Leyton 'redevelopment' attracts new animal neighboursEmily Robinson from Froglife unveils an exciting regeneration
Where in Waltham Forest can you always find a dog, an eagle, a cow and a hollow?
The answer, of course, is Leyton Flats, a corner of the approximately 2,400 hectare Epping Forest, which is London’s largest stretch of open land. Dog, Eagle, Cow and Hollow are the names of the four ponds that can be found there - one of which received a drastic makeover during lockdown in order to attract new residents to the borough.
Cow pond (top left) next to only a portion of Hollow Pond (credit: Google Earth)
Cow Pond is the smallest of the flats’ four ponds, barely visible in aerial photos when compared to the sprawling Hollow Pond. Many years ago it stretched over almost 7,000 square metres but, as recently as 2017, it was barren and dry after being choked by vegetation. With the help of cash from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we at Froglife charity were determined to restore it to some of its former glory, in the hopes of creating a new home for species like the charismatic Common toad to thrive.
Working with landowners, we agreed to excavate a 50x75m pond entirely within the footprint of the existing pond, reaching a depth of 2.5m at its lowest point to ensure it was suitable as a toad breeding ground and wouldn’t dry up again in future. Work began in early 2020 to clear surrounding trees and plants, which already made it drastically more appealing to frogs, toads and newts, before a 22-tonne excavator was brought in to carve out the shape of the pond. Without the grass and plants encroaching, the pond can once more retain water; providing another pocket of peace for those (both human and non-human) that enjoy the serenity that Leyton Flats brings.
The new and improved pond (credit: Froglife)
The following year in 2021, we returned to Cow Pond to see how it was doing and what we saw was remarkable. Families were enjoying sandwiches by the water and a survey of the pond showed that the amphibians and wildlife had returned. The pond was teeming with newt tadpoles and a heron was seen busy snacking away at frogs or toads. As we sat on the banks to admire the transformation, we watched as a peregrine falcon paused by the water to take a sip and a light bath before going on its way.
If we have learnt anything from pandemic lockdowns, it is that our green spaces are as essential to human wellbeing as they are for the planet. As the world’s first national park city, London paves the way for creating an oasis where people, plants and animals can coexist. It's vital we understand that we need these spaces just as much as our native wildlife does - and how lucky we are to have them on our doorsteps.