straight for the marsh garden just as designed! (see ‘Of boundaries and bogs‘)

Gaps in the cascade will need to be mortared to keep the water falling where required. The lower pond is going to require a pump and some power to drive the cascade – my plan is to combine wind with solar power. All this will require more of builder buddy’s skills in some not too distant future time.

Take a scrolling view through the water feature work!

7 thoughts on “Pontificating on ponds

  1. Goodness – some pretty heroic fettling involved here, Laura, but what a very pleasing result, and that imminent bog garden ready to receive…Blooming well done, you and builder buddy.

    1. many thanks Tish – the end result makes the memory of all that stone and soil shifting vanish – rather like having babies! – hence I must document all the effort with photos and blogging here!

  2. Wow so much work; I really admire your energy… My sister mentioned wanting a pond in our garden, which I vetoed, and luckily she just moved and now has a pond in the garden that comes with the flat; phew – work for me avoided 😁

    1. ah but you missed such a great opportunity for an outdoor gym workout! Builder buddy has the skills I lack but I just wish I was stronger still and did not have to rely so much on others to help shift all these stones.

  3. You are a most industrious person. I wish I had a builder buddy! Your plans seem to be coming together nicely. This is going to be one very beautiful garden.

    1. yes Jude the garden keeps me very active!! Also I’m very fortunate to have a skilled friend to call upon and even a neighbourly and muscly son-in-law to lift the very big stones in and out of place sometimes – am fortunate too with this garden which provides so many of the raw materials and ideas for design – I always knew it would be a 2-3 year garden in the making though starting from overgrown and neglected and I hope there will be beauty ultimately!

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