Life can be remarkably dangerous in NW London. Having finished a final final polish on a novel, and needing something to do while I waited for publishers not to return my calls, I decided on a pond. Or rather a pond decided on me.

The pond under construction - the dangers of digging a pond

Crime scene

It’s rather like the way characters arrive when I’m writing. I don’t so much create them as find they’ve taken up residence in my cerebral cortex, brought in their own furniture, taken over the gas and electricity and learnt the quickest way to the shops. So it was with digging a pond.

I could blame Friends of the Earth, because when the seeds they sold me for a donation failed to sprout flowers to help save the bees, I took myself and the wife off to Finchley Nurseries to buy a car-load of bee- and butterfly-friendly flowers. And on the way out, I saw the ponds. And immediately I was hooked.

I wanted one. A pond would add more wildlife-support, somewhere for small things to float and large things to drink. A place which teemed with life and helped save the planet. What I didn’t know was how dangerous a pond could be.

Pond danger

“Children drown in ponds,” said my wife, with dark foreboding. “Even in a few inches.” She knows about such matters. Such as the dangers of digging a pond.

I checked in books and on web sites. She was right. Children would have to be watched at all times in case they dived into the three-inch depths with a resolute desire to end things. Not only children, but animals could fall in and drown.

And if the children and animals survived, my wife warned that mosquitos would breed. Malaria was coming north, and I was helping it.

Digging a pond

Nevertheless I laughted in the face of danger and took up my spade. Our garden is the size of a small paperback, so I selected the only possible space, about two metres square in a shady corner, under some shrubs and trees, beside a climbing frame that we’d put up when the kids were small and which they had somehow survived unharmed. This was going to be a tiny pond.

Furthermore, when I started an exploratory dig, I found that whoever laid out the garden had left heavy paving stones three inches below the surface.

This was also going to be a very shallow pond.

Positive thinking

Back at Finchley Nurseries, in deep discussion with the expert pond specialist, I discovered that my pond broke just about every pond rule (yes, they have them). Under leaf-shedding trees – check. Shallow enough to dry out in summer and freeze in winter – check. No sunlight for pond plants to grow – check.

Undeterred by such negativity, on Sunday I grasped my courage with both gardening gloves and set out to dig properly. And promptly twisted my knee. You may ask how you can twist a knee when digging a very tiny, very shallow pond, but perhaps being in the shade, under shrubs and trees helped. I don’t know.

So now I am limping dramatically, and the pond excavation is on hold. I was hoping that this week’s rain would fill the pond and save me the bother of continuing, but despite torrential downpours, the crime scene remains resolutely dry. It must be the trees.

Maybe you have experience of similar high risk activities. Maybe you took such risks yourself. Meanwhile, I say, “pah!” to the doom-mongers. The pond will come to be.

You have been warned.

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