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23 June 2007

Wonderful Nature

Since the baby news, I've noticed more natural phenomena - birds nesting, flowers blossoming, duckings, goslings, cygnets. I notice pregnant women more, and wonder how big our bump is going to get. And there's been a nice personal project at home that has now yielded wonderful results, that is in keeping with this line of propagation and flowering.

The pond was here when we moved in, so don't go thinking I've got a spade out, or have been vaguely physical. Not so. It was a case of habeas corpus - and indeed, the pond was, to all intents and purposes, dead. The water was a soupy green colour, consistently, throughout. The colour was in suspension and there was no getting rid of it.

Once this summer of sorts came knocking, I became of a mind to do something about the filth. The rest of the garden, while at best haphazard and lacksadaisical, possesses a certain countryside-in-the-city charm; the pond was ruining the ensemble. A quick trip to Shirley Aquatics yielded my first set of good results.

The helpful, friendly staff there are known region-wide among those of a fishkeeping/koi/pond persuasion, and that day's experience was no different. First, it was clear I needed to condition the pond, and that meant several things.

I needed to empty the pond - no system would restore water in its current condition. I needed to scrub the pond liner (it is a Blagdon Dragonfly) very thoroughly, preferably with something akin to a Karcher pressure-washer. I was told to expect long tendrils of algae attached to the entire submerged surface area, which would need blasting off under Karcher conditions.

Finally, once the cleaning was achieved, I would be able to refill the pond, allow a week for it to condition, then start adding plants and livestock.

The emptying was easy, if foul. The kindly fellow at Shirley Aquatics was halfway to selling me a combination water filter/aerator, before I asked him how big a pond this item was for. It turns out, I could have kept the Trevi Fountain clean for several months with the unit, and so I began to explain the size of my pond, and steer advice accordingly.

And so, the emptying actually took place utilising me, a bucket, and several walks to the bottom of the garden to tip the unwanted water into the canal. I estimated fifteen trips of approximately 15 litres each time. I thought I'd have about 225 litres in the pond. Turns out the manufacturer bills it as 250, so happy days.

Once the water was out, the stench began. Years of collected waste: leaf litter, dead stuff, bacteria; shlucking its way around the deeper recesses of the pool, keeping out of eye's view, and beyond the actions of sunlight. Rotting, stinking, gelatinous foulness. I donned Marigolds and removed every last piece. Thankfully, the pond had turned out to be lacking the algae tendrils completely - and here was a happy replacement.

Refilling was a pleasure, as it allowed me to lock the hose open, make a brew and light a fag. I sat, patiently, watching as the water level rose ever so slightly each minute. Being able to see the bottom of the pond, even as the water approached, was a wonder and a joy. Soon, the job was complete, and here was the emptied, cleaned and refilled pond, sparkling, dancing and shimmering before me.

Having failed to sell me a £100 pumping and filtering unit, the chap at Shirley Aquatics wasn't going to let me get away just like that. I would need to condition my pond, I was told, and that meant buying this: Bio-Claire Pond Conditioner. I duly weighed out my 15 grams of monthly dosage, and sprinkled it evenly around the bottom of the pond. And I sat. And I watched.

And five days later, we both headed back to Shirley Aquatics for some plants. We came away with irises, water lilies, pickerel plants, variegated reeds and water hyancinths. Returning excitedly, I set various heights of submerged platforming, to allow for the new additions. All found their spots, and we settled back to watch the pond come into equilibrium.

Only it didn't. It got muddier and muddier. I'd put the plants in a day or two before we disappeared to Portugal for a week - and, of course, I spent much time thinking about their progress while I was away. By the time we got back - me half frantic with excitement to find a clear pond - the muddiness had reached almost Glastonbury-style proportions.

Before acting, I headed back to Shirley Aquatics. I was advised to use the monthly dose of Bio-Claire, only weekly, until the pond was clear. "Sometimes they just need a bit of a kick," said the nice lady, "and it won't harm the water or plants. You can't overdose with Bio Claire, it's fully organic." Liking the sound of this, and taking the opportunity to collect a few sundry fishkeeping items, I returned home with a spring in my step.

Only, those of you who do know me will know I can, ahem, procrastinate a little. And so, the extra Bio Claire didn't find it's way into the pond. And, would you believe - just three day after seeking the advice, the pond came into its own clean, clear, natural balance. The rocks I'd placed at the bottom are now fully visible. I have noticed some larvae attached to the sides, and waterboatmen sculling their jerky motion through the medium. The plants have settled in nicely, all showing good signs of taking root.

There is no filtration in there, so no fish just yet, but I do have a nice little cascade which keeps the water circulating. It is the Hozelock Cyprio Cascade 700, if you fancy a gander. Does the job very nicely, too. It did have a standard spray-everywhere shower head on the top - it now has what is called a mushroom diffuser, which keeps a nice little globe of water bubbling on the surface. No splashing.

Of course, you can follow the link at top right in My Links to my GonzoVision YouTube channel, where you can see the dirty pond in Sparrey Safari, the clean pond in...erm...Clean Pond, and the planted pond in...ahem...Planted Pond. Enjoy - I have, and I hope you do too.


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