Save our pond – Whitburn residents call on council and community for help

Whitburn residents are calling on the council and local community to save their village pond and restore it to its former state.

Friday, 3rd September 2021, 5:00 am

Increased deposited silt has caused drainage points to become partially blocked and resulted in the pond resembling more of a swamp than its previous water-filled state.

Residents say this has caused the loss of aquatic life, including frogs and fish, increased flood risk and created an unpleasant smell.

Cliff Bell, 82, said: “I’ve lived in the village all my life and the pond is in a disgraceful state. I’ve never seen it like this before.

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Gary Johnston, 52, and Belinda Gibbs, 53, are appealing for help from the council and local community to restore Whitburn pond to its former state. Picture by FRANK REID

"Something needs to be done to return it to its former state or loss of habitat will lead to the wildlife going away. It’s very sad and the council needs to find a permanent solution to restrict the amount of silt.”

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Locals said the pond “used to be dredged regularly” and the situation has been exacerbated following the clearing of surrounding drains which resulted in increased amounts of silt entering the pond and the growth of large amounts of algae.

A willing band of residents have now set up their own action group to clean the pond as well as a gofundme page to raise money to buy equipment.

Residents said there is now mud and silt where there was once three feet of water. Picture by FRANK REID

Rolls-Royce engineer Gary Johnston, 52, spent his furlough period regularly clearing the pond.

He said: “Things have really deteriorated in the last couple of years. It’s now a real eyesore and where there was once three feet of water is now filled with silt, mud and stagnant water.”

Fellow volunteer Belinda Gibbs, 53, added: “There’s now so much silt in the pond the ducks are wading around rather than swimming. This should be the focal point of the village for people to enjoy.

"The council did used to dredge the pond but it needs to be done more regularly.”

Rolls-Royce engineer Gary Johnston, 52, has spent his time on furlough clearing silt and mud from Whitburn Village pond. Picture by FRANK REID

The group have also cleared “20 bags of rubbish” and debris from the beck which flows into the pond and have installed bird boxes and duck houses to help improve the environment for wildlife.

They’re now calling for more people in the community to get involved in “returning the pond to its former glory”.

Gary added: “People often pass by and comment on what a “great job” we are doing but we could really do with more volunteers to keep on top of the silt.”

Whitburn Village pond has been filled in by large amounts of deposited mud and silt which is making it difficult for wildlife. Picture by FRANK REID

The initiative has the support of South Tyneside Council leader, Cllr Tracey Dixon, who has vowed to ensure the pond is dredged.

She said: “The pond is due to be cleaned and dredged in September but we would of preferred for it to be done sooner but due to amphibians being in the pond it’s thought there will be fewer in and less to disturb if the council wait until the preferred time and the froglets will also have left and adult frogs wont be returning to lie dormant over the winter.

“We also need to consider the ducklings as they may not be nesting but also cannot leave the pond until they are fully fledged. But be assured the work will happen as we need to consider this amazing asset to our village.

"I would like to thank the volunteers for all of their hard work and look forward to the work commencing very soon.”

To help, email [email protected]

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Cliff Bell, 82, has lived in Whitburn Village all his life and has "never seen the pond in its current state". Picture by FRANK REID

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How Whitburn pond used to look. Photograph: Gary Johnston
Some of the duck houses made by residents to attract wildlife to Whitburn Village pond. Picture by FRANK REID