Hatchet Pond in the New Forest is to undergo restoration work due to damage caused by an influx of visitors as lockdown measures were relaxed.
Two hundred years old, the pond is one of England’s most important wildlife sites, home to a third of all wetland species of plants in the UK, as well as many freshwater insect species. It is the largest body of water within the Crown Lands of the New Forest.
The fragile habitat has been put under considerable stress by an influx of summer visitors following the easing of lockdown.
Pollution to the water from people entering the water, materials being thrown in the pond for fishing and feeding birds, as well as drainage from the car park, has negatively affected the water quality and the plants and wildlife that depend on it.
Normally, swimming and water sports are prohibited on the lake, but the high temperatures in August have led to many abusing the rules. Barbecues and campfires are also not allowed due to risk to wildfire.
New measures put in place to restore this fragile habitat include removing nearby visitor toilets and moving the car park away from the lakeside.
This follows wider environmental warnings regarding visitors to the New Forest. The New Forest Association declared that many were ‘ignoring the measures in place to protect the fragile habitats of the area.’
Chairman John Ward stated that ‘more emphasis needs to be placed on the New Forest’s immense biodiversity and value as a nature reservation, rather than on recreation that could be carried out elsewhere.’
The treatment of the New Forest as ‘just any urban park’ would lead to it losing the qualities that make it special.
Dr Naomi Ewald from Freshwater Habitats Trust expressed her concern over the pond’s future. She said: ‘once lost, it will not be possible to recreate a site as good as this, so we need to take action now.’
It is hoped that these new measures and a period of recovery will allow the pond to regain its previous water quality and rebalance its delicate ecosystem.