On reflection there is no substance in the derogatory term “pond life” – Ponds are important hotspots for biodiversity. … As well as aquatic species, ponds are also wonderful for our terrestrial wildlife. They provide drinking water during dry weather, a supply of insect and plant-based food, and shelter among the emergent and surrounding plants and trees. Most of the twenty or so ponds on the Estate are silted up or dried out and Clinkmere, nestling just two minutes walk away from the V C has seen better days – it is the oldest deepest and largest of the ponds on the Estate.
The volunteers recently carried out an annual tidy-up removing leaf debris and rotting tree branches which affect the water quality – a putrid job! If the water quality deteriorates and the pond silts up the biodiversity is lost.
Clinkmere has been used for educational purposes in the past as part of the National Trust’s “Forest School”, while it was originally dug to provide water for the commoners’ livestock on the open common. It was no doubt used by the passing drovers and was the main water supply for the nearby hamlet of Moneybury Hill in earlier times.
A rare artefact
Clinkmere has been there since “time out of mind” as the locals would say, dating back to pre Norman times, when 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 over one thousand years old. With the parish boundary between Pitstone and Aldbury passing through the centre, 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.
It is regrettable that the National Trust have not honoured their founding principles in the case of Clinkmere, which seems to have fallen through the net – preserving and restoring an ancient artefact, and protecting wildlife. In March 2017 the National Trust agreed that it had lost sight of the founding principle of protecting wildlife – Peter Nixon, Director of Conservation of the National Trust, said “the charity had a duty to help prevent wildlife decline, which currently affects 56 per cent of British species.”
Unused since Victorian times, and following the inevitable encroachment of trees, Clinkmere has become sterile.
The degradation of the ponds at Ashridge has been recognised for some time, when 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. Clearly this did not materialise, and following an incident in 2017 the Trust carried out a public safety survey of all the ponds, which has resulted in a number of dead-hedges being built.
The Norfolk Ponds Project created in 2014 is a pioneering organisation attempting to safeguard the ponds in Norfolk through restoration. They maintain that the best ponds for restoration are isolated ponds with no contaminants present from roads or adjacent farmland – so Clinkmere can be saved. The N P P are a fount of knowledge which should be tapped!