Dew ponds that collect excess rainwater and then quickly dry up can be found scattered around The Hurtwood in any likely low-lying hollow. The hillsides contain many a spring that used to disgorge its water until, in the past 20 years, dry summers and relatively dry winters lowered the water table. However, permanent ponds have always been in short supply, the one significant exception being the pond at the north end of the main gallop on Holmbury Hill, which has appeared on maps since the 1700s. It is notable for being the location known as the “secret lake” in E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View. By the 1990s it was all but unidentifiable as a pond, silt from adjacent bridleways having been washed in by years of rainstorms. Trees had taken root and there was very little light reaching the floor.
With financial help from Mr Christopher Hammond and a grant from Surrey County Council a renovation programme was started in February 1993. A number of trees were removed, silt was dug out and used to form a bank for a possible pond below the bridleway. The main work was completed in April of that year and with rain soon arriving and filling the pond some planting was carried out, with non-native species being heavily discouraged. Frog spawn and newts were soon introduced and thrived. Dragonflies laid their eggs as soon as water appeared and various creepy-crawlies found their own way into the water. Rustic seats were placed at the sides of the pond and they now make a lovely place to sit and watch the wildlife on a summer’s evening. Mallards have since bred on the pond and Mandarin ducks frequent it in the spring while nesting in holes in the nearby beech trees.
In 2002, a further pond was added below Hammond’s Pond on the northern edge of Holmbury Hill, created with money from a legacy generously left to the Trust. Previously hot summers had left Hammond’s Pond with little water but, conversely, in wet winters it would overflow and spill out to where the new pond now lies. It was felt that a deeper and more permanent pond should be created in the exact spot where the overflow water ended up.
Work on digging out the ground and creating the shape with its steeper sides to help to prevent water evaporation was started in the early spring of 2002. After it was finished, the Trust had to wait some months before a free source of clay was kindly donated by Rick and Penny Morris to line the pond.
Anyone familiar with The Hurtwood’s ponds knows that they are unusually cloudy. This is partly due to the natural currents created by warmer water rising to the surface, but also when water runs in after heavy rainfall; this would then start to stir up small particles of the clay, which were too small to settle down to the bottom again, and thus remain suspended in the water, making it cloudy. So for this pond, a new technique of adding a final layer of topsoil on the clay lining was tried. Once the pond was lined and the topsoil added, there was another long wait for some rain to fill it, as that spring was notably dry. Once the pond was full, everyone waited with baited breath to see if it had any leaks. Fortunately, owing to the excellent work of the contractor, The Hurtwood now had a full pond. The topsoil idea also seemed to have worked, with the water remaining a pleasant green and still with some clarity. It wasn’t long before the pond started to gain a life of its own and it is now starting to look as if it has always been there. Today, the pond is regularly used by the Ranger for taking school parties pond-dipping.
In September 1993 work was started on a second pond just outside the main carpark on Holmbury Hill, thanks to donations from Mr Colin Walpole and Seeboard and a grant from Surrey County Council. An area of scrub holding a dew pond that collected rainwater flowing down from the top of the hill was cleared and lined with clay, as with Hammond’s Pond obtained free of charge from G.W. Verrall’s of Horsham. Further work was required some months later to remove a small island that had been left as a feature but was found to cause leakage. Planting has subsequently been carried out and colonisation by various aquatic insects has progressed.
(also known as “Crocodile Pond” by local youngsters)
This pond was originally dug out to provide a storm water catchment area to alleviate flooding problems in Peaslake but had become stagnant and full of leaves and twigs from the nearby trees. Mr and Mrs Greenwood of Ewhurst kindly offered to sponsor half the costs of its restoration in memory of their son, the balance being provided by Surrey County Council. The pond was dug out in February 1997 with some clay being obtained and puddling carried out to enable planting.
Peter Haynes and Mark Beaumont