One of the more unpleasant restoration jobs on offer for the volunteers has been the clearing out of the pond known as Clinkmere. The last time the timber debris was removed was in the Spring of 2016. Opposite the Visitor Centre, it is the most visited pond on the Estate and the most interesting piece of water. Nowadays used for educational purposes as part of the National Trust’s “Forest School”, it was originally dug to provide water for the commoners’ livestock on the open common. After the chalk had been dug out the hole would have been lined with “puddled” clay to retain the rain water, used by the passing drovers and no doubt the main water supply for the nearby hamlet of Moneybury Hill in earlier times.
Clinkmere is of great age, since it was clearly used as a boundary marker. The boundaries of the parish, county and ecclesiastical districts were laid down in Anglo Saxon times, and all pass through the centre of the pond making it some one thousand years old. With the parish boundary between Pitstone and Aldbury passing through the middle, it meant that the commoners from either parish could use the water-hole without fear or favour. First mentioned in the 14th century when “clink” referred to a keyhole, a legend has it that it was the location for the settling of affairs of honour. Unused since Victorian times, and following the inevitable encroachment of trees and vegetation, Clinkmere became sterile until it was cleaned out by volunteers in 1963, a huge manual undertaking at the time – it is four feet deep in the middle!
Clinkmere has the largest area of open water of all the thirty or so ponds on the Estate – many are silted up or are overgrown with vegetation, some have dried out and others are winterbourne, only filling up after winter rain. The degradation of the ponds has been recognised for some time, and in the Spring of 2014 the Trust had a plan to improve all of the water-holes within a five year period using fixed point photography to record progress. Following an incident in 2017 the Trust carried out a public safety survey of all the ponds, which resulted in a number of dead-hedges being built.
There may now be an unintended consequence arising from the recently installed dead-hedge and the adjacent log-pile, both being a ready source of material to be lobbed into the pond by the visitors – more work for the volunteers!