How Harpenden’s Southdown Ponds went from dirty pit to wildlife haven

PUBLISHED: 16:00 03 October 2018

Kingfisher Alcedo atthis, emerging from water, Norfolk, June

Kingfisher Alcedo atthis, emerging from water, Norfolk, June


Petrol, dirt and oil filled Southdown Ponds until a massive renovation project commenced in 2004.

Southdown Ponds were formed in 1928, when the nearby Cock Pond was filled in to make way for wider roads and drainage points for times of heavy rain.

The Ponds soon became a home for many different species. Water birds thrived and plants were used as nesting sites.

However, over the years, water from the roads carried oil and petrol into Southdown Ponds, which soon became extremely polluted and consequently bad for wildlife.

A project to save the Southdown Pond commenced in 2004. Harpenden Town Council worked with Hertfordshire Highways and the Harpenden Society to regenerate the heavily polluted and unusable ponds.

A nine-metre long petrol interceptor was installed to cleanse the dirty water. Southdown Ponds were then re-lined and re-planted with native species.

On December 13, 2004 the Town Council officially reopened Southdown Ponds to the public, promoting great benefits for the community, whether as an open space, or an educational facility to observe wildlife that now surrounds it.

The project was helped with funding from the Amateurs Trust, Biffaward and Thames water. Significant donations were also made from the Robert Clutterbuck Foundation, the Alan Evans Memorial Trust and the Christopher Laing Foundation.

Bert Pawle, Harpenden Town Mayor at the time, said, “I am so proud to be involved in the opening of the ponds, as there has been so much community support for this project.”

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