Learn to build a pond: ‘The minute you create one, wildlife comes. Instantly’

Game Changers: Gilly and Brian Taylor have dug 13 ponds on their land, and are hosting a workshop on how to create your own

Gilly Taylor gave her husband Brian an unusual birthday present this year. She hired a digger contractor to dig him a pond, the 12th this couple have created on Wild Acres, their 17-acre nature reserve and social enterprise in Co Wicklow. They have since started work on their 13th pond, and next Saturday they will host a workshop on how to create your own.

They have learned a lot about ponds since they built the first one six years ago. The Freshwater Habitats Trust in the UK was a great source of information when they started out, explaining the value of ponds and what to do and not. They had their first pond lined but discovered that the marl clay on their land could act as a natural liner. So the other ponds have all been created using the resources of their wet clay land. “The whole ponds’ story really wants to be told,” Gilly says. “There’s a huge focus on trees and planting. Trees are absolutely wonderful, but with ponds the minute you create a pond, wildlife comes. Instantly.”

At Wild Acres they have plenty of little creatures. First were the pond skaters and diving beetles, then came the dragonflies and damselflies that laid their eggs in the ponds once the vegetation arrived. The birds came and the bull rushes appeared. Herons and cormorants hunt and smaller birds use the water to bathe and drink and hunt insects. Frogs and newts are also plentiful. In the couple’s small back garden pond, Gilly has counted seven frogs and newts.

Permanent and naturally vegetated ponds are excellent at carbon sequestration

—  Gilly and Brian Taylor

Aoife O’Rourke and Rob Gandola of An Taisce’s Ponds for Biodiversity project will be part of the workshop. They are advocates for the wilding potential and the carbon potential of ponds. “Permanent and naturally vegetated ponds are excellent at carbon sequestration,” they say, citing studies that have shown “small ponds sequestered up to 30 times the amount of carbon compared to woodlands, grasslands and other habitats”.


We need ponds at scale on land where water was drained. The blocking of these drains is the easiest way landowners can help rewet land and allow natural ponds and wetlands to reform. In drought conditions, deep natural ponds can provide vital habitat for creatures and wildlife that would otherwise be lost. And you don’t have to have acres of land to create a pond. The workshop will also showcase small ponds for small gardens. One has been made from a repurposed guinea pig cage to create the rigid frame for the liner. Gilly Taylor believes ponds are something loads of us can do, an instant gratification wilding project that keeps on getting better as the water-lovers arrive. The morning workshop on Saturday, September 24th, costs €65 per person.

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a founder of Pocket Forests