Where has all the Water gone?

Introduction to the first article

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn a new series of articles for the Crowhurst News, Paul Johnson is going to share with us some stories and information from his role as Warden of Crowhurst Nature Reserve, known locally as Quarry Wood.

This beautiful little piece of woodland was bought by the village for the village nearly ten years ago, and since then a dedicated team of volunteers has met up regularly to work on clearing, maintaining and protecting the area. It is jointly managed by the Crowhurst Society and Powdermill Trust.


Where has all the Water gone?

Originally published September 2008

Hello everyone! Can anyone recollect a time when you could sit on the bench at the edge of the Quarry Wood pond with the water practically lapping at your toes, a pair of mallards busily quacking about their business and various species of butterfly and dragonfly settling on a range of aquatic plants poking up from the newt infested depths? Well I can, vaguely, at least five years ago!

Since then we have had a decline in the amount of water the pond has held; even at the wettest time of year. Yes, we have had some extremely dry years. Healthy large trees such as the churchyard oak shed sizeable branches almost certainly as a result of water induced stress, that is to say lack of water induced stress! But what about the last two years? Nothing for the water companies to complain about; plenty of rain in the Winter months when it can seep down to keep those underground aquifers full. As I look out of the window I can see that they are getting topped up in the Summer months too!

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So where has it all gone? In the photos above, taken in July from the bench, I am lurking in the distant undergrowth at the water’s edge as it was then. There is even less there now, despite yet another rain sodden August.

There are a number of ways for a pond to lose water:- someone is drinking it (are the badgers and rabbits really that thirsty??); trees are siphoning it up; evaporation; percolation down through the bed rock or, simply disappearing down through a hole. Discounting the possibility of extremely thirsty fauna it is likely to be a combination of of the other factors. Since the village acquired the land we have cleared a lot of Aspen and Willow from the pond and the surrounding area. This has reduced the tree siphoning effect to a great extent but has increased evaporation by allowing the breeze to get to the surface. Did I mention that another feature of our current Summer weather, apart from the rain, is the constant wind!

I would imagine it is obvious to everyone in the village what the underlying bed rock is; Sandrock Hill gives it away! Sandstone was quarried and used in many of the older buildings in the village; but more of that another time! An interesting feature of sandstone is, as every school child knows, its ability to hold water like a giant hard sponge, and in simple terms, the level of the water, or water table, can rise through the stone and emerge as a spring when it reaches the surface or the side of a hill. Interestingly, an old OS map shows the quarry to be roughly the same height above sea level as a number of springs situated just north and west of the village. Though not conclusive by any means, this may indicate the level of the the water table. It is possible that our pond is spring fed and not just a large puddle sitting on the surface!

As we all know with our water greedy lifestyles (turn that tap off when brushing your teeth!) abstraction rates from the water tables are heavy to say the least. This would certainly be a factor when considering the flow of springs around the area; and perhaps a contributory factor in the decline of the pond.

Of course there are people in the village who will say they know all too well where the water from the higher ground goes! Flooding has been a feature of Crowhurst for many years now as field drains, old railway culverts and the road itself act as channels for the water to make use of gravity and create mayhem below.

These are a few of my thoughts and ramblings on the matter. I hope they will encourage some response from anyone out there who would like to put me right on anything I’ve mentioned! I am very keen to hear what you have to say, my email address is pgcrow@yahoo.com

Paul Johnson

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The “Deep End” – 18/07/08

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