Approximately 75% of ponds in Britain have been lost in the last 100 years. Nationally there were around 470,000 ponds in 1945 which dropped to around half this number by 1998. Fortunately the rate of loss has slowed down with more new ponds being created in recent years giving a positive benefit both to the landscape and wildlife of the Downs.
Traditionally, ponds were used as a water source for people and livestock with most villages having one. Some had flint bases to enable carts to be driven in and have their wheels washed. As water became more readily available, ponds were not as necessary in daily life therefore many became neglected. Even though numbers are beginning to increase, the majority of today’s ponds are found in schools and private gardens.
Ponds in the general countryside and landscape are still declining mainly due to drainage and land use intensification. Many now are man-made, however these still support the same variety of wildlife and plants that a naturally made pond can and therefore are important to conserve and create. They are important for biodiversity supporting more than a thousand species including uncommon ones that are of national importance in Kent. Birds, mammals, amphibians and insects all use ponds for food, shelter and to complete their lifecycles. Ponds now have a variety of uses, valued for their wildlife and landscape benefit by local communities and used to encourage drainage from pathways, tracks and roads.
Ponds are generally uncommon in the AONB because of the underlying nature of the chalk. However, ponds can be found on the Downs where the plateau clay-with-flint overlies much of the chalk and on the Low Weald with its clay soils. Ponds are vital for wildlife and an important feature in the landscape, although often silted up and shaded by surrounding vegetation. Ponds which dry up in summer can still be of great value to wildlife such as frogs and newts, as they cannot be stocked with fish which eat the eggs and larvae of much wildlife.