Naturehood Oxford: restoring a pond with Wood Farm Primary School - Earthwatch

Naturehood Oxford: restoring a pond with Wood Farm Primary School

Naturehood Oxford is working with communities in Oxford to create thriving networks of wildlife-rich space that create better, healthier places to live.

Local community groups and residents have shared what nature they want to see in their neighbourhoods. The Naturehood team have been helping them make that a reality, from building vegetable planters to supporting nature events.

One of our most exciting projects has involved helping Wood Farm Primary School restore an old pond that had become neglected and overgrown. Read on to discover how the Naturehood Oxford team worked with the school, students and volunteers to bring the pond back to its former glory!

Step 1: Meeting with Wood Farm Primary School

A key part of the Naturehood Oxford project has been working with local organisations, especially Oxford Hub. Oxford Hub is a place-based charity, working with residents, other organisations and students to make change across Oxford and beyond.

We’re grateful to Oxford Hub for introducing the Naturehood team to the Headteacher at Wood Farm Primary School. Once contact had been made, we were able to begin working with the school to plan the pond restoration project!

Step 2: Pond Discovery

The next stage of getting the project off the ground was working with students to assess the current state of the pond. We ran a series of sessions with Year 5 students in small groups of around 15 pupils.

These were interactive sessions that invited students to ask questions and undertake independent exploration. They completed surveys identifying wildlife living in the pond and surrounding space.

The Naturehood team also ran an educational water quality testing game, using our FreshWater Watch kits. From several water samples, students were invited to guess which had the most chemicals. The samples included:  

  • Healthy pond water
  • Rain water
  • Tap water
  • Filtered tap water
  • Less healthy pond water

To the students’ surprise, it was tap water that contained the most chemicals!

Then it was time to get creative. Students got to think about what they wanted the restored pond to look like and include. They used pen and paper to get designing.

Step 3: Pond Preparation

The pond area was overgrown with blackthorn and bramble. Building couldn’t begin until this was cleared. Although blackthorn and bramble are great for wildlife, the thorns could damage the pond liner.

Due to the risks of dealing with prickly vegetation, adult volunteers were called in. They were recruited through Oxford Hub’s twinning programme. The programme supports pairings between Oxford University Colleges and Oxford schools. New College Oxford are paired with Wood Farm Primary School.

With the volunteers, we pulled up the scrub including blackthorn, bramble, seedlings and dead grass. Litter was also cleared including trip hazards and the remains of the original pond liner.

A big thank you to the volunteers who were involved. They made a big difference in creating a safe site so students could get involved with pond creation.

Step 4: Building the Pond

Now it was time to create the pond over several sessions. This involved a lot of digging and Year 6 students getting stuck in!

The students measured the pond so a new pond liner could be ordered and placed. It was also a chance to get creative. One pupil made a little bowl using the clay we dug up!

The students also helped with laying gravel and placing large stones. It was the perfect opportunity to provide them with some manual-handling training.

Special thanks go to Ali from East Oxford Good Neighbours for supplying rocks and pond building expertise.

Step 5: Filling the Pond

The next step involved patiently waiting for some rain to fill the pond. As we learnt earlier, tap water is filled with chemicals that are harmful to sensitive pond wildlife.

Once the pond was filled, we added aquatic plants which included water lilies, duckweed, reeds, and pond grass. During this activity, a frog was discovered! The students also scattered wildflower seeds (contributed by Florette) on scarified, bare soil surrounding the pond area.

And with that, Wood Farm Primary School’s pond was complete!

Step 6: Reflection

After each session during the project, we would review and use feedback to inform the next session. Providing positive experiences for the students by giving them the chance to interact and connect with nature was just as important as restoring the pond.

Once the pond was finished, we made sure the students came together to reflect on the project as a group. This is an important part of any community project so we can continue to learn and build on experience.

We worked with the students to record their ideas for the future. Their ideas included:

  • Painting the fence
  • Planting flowers
  • Using the dug up soil to grow vegetables
  • Make homes for frogs and newts
  • Pond dipping

The Naturehood team loved being able to support with this pond restoration project. We hope the teachers and students at Wood Farm Primary School will be able to enjoy and learn from their pond for years to come!

National Lottery Community Fund Logo

Naturehood Oxford is supported by the National Lottery Community Fund. National Lottery players raise over £30 million a week for good causes across the UK. The National Lottery Community Fund distributes a share of this to projects to support people and communities to prosper and thrive.

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