Bristol, the UK’s first European green capital, vegan capital of the world, known for hot air balloons, Brunel’s bridge and one very famous cheese-loving animated inventor and his dog. Aardman studios have been in Bristol for over 40 years creating beloved characters as Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the sheep and Morph. In this time they have released eight feature films, won four Oscars and raised over five million pounds for charity from two citywide ‘Gromit unleashed’ trails!
During the October half term, the Avon Wildlife Trust Our Bright Future team and a group of young voluntary conservationists visited Aardman studios for a grand day out! These budding environmentalists stepped away from their creature comforts to do some work on an overgrown pond in the studio garden which needed a clear out to Morph it into a better habitat for wildlife.
Ponds are an important habitat for many different species but due to problems such as increased development, pollution and intensification of farming practises, the number of ponds in the UK has decreased massively over the past decades. Most ponds are artificial habitats and require regular maintenance to prevent them from being completely overgrown by vegetation. Autumn is the best time of year to carry out pond clearance because wildlife is likely to be less active and disturbance is kept to a minimum.
To begin, our young volunteers removed the long grasses and reeds that had completely taken over the pond. This was extremely Aard-work-man. The combination of the cold Halloween mist, the freezing pond water and the fact that the tangled roots had formed a thick, matted layer at the bottom of the pond made the task exhausting.
However, armed with wellies and spades, the team cut and pulled at the mass of roots to remove as much as possible. This vegetation was piled up at the edge of the pond to allow any invertebrates or other wildlife that had also been removed to be able to easily crawl back into the pond once the refurbishments were finished! Our young people carefully removed any frogs and newts from the water and placed them into the pile. One of the volunteers, Shivani, said “It was great to have some contact with wildlife and to know that I was helping to make the pond a better place for them”. Orla agreed saying “it reminded me why looking after the pond was so important”.
Once our team removed the majority of the reeds from the pond and we tidied up the edges. Our Living Landscape Assistant, Louise, showed the volunteers how to trim some overhanging branches from nearby trees to allow more light in. Finally, to add the finishing touches, we planted some water-loving plants around the pond edge and wildflowers in the meadow area of the gardens to attract wildlife through the seasons.
As part of our work creating a nature recovery network across our region, we're grateful to our young conservationists and the Aardman studios for reviving a wildlife pond in the city. This will help connect habitats so wildlife can move, live and thrive in the future. As reward for their hard work, the volunteers were treated to a hot lunch in the canteen and a tour around the studios which was a fantastic way to glimpse behind the scenes and see how and where the Aardman magic happens.
Thank you to Tony and all the staff at Aardman who made us so welcome and we hope to be back in the future to help with more improvements to their wildlife garden.
If you would like to find out how to build your own pond or other ways to attract wildlife to your garden you can find lots of information on our website.