Ice Age Ponds Project

Wednesday 5th December 2018

Over the past two years Herefordshire Wildlife Trust have been working in partnership with Herefordshire Amphibian and Reptile Team, and the Earth Heritage Trust to develop a project that conserves the County’s Ice Age Ponds. That work was successful with a Development Phase grant secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund for £90,400.

Herefordshire’s ‘Kettle Hole Ponds’ are an important but poorly understood feature of the landscape. Towards the end of the last ice age, around 23–24,000 years ago, a tongue of ice expanded into North West Herefordshire. Although this ice expansion was brief, it abruptly and dramatically changed the landscape. Kettle holes form when glacial sands and gravels from the melting glaciers pile up around blocks of ice carved from the retreating glacier front. When the ice blocks melt they leave depressions up to 10 metres deep. Remarkably some of these ponds persist today, an incredible legacy that has survived for over 20,000 years and are both ecologically and geologically interesting. Nationally Kettle Hole Ponds are scarce; it has been estimated that probably less than 2% of lowland ponds are natural and probably only 1% of these are Ice Age in origin. However, in Herefordshire we are privileged as this rises to approximately 25%, representing a nationally important resource.

Over time, sediment and peat accumulated in these natural ponds and diverse aquatic habitats with rich assemblages of plants and animals developed. Today, they continue to host distinctive ecosystems that depend on their peculiar topography and drainage conditions. Intact kettle hole ponds can be very rich in aquatic life including all five of the county’s amphibian species.

Sadly, kettle hole ponds are also vulnerable and are regularly damaged or destroyed. They have received little investigation and are poorly understood by the public and the scientific community.

The funding that we have secured will enable the project partners to engage with local communities and landowners to protect many of the remaining ponds. We will discover their historic and present wildlife and create trails and interpretation that explores the ponds and their history.
The project will be split into two parts: a Development Phase that will run for one year starting in September. If the Development Phase is successful a Delivery Phase will start in December 2019 and finish in October 2021 with further funding from HLF.

Andrew Nixon, Conservation Manager