London is historically a city of ponds. Nestled in the belly of the Thames Basin and home to 60-70 rivers, most of the city is built on a bedrock of impermeable London Clay.
Before urbanisation London’s ponds would have been naturally formed. Beverley Brook translates as Beaver Meadow Stream, and would have once been home to beautiful beaver ponds. Other natural backwaters would have formed as part of wilder rivers, while countless pools would have been found among Thames salt marsh.
As urbanisation increased, London’s ponds became more functional. Ponds often inherit quarries and pits, village ponds were traditionally used for washing horses and swelling cartwheels, while others were (and still are) used for livestock, fish, ducks, washing and swimming.
Despite this rich cultural and natural history, London lost 90% of its ponds between 1870 and 1984.
It’s difficult to overestimate the value of ponds. They are oases of wildlife, home to disproportionately high levels of biodiversity for their size. They provide crucial “stepping stones” for wildlife navigating urban landscapes, and are crucial to the survival of countless amphibians, birds, mammals (especially bats), molluscs, crustaceans, hirudinea and insects.
And the news isn’t all doom and gloom. Despite dramatic losses last century, ponds are making a comeback. Countryside Survey data indicates an 18% increase in ponds across England since 1998.
TCV were recently given a generous Heritage Lottery Fund grant to work on the history and ecology of Croydon’s Ponds. I have mapped their site list for them, which can be navigated below:
Combing through old maps I’ve also highlighted a few potentially lost or forgotten pondy sites:
If you want to get involved with the TCV Croydon Ponds Project you can find out more by clicking here.
And if you know of any lost or forgotten ponds please mention them in the comments below.